As curtains fall on the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), some observers have wondered whether Japan-Africa relations are likely to be different from the relations that Africa has had with other developed nations, which are so far perceived on the continent as being skewed in favor of developed countries and their business communities. Here are the five factors that stand out with Japan’s increasing interests for Africa as a partner.
1. Focus on human capacity resources
Most Japanese development projects tend to have one thing in common: a focus on empowering communities and beneficiaries with technical expertise. As a result, their “Technical Experts” tend to be more like trainers than “advisers”. Their focus on human capacity being in line with Japan’s intention to invest in the last frontier while empowering its’ people.
2. Industrial and technical partnerships
TICAD saw the conversation about investments in Africa shift from Africa being a consumer of finished good and a producer of raw materials to one about Africa being the next frontier for manufacturing goods. With a human capital of over 1 billion people, Africa has the resources and manpower to make this a reality. TICAD saw many Japanese companies entering into partnerships that are project-based, to offer cutting-edge skills necessary to make Africa a more competitive continent globally. These partnerships have stretched across various sectors within the African continent, this expansion making Africa an investment hub for many an investor.
3. Health Systems
Japan’s health systems and innovations are among the best in the world. The specific interventions and innovations in healthcare has seen Japan become a world leader in cutting edge health systems. Japan wants to share this expertise with Africa to improve healthcare provision in the continent. Most Japanese companies have focused on equipping key sectors including health and education.
4. A technical approach to partnerships
Over 100 companies from Japan showcased their products during the Japan Fair, a side event of the TICAD conference. These companies were keen on striking partnerships with African Governments, not just for business but also technological advancement.
The Japan Fair offered a great platform for networking for entrepreneurs and investors alike. The variety of industry sectors represented is an indicator of the massive opportunity that the continent has to develop itself.
5. Getting event communications right is of paramount importance
Although the conversation at TICAD was essentially between heads of state and their technocrats, it was not lost on them that their publics, both on the continent and globally, need to be involved in the conversation. We saw the Government of Japan publish a number of Op-eds in top European, Asian and American publication including Le Monde, the Washington Post and Nikkei Review, as well as launch one of the best coordinated multi-country media campaigns in Africa.
Both the host government of Kenya and Japan spared no effort to keep twitter ablaze with updates on the event, making it easier for states, organizations and people to keep abreast with the many sessions that took place throughout the three-day event.