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H.E. Mr. Ayman Aly Kamel, has been the Egyptian Ambassador to Japan since October 2017. The Cairo born career diplomat has worked for over 31 years in various Egyptian missions abroad, including in Australia and Jordan, and has held several posts with the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.
Egypt is the current Chair of the African Union and with the TICAD7 (the seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development) being held in Yokohama, Japan this year, Egypt is keen to make sure that the interests of the African Union are well represented and expectations of member States are met. In this interview Ambassador Kamel talks about the importance of TICAD as a platform for promoting African development internationally, and about how Egypt’s long and successful relationship with Japan can be not just a role model but also catalyst for expanding African development.
Here below, you can further read how Ambassador Kamel explains in even more detail the importance of TICAD and the expectations for this year’s TICAD7.
What is the uniqueness of TICAD for African countries when compared with other partnership?
TICAD started in 1993 and has been serving as a pioneering multilateral forum for international cooperation on African development. It is a unique process that has contributed remarkably to Africa's development and regional integration agenda. It is a forum that promotes synergy with strong communication among Africa, Japan and the international community and values the sense of equality and mutual benefit.
During the last two decades, TICAD process was marked by many guiding principles:
Open and inclusive forum: TICAD is an open and inclusive forum built on the twin principles of African ownership and international partnership. It has been enjoying substantial engagement of major international organizations, such as UN and World Bank, and recently the AU. Engagement of multi-stakeholders: TICAD engages multiple actors such as governments, international and regional organizations, private sector and CSOs, each with its own comparative advantages. TICAD process also promotes south-south and triangular cooperation within the framework of national and regional development programs.
Alignment with Africa's own agenda: TICAD is anchored on the conviction that Africa's socio-economic transformation is central to global stability and prosperity. It prioritizes the Africa's agenda, respects the continent's dignity, and uses a pragmatic development paradigm and modalities to bring concrete results to support Africa's development agenda.
Emphasis on human security and people-centered development: TICAD recognizes that the African people are the most precious resource of the continent. TICAD also recognizes that enhancing the capacity of each person and community is the key to sustainable development. This human security approach is aligned to Africa's own aspiration for people-centered development.
This is what makes TICAD unique when compared with other partnerships.
Generally speaking, what does Africa expect from the upcoming TICAD 7?
Africa is a dynamic continent that now hosts most of the fastest growing economies in the world. This has led to an increase in the number of countries that progressed from low income to middle income status. The continent is endowed with rich natural resources and a young and fast growing population which is estimated to reach up to two billion in 2050. Africa has also a growing middle class, which makes the continent a significant player in the global economy.
In this regard, Africa offers greater opportunities for investment with guaranteed returns. Today, emerging markets in Africa are at the top of global growth projections and it is believed that it would continue, even in the coming years. Africa indeed welcomes the world to take advantage of the opportunities that exist for investment.
Africa has not only succeeded in reducing the number of conflicts, but has also improved its image when it comes to peace and stability. This has in turn enabled the continent to concentrate more on its social and economic development.
On the other hand, we acknowledge that our continent continues to face key challenges. TICAD VII will present the participants with a unique opportunity to not only review the progress made since TICAD VI, but also to address the still existing socio-economic challenges.
TICAD VII will be an opportunity to build on the momentum, in order to expand the TICAD dialogue on ways to channel the resources to profitable projects. It will also be an occasion to expect more investment flows from Japan, combined with technology transfer, human resource development and good practices of community relations, which Japanese companies are renowned for.
Furthermore, we, as Africans, are aware of the importance of the consultations with Japanese stakeholders for the successful implementation of the entire process. Consulting with the stakeholders will demonstrate our desire to engage in meaningful two-ways communication and to recognize the important contribution they provide to TICAD at all levels.
The objectives of these consultations would be to coordinate our views on and provide our inputs for the implementation of the agreed activities and programs.
In particular, how about the Egypt’s expectation?
Egypt has been elected as chair of the African Union for a one-year term in 2019. During TICAD VII, we will co-chair the Summit with Japan. We acknowledge the achievements made to date, and we are with the view that the last TICAD Summit which was held - for the first time - in Africa, opened up a new chapter of our mutual cooperation with Japan.
Egypt is playing a leading role in the framework of the African Partnerships, especially the TICAD process, participating positively and effectively in its different meetings and summits.
During our chairmanship, we will affirm our strong commitment to continue to pursue the TICAD process, as an open and inclusive mechanism built on the principles of African ownership and international partnership. A mechanism that can further mobilize global support for Africa's development by engaging with multiple stakeholders, including the private sector.
Egypt will also be keen to promote south-south and triangular cooperation within the framework of national and regional development programs in all sectors, particularly in the field of capacity building and human security.
We will emphasize the importance of post-conflict peace building (AU Center for Post Conflict Reconstruction and Development), as well as the importance of regional integration (AfCFTA), enhancing connectivity through the Cairo- Cape Town Trans-African Highway, and bolstering dynamic growth of Africa by utilizing science, technology and innovation (African Space Agency).
Finally, we will continue to prioritize the African Agenda 2063 and to call for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with special attention to health, education and women and youth empowerment.
Taking into consideration the strong business relations which exist between Egypt and Japan, as reflected in the large number of Japanese companies in Egypt and wide range of bilateral cooperation, what are the successful stories that could be showcased to other African countries when it comes to the business relations with Japan?
First, it would be our historic bilateral relations beginning in the 19th Century. Egypt currently hosts 50 Japanese business entities, many of which have been operating for decades.
Not only private, but official entities of Japan, including JICA, are also operating in relation to Japanese mega-projects.
Egypt has a successful business climate, as it is considered the gateway to a huge regional market of 1.2 billion African consumers and 400 million Arab consumers. Also, the Egyptian state is working on giving a greater space to the private sector to contribute to achieving development and economic growth, as well as luring further investments into ongoing mega national projects.
Egypt is keen to provide the appropriate business environment and continue to take serious steps to encourage and motivate investors to start new investments inside the country, noting the governmental readiness to cooperate with the Japanese side and to facilitate all procedures for increasing the investments.
Egypt is also keen to transfer Japan's successful experience in the fields of education, energy, communications and information technology, and that’s why we are calling on Japanese companies and investors to pump more investments in Egypt. During TICAD VII, the Egyptian side is willing to increase Japanese business involvement within the national economy, and promote the utilization of Egypt as a hub for Japanese businesses within the region, with emphasis on modernization of industries through subcontracting to benefit from Egypt’s competitive advantages and free trade agreements with the neighboring countries.