As Japan finalizes preparations for the seventh edition of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), officials in the Far Eastern nation say they are seeing Africa as one of the most ‘promising regions’ in the world and will announce new packages of support for countries within the continent during the conference that will be held from August 28 to 30 in Yokohama City.
Shigeru Ushio, Director General for African Affairs and the Secretary-General for the TICAD 7, told our reporter Elias Meseret that Ethiopia will also benefit from the upcoming support package that Japan will unveil in the conference. But he underlined that Ethiopia’s and a few other countries debt burden is becoming problematic.
“A rapidly growing Africa is regarded as a partner that grows along with Japan,” said Shigeru adding the main subject of the TICAD 7 conference will be Advancing Africa’s Development through People, Technology and Innovation. “On the one hand, there are some countries that are yet to establish stable democratic governance, and those which suffer from developmental issues related to peace and stability. On the other hand, there are those which are facing international problems such as infectious diseases, climate change or poverty. We wish to work with them on those.”
TICAD was launched 26 years ago in 1993 as a summit- level international conference focusing on Africa’s development. The UN, UNDP, the African Union and the World are co-hosts of the Conference.
“Since I have been engaged in African diplomacy for many years, I am quite proud of the fact that TICAD has established its position as a pioneer of international meeting in African development, as well as an inclusive forum open to everyone who are willing to talk,” the Secretary-General added.
In the upcoming conference, some 250 official side events are expected to be held, including a business forum that will be chaired by Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed. This year’s conference will focus on economic transformation and improvements in the business environment, promotion of resilient and sustainable society and also peace and stability.
Japan has long been involved in Africa’s development endeavors, including in health. The most prominent in this regard is Dr. Hideyo Noguchi- a world-renowned scientist from Japan who died of yellow fever in Ghana in 1928. His image is now circulating in Japan’s 1000- yen note/currency.
The other area of cooperation relates to the African Business Education Initiative for Youth (Abe Initiative) that is also helping many Ethiopian students get enrolled in Japanese education institutions. Officials stated there are some 75 Abe Initiative students from Ethiopia now in Japan studying Master’s courses in Japanese universities.
The International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is also active in Ethiopia by providing technical assistance, loan and granting aid.
“We are involved heavily in agriculture and rural development in Ethiopia. This is in addition to our involvement in the private sector development project,” said Araki Yasumichi, a Senior Director at JICA’s Africa Department that covers Ethiopia. “We have rice, coffee and horticulture projects. There is also the Kaizen project that is proving to be popular in Ethiopia. In fact, we will have our own TICAD Human Resource Development Center in Ethiopia soon. The construction of a building complex will start soon.”
But Araki underlined that JICA is in a wait-and-see situation in some locations in Ethiopia due to the ongoing unrest and conflict, including around the coffee project the organization has in Kellem Wollega in Western Oromia region.