Japan has reaffirmed its commitment to African development, unveiling investments in energy and infrastructure totalling USD 13 billion among a number of agreements at the sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), held in Nairobi on 27 and 28 August.
The conference brought together representatives of Japan, all 54 African countries and 74 other organisations, including businesses and international organisations, led by Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta and Japanese prime minister Shinzō Abe, who announced a USD 10 billion plan to improve Africa’s energy supply.
Organised by the Japanese government, African Union, United Nations Development Programme, World Bank Group and Office of the Special Adviser on Africa, it was the first time in TICAD’s 23-year history that the event has taken place outside of Japan.
The tone was set by the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the AfDB and the Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO) on the eve of the event. Signed by Adesina and Hiroyuki Ishige, the chairman and chief executive of JETRO, the memorandum promised collaboration on areas of common interest, prioritising power and energy, industrialisation and private sector development including infrastructure, and the exchange of data and institutional knowledge.
Japan has become a major player in African investment, competing with China, the US and EU countries for access and influence within the continent. In 2014, Japanese companies spent USD 3.5 billion out of USD 4.2 billion invested in Africa by Asian companies that year and government assistance to Africa was up to 1.8 billion in 2012.
TICAD also provided a chance for Japanese corporations to further their African ties. Tokyo-headquartered Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC) signed a letter of intent with AfDB at the conference, committing to work together on trade finance and risk mitigation on export transactions, industrial and infrastructure project financing, the mobilisation of resources and business development. In May, SMBC provided USD 100 million to support the expansion of trade finance operations at African banks.
For its part, the AfDB is promoting policies for youth employment, particularly involving digital technology, investing USD 5 billion over 10 years through its Jobs for Youth in Africa (JfYA) strategy with the aim of creating 25 million new jobs.