JAPANESE foreign minister Taro Kono says international assistance should be provided in accordance with international standards such as transparency, openness and economic efficiency, in view of life-cycle costs as well as debt sustainability of recipient countries.
And foreign ministers from Africa and Japan yesterday tackled the importance of enhancing the blue economy in tandem with promoting maritime security and the rule of law including recognising the need to address some bottlenecks such as unsustainable debts and insufficient business environments that hinder public-private investment.
During the ministerial meeting of the Tokyo International Conference on Africa’s Development (TICAD) in Tokyo, Japan that sat on Saturday and Sunday, Kono told his peers of the importance of sound debt management to enable sustainable development for Africa with African ownership.
“International assistance should be provided in accordance with international standards such as transparency, openness, and economic efficiency, in view of life-cycle costs as well as debt sustainability of recipient countries,” he reiterated. “These principles are crucial components of Japan’s “Quality Infrastructure” initiative, based on which Japan is supporting enhanced connectivity throughout the entire African continent and beyond. In keeping with these ideas, Japan encourages African efforts toward economic transformation, as provided for in Agenda 2063.”
He said the world was facing greater uncertainty than ever before.
“As we believe Africa would be the most vulnerable region to such a climate, we are fully committed to working shoulder to shoulder with Africa,” Kono said. “Our policies towards Africa have been shaped by our own experiences, which can be expressed in our belief that ‘the strength of a country lies in its people.’”
He said 2018 marked the 150th anniversary of the Meiji Restoration of 1868, which was a turning point for Japan.
Kono said in the years that followed, Japan established the basis of its democracy and realized significant development, while emphasizing education, human resource development, socio-economic reforms, and the rule of law.
He said Japan made a miraculous revival after the World War II, thanks to generous international assistance and with self-help efforts based on the resilience it had built since the Meiji era.
Kono said based on that success, as an emerging donor, Japan later applied its unique experience to Asia, which proved to be effective.
“I would like to reemphasize our firm resolve to further support Africa’s efforts, while respecting Africa’s ownership and focusing on empowerment of its people,” he said. “From this perspective, I would like to reiterate that Japan supports democracy in Africa, but at the same time, we highly value Africa’s own efforts to find African solutions to African problems in promoting peace and security. Japan appreciates the positive trend in eastern Africa, and stresses the importance of institution building as the foundation for peace and stability.”
Kono said Japan was promoting proactively to realise a free and open Indo-Pacific, to connect Africa all the way to the coast of North and South America through Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean.
“We must maintain a free and open maritime order and freedom of navigation based on the rule of law. Any maritime disputes should be resolved in a fair and peaceful manner based on international law, but never by force,” he said. “It is our wish to share such a world with Africa. On the economic front, we have been promoting African economic transformation with an emphasis on human resource development and technology transfer, in close partnership with our private sector. Reflecting our belief in empowering people, Japanese companies investing in Africa such as TOYOTA and Chiyoda Corporation are training local people in the same manner as they have done in Japan.”
Kono said Japan’s foreign direct investment in Africa had increased by more than five times since 2000 and Japanese companies have established more than 800 offices in Africa now.
He said the first Japan-Africa Public-Private Economic Forum was also held in May in Johannesburg, South Africa and a Public and Private Sector Joint Mission was sent to Rwanda and Zambia in July.
“To realize Africa’s economic transformation, I would like to refer to the importance of free trade,” Kono said. “There is increasing uncertainty surrounding the current international world order and widespread use of unilateral actions is eroding multilateralism. Japan, however, remains determined to maintain and develop free and fair multilateral and pluri-lateral trading systems.”
He said the TICAD process was created by all stakeholders, including co-organisers, participating countries, international organizations, civil society, and the private sector.
“Transparency and consistency are both key to this process. I would like to underline Japan’s determination to maintain and further develop this unique, transparent, and inclusive TICAD framework in close collaboration with the participating parties,” Kono said.
In closing the meeting, Kono noted that plenaries had successfully paved the way forward toward TICAD 7 Heads of State and government summit scheduled for August 2019.
Kono said Plenary 1, reviewed positive macroeconomic trends and commended recent achievements such as the signing of the Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), as well as national and regional efforts to improve societal resilience in areas including health, education, and disaster risk reduction.
“On the other hand, we recognized that challenges remain in every field, including the issue of debt sustainability. I also reconfirmed the high expectations from Africa for increased private investment to the continent, especially towards Japanese companies,” he said. “In Plenary two, we reaffirmed that economic diversification and value addition are necessary for sustainable development.”
The ministers identified, as potential drivers of economic and social transformation, modernization of the agricultural sector; fostering of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs); and promotion of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI).
Plenary three, reaffirmed that the promotion of universal health coverage (UHC) remained key to enhancing the resilience and productivity of societies.
“Furthermore, we reaffirmed our determination to build a peaceful and stable region, placing importance on good governance, rule of law, and human rights. In these respects, it goes without saying that to find African solutions, African voices should be duly heard and reflected,” said Kono. “…We hope to work continuously with Africa on these challenges to realise a better future for all.”