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Japan to focus on private investment in Africa

YOKOHAMA: Japan is shifting its policy on Africa from foreign aid to private investments, with $20 billion (about P218 billion), expected to be committed to the development of the continent in the next three years.

The change in Japan policy on Africa came to the fore at the recent 7th Tokyo International Conference on Africa Development (TICAD 7), held in the city of Yokohama. Between 28-30 August 2019, several African Head of States and Ministers; including Botswana’s Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation Dr. Unity Dow, as well as Minister of Investment, Trade, and Industry Bogolo Kenewendo, participated in the summit-level dialogue forum in Yokohama.

TICAD was launched in 1993, by the Government of Japan, to promote Africa’s development, peace and security, through the strengthening of relations in multilateral cooperation and partnership. The summit is now co-organised by the Government of Japan in partnership with African Union Commission, World Bank and United Nation Development Programme (UNDP).

Japan, the third-largest economy in the world after the United States and China, has committed to not only shifting its policy in Africa but also to helping Africa countries in dealing with debt, an issue which has become a huge concern and center of debate in development economics in Africa. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed to provide limitless support” for investment and entrepreneurship and to aggressively promote private-sector investment in Africa. Abe said his government will do whatever it takes to assist the advancement of Japanese companies in Africa.

“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 in three years should, in the years to come, be surpassed anew from one day to the next,” Abe said when officially opening the conference.

Japan unveiled a plan to send experts to 30 African countries to train local officials in charge of sovereign debt and risk management. Botswana which as one of the most prudent and revered macro-economic climate, may not necessarily be the target but scores of African countries have raised eye brows concerning their debts levels. The position is consistent with the view that African countries may be finding themselves with huge debts which may prevent them from developing at the necessary levels.

The greatest advance of the last three years since TICAD VI in Nairobi has been the launch of the Japan-Africa Business Forum. TICAD is reborn, according to the Japanese Prime Minister.  “Our New TICAD will lift to new heights the double E’s-double I’s of “entrepreneurship” and “enterprise,” “investment” and “innovation.”,” said Abe. Japan’s most innovative start-ups have received a boost from the Prime Minister, who indicated that the government should meet companies who are committed to invest in Africa halfway.

“’ So, what should the government do to enable entrepreneurs like Mr. Akita to make the most of their abilities? The questions the Government of Japan should ask all boil down to that single point,” he said. “One thing is to foster human resources, while another is to provide quality infrastructure. And yet another is making it easy to access capital.” Japan will choose ten priority countries each year for the next three years, with a total of thirty countries, expected to benefit from the provision of training in sovereign debt and risk management.

“’ To Ghana and Zambia, we will send advisers on debt management and macroeconomic management,” Abe said. The Government of Japan also promised to play a role in enhancing agricultural competitiveness, an important area for Africa. “Japan has a great many agricultural specialists who have been instrumental in assisting our own local governments. They will jump at the opportunity to put their skills to work in order to help Africa. Those are the kinds of people who will be heading to local communities from now,” he stated.

By 2030, through cooperation with various countries, we hope to double the current production of rice in the whole of Africa to 56 million tons, the Prime Minister said. “This is my third TICAD. I now see that you sit behind the wheel, which is most encouraging. In Africa, some countries have joined top nations in the rankings on the ease of doing business. The scale of the market continues expanding. We can envision a day when the entire continent becomes an enormous economic zone,” he noted.

“The AU has a highly ambitious long-term plan, with its target year set in 2063. For anyone now in your 20s, that’s a future realisable within your own goals. As you turn your eyes to Africa — to the land of potential — I wholeheartedly wish that you make the greatest leap in the continent.”

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