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TICAD:A pioneering international cooperation

By Ahmedou Ould Abdallah
President, Centre for Strategies and Strategy and Security in the Sahel Sahara (Centre4s)
March 22, 2024
A Sahel old proverb says “bad news never comes alone.” The present international environment is a tragic illustration of that saying drawn from centuries of various hardships, needs, sufferings and also hopes.

In the Sahel, though still going on and devastating, costs of terrorism, rebellions and civil wars, as well as environmental and climate damages, are often marginalized. One explanation is that violence is all over the world, not a regional exception. What assistance the Sahel and others – Libya, Sudan, etc. can obtain when the international attention is hypnotized elsewhere. In particular the renewal of the decades old Israeli - Palestinian ferocious conflict and the two year ongoing Ukrainian war, have hijacked the news headlines the world over. Indeed, vast financial and other material resources followed.

In that mercurial international setting what one or even a few countries can do to reintroduce more serenity in our world? Furthermore, how to keep peace and development policies alive and implemented?

Thanks to organized and efficient Japanese Embassy in Mauritania for a trip to Japan last December, it reminded me of its innovative and successful cooperation with Africa.

Should that type of cooperation be a selected diplomatic approached to help avoid or, at least, limit the fallouts of an increasingly uncertain and even explosive world? An updated Tokyo international conference on African development (Ticad), a practical cooperation tool, deserves attention from Japan, its partners and indeed Africa.

A volatile international context.

A successful international cooperation calls for a constructive environment where the partners look forwards and where competition between its major parties is rather constructive. It was in that immediate post-cold war era that the first Tokyo international conference, Ticad, took place in 1993.

It is not exaggerated to remind that the initiative was daring. Indeed, at that immediate sensitive post-cold war era, it was not an easy exercise to successfully convene an international conference with innovative ideas. Moreover, it was a large gathering - heads of States, top African governments officials and their external partners, plus representatives of the World Bank, Global Coalition for Africa – GCA - and the UNDP. Delegates from the private sector, the Keidanren, brought their expertise and funding to the conference. The joint Secretariat was constituted of skilled diplomats from Japan Ministry of foreign affairs and local scholars on one hand and their partners from the three above mentioned institutions on the other hand.

At that early post-Cold War era, Ticad has initiated and largely contributed to a new international cooperation policy based on anticipations and effective actions.

That was then called the ‘’new era of hopes in a new international order.’’ Ticad is a robust demonstration of that order in the making. An order without armed states alliances or suspicious entrenchments but rather a broadly based enterprise reinforced by a number of actors and opening large gates to international economic cooperation. Ticad initiated and launched cooperation was particularly in favor of developing countries and especially Africans.

Thirty years later, Ticad is still effective and recognized as such. Indeed it has adjusted to an increasingly changing and anew suspicious, world environment. That also includes changes in Africa itself, the main focus of the project. Finally, the revolutionary development of social networks, with all possible manipulations, calls for serious discussion on how Ticad should remain not only relevant but, as in the past, a leading undertaking in international cooperation.

Next steps or the way forwards.

Thirty years, since its first convening Ticad remains with a comparative advantage in openness, relation to other parties and offers a platform for Africa voice to be heard all over. Its forwards looking review may be needed. In short, how should it remain, not only relevant, but in the lead of international development cooperation? That updated review in a continuously evolving international scene should be important. Over the last decade, Ticad process and objectives may have one way or the other, inspired Africa major international partners. Indeed each one brought its own style and process when convening their own ‘’Ticad brand.’’ Thus economic conferences and summits were convened between Africa and China, France, Russia, Turkey and the USA.

As a pioneer and a leader in that area, for over three decades, Ticad should remain with forwards looking visions and approaches. How to remain so for the years to come as an open and inclusive platform should remain the overall objective, helping all African voices to be heard.

To maintain that lead over the coming years, means to adapt to an evolving international context. Therefore, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs may consider convening a small Group of concerned and interested persons to discuss updating Ticad objectives and working approach. What should be the next steps forwards to keep that lead and in the relationships areas between Japan and Africa. In that context, two questions deserve a special attention.

First, is inviting all African Union official member states to Ticad Summits still functional? No doubt it is yes on principles. Inviting all African states to participate to Ticad summits and to also provide opportunities to focus on specific issues at side meetings, or other formats could only be helpful.

However, that principled invitation may involuntarily shift diplomatic attention away from Ticad central objective: supporting Africa development. A goal that fits well in the recent ‘’keizai kyoryoku,’’ Japan Economic Cooperation. Second, Ticad may also consider convening summits addressing only two or three regions, out of Africa five: eastern, southern, western and northern? Their focus should be on specific issues: mining, trade, infrastructures, fisheries, agriculture, etc. The advantage of these regional meetings is to generate lesser misunderstandings with some African Union member states.

In fine, Ticad is a well-established tool of peaceful and successful cooperation between Japan and Africa. Its past and current successes deserve to be pursued. African states, in particular those of the Sahel, aware of their severe environment, would no doubt be appreciative. Many others states too.
Ahmedou Ould Abdallah

President Center4s, Former Executive Secretary of Global Coalition for Africa (GCA), Former UN SG Special Representative, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs
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