At the eighth convening of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD8), Japan announced a pledge of over 30 billion dollars in aid to the continent. The contributions will aim to alleviate food security challenges, support post-pandemic growth and finance the development of more robust regional economies. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida also committed to seeking fundamental reforms of the United Nations Security Council in order to provide a permanent seat for Africa. The summit, held in Tunisia, has showcased the ongoing importance of diplomatic, economic and humanitarian engagement in the region.
In an effort to implement lasting change, Japan specifically committed to providing training for 300,000 people living across the continent over the next three years, in an effort to better equip regional healthcare, education and infrastructure development. Finances will also go to developing the Green Growth Initiative, the African Development Bank and to strategies aimed at combating infectious diseases.
Speaking to the summit virtually, Prime Minister Kishida declared, “If we give up on a rules-based society and permit unilateral changes of the status quo by force, the impact of that will extend not only through Africa, but all the world.” Tunisian President Kais Saied, who has remained controversial on the global stage following his accumulation of broad presidential powers, urged delegates to “search together for ways for African peoples to achieve the hopes and dreams of the first generation after independence.”
The summit has been viewed as an opportunity for Japan to renew its commitment to the continent, with the nation currently trailing the United States, Europe and China in direct investment and private sector engagement. Reflecting on Japan’s current position, Nikkei Asia wrote that the nation “must continue to help African nations tackle long-standing issues such as heavy dependence on imported food and lack of effective countermeasures against infectious diseases.” They also urged the Japanese Government to better articulate the humanitarian and strategic importance of long-term investment in Africa, noting that reforms cannot endure without widespread public support.
The conference comes amid speculation that the continent will witness a strategic contest for influence as both the United States and China seek to develop connections within communities on key regional issues. In the last decade, China has rapidly grown its presence in Africa, financing major infrastructure projects under its Belt and Road Initiative.
As Brittany Morreale and Purnendra Jain wrote in the Diplomat, “While high-profile actors like China, Russia, and U.S. often capture the headlines, Japan’s time-tested commitment, depth of development experience, and multilateral approach are ringing true in African states and on the global stage.”
Large-scale investment in Africa is essential to developing productive regional economies, mitigating the devastating impact of climate change and alleviating the destructive power of poverty. Without question, lasting stability, progress and peace will be founded on alleviating the pain caused by these challenges. However, investment alone has not yet succeeded; aid projects must better engage with regional cultures, in order to effectively address the complex and interconnected challenges faced by the continent. The efficacy of Japan’s engagement with African nations to address healthcare crises and other international challenges suggests that they have both the capital and the capacity to achieve genuine progress.
Japan’s commitment to targeted developmental aid and its willingness to support the reform of international institutions to achieve a more equitable voice for Africa are significant and necessary promises; they are capable of securing lasting change.