The Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) Summit that was held at the Kenyatta International Convention Center in Nairobi, Kenya on 27 and 28 August saw participation by more than 35 African heads of state and government. The quadrennial summit, which was being held in Africa for the first time since its inception in 1993, also witnessed the attendance of members of the African Union Commission, as well as over 10,000 delegates from the economic community in Africa and Japan.
The Japanese delegation was led by the country’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who arrived in Nairobi heading a business entourage that included CEOs of more than 80 leading companies from Japan.
Opening the summit, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta expressed his satisfaction with the TICAD platform that allowed African government and business leaders to discuss the continent’s development with their “friends” from Japan.
Saying that TICAD had “the potential to transform the African continent,” President Kenyatta added, “It is only by coming together, to embrace partnership, mutual respect and long-term thinking that we can make the world more secure for the dreams of our people.” He emphasized on the need to follow the path of Japan so as to trade more profitably with the world and push for “open and fair trade, deeper infrastructure integration and to develop the human resources of our people.”
For his part, Prime Minister Abe lauded the relationship between Japan and Africa that was based on the twin principles of Africa’s ownership and international partnership. He noted that Japanese private and public investment in Africa over the coming years would total over $30 billion. “When combined with the investment from the private sector, I expect the total real amount of investments in support of infrastructure, development, education and healthcare expansion on the continent to be $30 billion by 2018. This is an investment package that has faith in Africa’s future,” the Japanese prime minister said.
Resource-poor Japan has long been interested in tapping Africa’s vast natural resources, even more so since dependence on oil and natural gas imports jumped after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster shut almost all of Japan’s nuclear reactors.
The $30 billion in investments announced at the TICAD VI was in addition to $32 billion that Japan pledged to Africa over a five-year period at the last TICAD meeting in 2013. Abe said 67 percent of that had already been put to use in various projects.
Speaking ahead of TICAD VI, World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim revealed that Africa would need over $90 billion a year in infrastructure investments and the continent held many opportunities for private-sector investment.
Maintaining that it is wrong to “assume all the deals in Africa are risky,” the World Bank chief emphasized that the multilateral finance group provides insurance and other tools to help mobilize capital. “The role of the World Bank Group is to remove the risks on those investments. It’s our primary role when working with private sector companies,” he added.
The World Bank Chief noted that though Africa had around five percent growth rate on average from 2008 to 2014, the sustained low commodity prices in recent years meant that the continent would witness lower growth in the immediate years ahead. He urged African countries that rely mainly on export of raw commodities to add more value to their products prior to their shipping to global markets.