Perhaps the biggest announcement to come out of the recently concluded sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) held in Nairobi was that Japan would invest US$30 billion in private and public-sector funds over three years to boost infrastructure projects in Africa.
This was made even more notable by the fact that it was the first time that the conference was being held in Africa since its creation over two decades ago.
TICAD was first held in 1993, with the purpose of promoting high-level policy dialogue between African leaders and development partners. Since its formation, it has evolved into a major global forum for mobilizing international support for development in Africa under the principles of ownership and international partnership.
The thematic focus this year was “Advancing Africa’s Sustainable Development Agenda-TICAD Partnership for Prosperity”, building on six key areas of concern identified at the previous conference in Yokohama, namely:
- Boosting economic growth
- Accelerating infrastructure and capacity development
Promoting sustainable and resilient growth
- Creating inclusive society for growth
- Consolidating peace, stability, democracy and good governance
- Promoting structural economic transformation through economic diversification and industrialization
- Promoting resilient health system for quality of life and
- Promoting social stability for shared prosperity
TICAD is structured as a multilateral forum with five co-organizers: the Government of Japan, the African Union Commission, the United Nations Office of the Special Adviser on Africa, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank.
This year's conference saw over 6,000 delegates, including a reported 36 heads of state and representatives from 54 African countries, international and regional organizations, the private sector and civil society among others.
TICAD VI featured a number of pre-conference meetings, as well as a variety of side events, symposia, business forums and exhibitions mounted by international and regional organizations, the private sector and other interest groups.
Given Kenya's recent history with China in a number of high-profile infrastructure projects, it is perhaps fitting that the conference was held in Nairobi. China has held meetings with Africa’s heads of states, the most recent one being the 2015 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (Focac) held in South Africa, where Beijing pledged Sh.6 trillion in government–to-government deals that would go into infrastructure.
Japan's announcement appears to be a direct response to reaffirm its support of the African development agenda, a core principle of TICAD, and holding the conference summit in Nairobi underscores that mission.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in attendance, and his presence was seen as a commitment towards promoting Japanese interests, especially for the private sector, which is pushing for a bigger share of the African market.
In his speech at the opening of the conference, Abe noted that the Nairobi TICAD conference was the opening of a new chapter in the relationship between Africa and Japan. He added that Japanese investors will continue partnering with Africans in the continent’s drive for prosperity.
The government of Japan pledged to finance infrastructure, healthcare systems and other projects meant to boost the economy to the tune of US$10 billion, with the rest coming from the private sector.
Also of the importance was the Nairobi declaration which was adopted by member states that will see social stability for shared prosperity promoted and support for democratic governance in Africa through effective implementation of the African Union's Agenda 2063, which focuses on enhancing support towards the promotion of democratic governance in Africa.
The Nairobi Declaration is expected to include pandemic prevention measures and high quality infrastructure, a necessary engine for African development.
The conference also sought to establish stronger business links between Japan and Africa, with more than 100 CEOs of Japanese companies accompanying Abe. The private sector-led development was identified as a key component for growth, and Japanese companies are involved in various sectors such as agriculture, agro-processing and hospitality.
As the summit came to an end , President Uhuru Kenyatta and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe signed further bilateral agreements where Japan pledged Sh10 billion to fund various healthcare projects.
TICAD is the latest in a number of high profile international conferences hosted by Kenya, coming soon after the 15th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization in December 2015 and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development ministerial conference in July 2016, these meetings are a great boost to Kenya’s economy, through various agreements signed by Kenyan government and other states and also a boost for her tourism sector.