WE will do whatever it takes to assist the advancement of Japanese companies into Africa, says Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Addressing the just-ended Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 7), Prime Minister Abe said the Japanese government would put forth every possible effort so that the power of Japanese private investment of US $20 billion in three years should, in the years to come, be surpassed anew from one day to the next.
He thanked President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, who co-hosted TICAD VI three years ago, as well as President El-Sisi of Egypt, the co-chair of TICAD 7, which discussed “Advancing Africa’s Development through People, Technology and Innovation.”
He said over the past three years, Japanese private investment into Africa reached $20 billion.
Prime Minister Abe said from companies founded more than a century ago to start-ups, the investors vary to a great degree, and yet they all seek value in Africa.
“Let me introduce something brand new to you. That’s ‘New TICAD’, born in Nairobi and growing by leaps and bounds. Our New TICAD is a magnificent ‘double E, double I’ springboard. It is a partnership that lifts to greater heights the double Es of ‘entrepreneurship’ and ‘enterprise’, along with the double Is of ‘investment’ and ‘innovation’,” he said.
“I make this pledge to you. The government of Japan will put forth every possible effort so that the power of Japanese private investment of 20 billion dollars in three years should, in the years to come, be surpassed anew from one day to the next. For example, our cooperation with local financial institutions will create a new trade insurance that could cover 100 per cent of your transactions. We will do whatever it takes to assist the advancement of Japanese companies into Africa.”
Prime Minister Abe said the New TICAD would provide limitless support to the ‘double Es’ and ‘double Is’.
“With us here, ladies and gentlemen, is a torch bearer of a new era. Chizu Nakamoto. At her workshop in Uganda, she hires single mothers and people who were soldiers in their childhood. As these people work, they gain confidence in themselves. The workshop makes and fosters their self-esteem. That is probably because the bags Ms Nakamoto makes in Uganda for Japanese female consumers have a richness of colour that is exceptionally eye-catching.”
Prime Minister Abe said the investment made by a single Japanese woman first fosters among Ugandan women self-confidence, which then crystallises into beautiful products.
“Born this way is a new narrative brought into being through the collaboration of Japan and Africa. Let us raise our eyes now to a place beyond the earth. Soon, up there, a small-sized satellite built by Rwanda together with the University of Tokyo will emerge. From space, the satellite will observe crop harvests and the state of water resources in Rwanda. Next, let us take a dive into the ocean. It was October 1st last year that Angola and Brazil became connected through an undersea cable of enormous capacity. This was the first ever cable linking Africa straight with South America, a shining achievement in the history of telecommunications,” he said.
“I cannot hide my joy when I say it was the Japanese company, NEC, that laid the cable, spanning 6,165 km. And so I will say it again: the Japanese government – New TICAD – will do its utmost to support Japanese enterprises that are betting on the future of Africa. We are in an era in which the challenges Africa faces will be resolved through S, T, and I (science, technology, and innovation). At the Egypt-Japan University of Science and Technology and at Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, we will foster 5,000 young people who will advance STI into the future. We want to cultivate seamlessly the generations that will come after them. Doing this means making science and mathematics subjects they understand. That’s what is included in the collaboration between Japan and Africa, and it is now significantly changing the classrooms of African primary education.”
He said the Japanese way, which values pupils’ involvement in such activities as cleaning classrooms and serving lunch, had just started to spread in Egypt in its elementary schools.
Prime Minister Abe said a project to improve school management through community participation or the ‘school for all’ project, was launched by JICA in Niger and had now spread to more than 40,000 schools, including in Burkina Faso and Senegal.
He said the target for the near term was to have the number of children benefitting from reforms to primary education reach three million.
“This kind of human resource building is where Japan has invested the greatest amount of effort in Africa over the years. The ABE Initiative, which nurtures industry leaders, has grown as many as 2,700 young people over the past five years. We now have twenty applicants vying for every opening. The number of Japanese companies welcoming them as interns is now 358, 5.4 times the number when the initiative was first launched,” he said.
Abe said one of those was Otowa Electric Company of Hyogo Prefecture, a company that aims to be the world-beating lightning protection specialist.
“Under the ABE Initiative, a young intern arrived at Otowa. The intern was a young man from Rwanda named Raymond Ndayisaba. It was he who told Otowa that his country each and every year sees some 100 people losing their lives to lightning strikes. Otowa chose to expand into Rwanda, which was two years ago. The ABE Initiative is a solid bridge linking Japanese companies with Africa. New TICAD will launch the ‘ABE Initiative 3.0.’ Over the next six years, it will aim to train a total of 3,000 people. They will be the pilots Japanese companies can count on even more as they approach the African market,” he said.
On health and medicine, Abe said at the recent Osaka G20 summit, the Japanese government pledged new funding to the Global Fund.
He said it was Japan, throughout the history of TICAD, that had placed high value on “human security” at all times. Universal Health Coverage – UHC – is a quintessential example of “Brand Japan.”
Abe said the Japanese government pledges to bring Universal Health Coverage to three million recipients in Africa.
“Gavi – the alliance for vaccines, which are indispensable in UHC – and Japan are like-minded partners. Let me tell you that soon the Japanese government will host the launch meeting for Gavi’s replenishment,” he said.
He said now was the time to go beyond treating illnesses one by one, to instead deal with people’s entire lives holistically.
He said what Africa needed was an ecosystem of medical treatment and health.
Abe said the Japanese government would launch the “Africa Health and Wellbeing Initiative.”
He said this would be an attempt at making it possible for knowledge and technologies Japan has built up, from the foothills to the summit as it were, to be transferred to the countries of Africa.
“To start with, we are going to exchange memoranda of cooperation with a number of African countries. Now, in recent years, diplomatic relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea have normalised. In Central Africa, peace is making headway. Meanwhile in South Sudan, Japanese assistance has removed more than 20,000 landmines and unexploded ordnance since 2011,” he said.
Abe said when peace comes, it was better roads that become necessary.
“To that end in Africa, a net total of 149 members of the Japanese Self Defence Forces have given instruction on the operation of bulldozers and other earth movers to 246 members of the engineering corps from eight countries taking part in United Nations PKO. And today, at this very moment, Japan’s SDF is engaged in anti-piracy operations, with Djibouti as its base,” he said.
Abe said Japan’s engagement with Africa, whether it be medical services, mine clearing, or building quality infrastructure such as ports or roads, takes place on an extremely long-time axis.
He said ‘one-off’ undertakings were exceedingly rare.
Abe said the “African Clean Cities Platform” which Japan, 36 countries in Africa, and a host of UN organisations join forces, was aimed at reducing, reusing, and recycling waste in African cities.
He said it was a kind of undertaking that takes decades, not years.
“I don’t think it is necessary for me to tell you that in my country there is no shortage of professionals happily willing to spend that much time with you. Now, Japan has a thing or two it wants to do together with Africa. One is to safeguard the Indo-Pacific, which connects Africa and Japan, with great care as an ‘international public good’ permeated by the rule of law. Another is to make a meaningful contribution, as a people that cherishes water and the sea, to your ‘Blue Economy’ initiative,” he said.
“As we walk along together, what lies ahead of us is the reform of the United Nations Security Council, a common cause for Africa and Japan that still awaits a resolution.”
Meanwhile, Abe introduced an idea that New TICAD came up with, aiming at fostering Africa’s prosperity.
He said the idea was Japan’s ‘New Approach for Peace and Stability in Africa (NAPSA)’.
He said NAPSA would work in cooperation with the AU and Regional Economic Communities to support conflict prevention and mediation efforts.
“NAPSA would also assist in making judicial, governmental administration, and legislative systems stable and secure, so that nation building does not move backward as a result of conflict. The government of Japan has thus far accepted a total of 676 police officers, public prosecutors, and judges from 39 countries across Africa and disseminated to them knowledge of criminal justice and crime prevention. This is an achievement of the United Nations Asia and Far East Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, an organization located in Tokyo,” he said. “From fiscal years 2013 to 2018, more than 140 police officers from all around Africa came to Japan’s National Police Agency to study and train. It is nothing less than the spirit of TICAD that is prompting Japan, proud of this record of achievement, to want to undertake NAPSA. TICAD, which over the years has without fail seen for Africa only a bright future, was not mistaken. As a conference believing in the power of Africa, it has been utterly correct.”