Japan and Africa: The Role of ‘TICAD’
Dr Neha Sinha

Background of Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD): A Pioneering Initiative

Africa has been an important world region for Japan's trade and investment. Except for the development of raw material supplies, Japan doesn’t share much of historical experience with Africa. Africans first went to Japan on Portuguese ships in the late 16th century. Japan is not burdened with the colonial legacy in Africa. Africa’s untapped resources and its resilient economy are a powerful magnet for investors. It was Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori of Japan who was the first ever to make an official visit to Sub-Saharan Africa in 2001. There is little domestic support in Japan for aid to Africa, though there is higher political interest. Africa is important to Japan and it remains committed to African development in its own unique way.

Japan’s pledge to increase development assistance to Africa will come as glad tidings to the continent’s governments, left reeling by the slowdown in Chinese imports. But insofar as it results in Africa becoming a new theater for Japan and China to play out their rivalry, it risks a return to the days where Africa’s development was held hostage to the interests of competing global powers.This year’s meeting of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in Nairobi was the first in 20 years to be held outside Japan. By bringing the conference to Africa, Tokyo is sending a clear a message that it is placing a renewed emphasis on Japanese-African trade relations. Indeed, the $30 billion pledged this year for infrastructural development in Africa, coming on the back of a $32 billion package offered just three years ago, speak volumes to the new-found importance the continent has to Japan’s overseas trade.

The TICAD was launched in 1993 by the Government of Japan for the promotion of Africa’s development, peace and security. The focus was also on the strengthening of relations in multilateral cooperation and partnership, particularly with the countries of Africa. The launch of TICAD was catalytic for refocusing international attention on Africa’s development needs. In the course of the past 23 years, TICAD has evolved into a major global and open-multilateral forum for mobilizing and sustaining international support for Africa’s development under the principles of African ownership and international partnership.

By launching in 1993 the TICAD with the United Nations Development Program and the UN’s Office of the Special Advisor on Africa, Japan pioneered efforts by Asian countries to engage directly with African leaders. The Chinese followed in 2000 with the launch of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). India joined the bandwagon in 2010 with the India-Africa Business Forum (IBF). Attended by a majority of African leaders, as well as investors and development experts, these gatherings have been opportunities to negotiate international trade and to attract investors and Official Development Aid (ODA). The TICAD is the basis of Japan’s current relationship with African countries. It is co-organized by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), the United Nations, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank, and “stakeholders include all African countries and development partners including Asian countries, donor nations, international agencies, civil society organizations, the private sector and parliaments.”

TICAD has been an evolving element in Japan's long-term commitment to fostering peace and stability in Africa through collaborative partnerships. It is a process inspired by the achievements of East Asian countries over the last 40 years and is designed to promote development in Africa. TICAD was initiated after the Cold War as a framework for Asia-Africa cooperation. This was done at a time when Africa had lost the attention of the international community, with the first conference taking place in 1993. The meeting was held every five years since. The initiative is about South-South cooperation and African ownership prescribing their potential for socio-economic development. In the realm of environment and climate change, Japan recognizes Africa’s challenges as a global concern and argues for collective action by the international community.

TICAD has advocated the importance of African ownership and international partnership. Today, the development philosophy based on these two principles is shared globally. It has also inspired African countries, and it became the philosophical foundation of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the first comprehensive development plan created by Africans themselves. In the TICAD process, Japan has established follow-up mechanisms. For example, pledges are announced at the summit-level meetings, and the status of their implementations is confirmed at the ministerial meetings. African countries have highly acclaimed the steady assistance extended by Japan, a country that keeps its promises. Africa's economic and social crises of the 1980s highlighted the development challenges faced by this Continent. To address these challenges, many African countries have embarked on far reaching political and economic reforms. Participants of TICAD have been encouraged by signs in recent years of both positive macro-economic performance and political development resulting from those reforms. In doing so, TICAD nevertheless recognizes the continued fragility and vulnerability of Africa's political and economic structures and situations that inhibit the achievement of sustainable development.


TICAD I was held in 1993 where African countries and their development partners discussed strategies for steps toward greater Africa and prosperity. TICAD was formed at a time when the international community’s interest in Africa was starting to wane, and donor fatigue was setting in. This conference produced the ‘Tokyo Declaration on African Development.’

TICAD I resulted in ‘The Tokyo Declaration for African Development’. The relevance of Asia’s developmental experience for Africa is explored in the Declaration. It takes into account the rational application of macro-economic policies and maintenance of political stability and the long-term investment in education and human resource development. The issue of African ownership is addressed, though not directly and the declaration notes that economic and development strategies must be initiated by African governments based on their initiatives and values. Implicit in this is that African ownership means the state leads and is responsible for development. For their part, the Tokyo Declaration commits development partners to support those countries taking steps towards economic and political reform.The conference was considered promising, but prospects remained uncertain. In the decades since that beginning, TICAD's quality has evolved in both complexity and quality.


TICAD II took place in 1998 where the African countries and their development partners agreed on the ‘Tokyo Agenda for Action’ (TAA). TAA was intended to become a commonly understood strategic and action-oriented set of guidelines. Poverty reduction in Africa and Africa's fuller integration into the global economy were recognized a fundamental goals. Following TICAD II, a 2001 ministerial conference provided opportunity to discuss NEPAD. The conference focused on “poverty reduction through accelerated economic growth and sustainable developmentand effective integration of the African economies into the global economy” as the primary theme of the TAA. The key concept of the Agenda for Action is “ownership by the African countries of their development initiatives”. This is a concept that underscores the effort to make TICAD as inclusive as possible. With African ownership more directly addressed in this second declaration, it became clear that African governments were by this point becoming increasingly comfortable and confident with the TICAD process. Education as “central to human capacity building” was given prominence in the TAA. The Agenda acknowledges education as “the key to accelerated growth and sustained poverty reduction in East Asian economies.” It aimed to ensure that at least 80 percent of children complete primary education by 2005 and universal primary education by 2015. Second, focus was on to reduce adult illiteracy by half of the 1990 level by 2005 with a special emphasis on female literacy. Third, eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education by 2005. Fourth was to improve the quality of education, and have a good linkage between education and employment. Lastly, it focused on enhancing national and regional capacities in the area of science and technology. This TICAD framework constituted a pioneering initiative in international efforts toward the adoption of the Poverty Reduction Strategy by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (1999), the ‘Millennium Development Goal’ (MDG) by the United Nations (2000) and NEPAD.


TICAD III was held in 2003, where there was a discussion about future direction that TICAD should take. Marking 10 years of the TICAD process and embracing NEPAD, this conference focused on poverty reduction through economic growth. Priorities on the development agenda included: consolidation of peace, capacity-building, human-centric development, infrastructure, agricultural development, private sector development, expansion of partnerships and dialogue with civil society. TICAD III was an idea-orientated conference that considered concepts of development. It did not seek to set goals, as TICAD II had done. World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks were frequently referred to in this conference as only a few weeks earlier talks in Mexico had collapsed. This was particularly pertinent to discussion on agricultural development; given farm subsidies in developed countries. The Anniversary Declaration mentions failure of the talks and it calls for equitable trade. Not unrelated to this, the declaration also points to the need for a more supportive international environment, with Africa losing prominence once again in the post 9/11 environment. The most important topic of TICAD III was to support NEPAD which was presented to the international community at the TICAD ministerial-level meeting (December 2001, Tokyo). The Summary by the Chair of TICAD III confirmed the three pillars of African development which are: people-centered development, poverty reduction through economic growth, and consolidation of peace.


TICAD IV was held in 2008, where the conference positioned the issue of boosting economic growth as the first pillar and came up with the outcome documents titled the ‘Yokohama Declaration and Yokohama Action Plan’. The action plan clearly stated the commitments of the participants. Japan, for its part, announced that it would double its ODA to Africa and provide up to $4 billion of new ODA loans over the following five years. This was done in order to support the continent’s economic growth, despite its difficult fiscal position. Another noteworthy development was the introduction of the follow-up mechanism for monitoring TICAD IV commitments and the Yokohama Action Plan. The Yokohama Declaration emphasized the importance of economic growth even more strongly than ever, putting it before other pillars, i.e., those related to MDGs, environmental issues and climate change, and consolidation of peace and good governance. The prioritization of economic growth in the conference represented a remarkable shift from the traditional emphasis on social and human development since TICAD I and toward the development of infrastructure, trade and investment and partnership with the private sector. However, prior to TICAD IV, Japan was constrained in mobilizing its financial resources for supporting economic growth in Africa, due primarily to the debt accumulation problem in Africa. This constraint was relieved by the final settlement of long-standing debt problems agreed on at the Gleneagles G8 Summit in 2005. Japanese government announced its ODA Loan support package for Africa through co-financing with the African Development Bank (EPSA). Further, Japan pledged new ODA loans of up to $4 billion over five years which focused on the cross-border infrastructure projects in transportation and the power sector to promote regional integration in African nations. This does not mean that social and human development is no longer emphasized in the TICAD IV commitments of Japan. In parallel to infrastructure development, the Japanese contribution to the achievement of MDGs has also been strengthened through grant aid and Technical Cooperation as part of the commitment.


TICAD V was held in June 2013. This conference ended as one of the largest summit meetings ever held in Japan with the participants totaling more than 4,500; including the Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe, Minister for Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida, as well as representatives from 51 African countries including 39 heads of state and government, delegates from 31 development partner countries and Asian nations, 72 international and regional organizations, the private sector, NGOs and civil society. In addition, a variety of side events were held with enthusiastic attendance from the public. TICAD V upheld the core message of "Hand in Hand with a More Dynamic Africa." Under the concept, active discussions were conducted on the future of African development, centering on the main themes of TICADV, namely "Robust and Sustainable Economy," "Inclusive and Resilient Society," and "Peace and Stability." As an outcome, TICAD V adopted two outcome documents, namely, ‘Yokohama Declaration 2013’, presenting a future direction for African development, and ‘Yokohama Action Plan 2013–2017’, a road map for the TICAD Process over the next five years with specific measures.


TICAD VI was held at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC), 2016. It was of great significance being the first time for TICAD to be held on the African Soil, enhancing the principles of African ownership and international partnership that underpins the TICAD process. Hosting this unique gathering for Kenya was a major stamp of international approval, and a manifestation of Kenya’s leadership in Africa’s transformation agenda.The theme of TICAD VI was ‘Advancing Africa’s sustainable Development Agenda: TICAD Partnership for Shared Prosperity’.

It was noted in the conference that for a period of three yearsJapan will invest for the future of Africa through implementing measures centering on developing quality infrastructure, building resilient health systems and laying the foundations for peace and stability amounting to approximately US $ 30 billion under public-private partnership. These measures align with the priority areas in the Nairobi Declaration and include human resource development to 10 million people. With regard to ‘Economic Diversification and Industrialization’, one of the priority areas in the Nairobi Declaration of TICAD VI, it envisaged that quality infrastructure will be developed as the foundation of the economy and promote the private sector’s activities as the core of economic activities. Promotion of Private Sector Activity through means such as Human Resource Development and Productivity Improvement was taken into consideration too. This was to be done by providing training to 30 thousand people on the already ongoing ABE Initiative.

A total of 73 MoUs worth USD 29.2 billion to boost trade and investment between African countries and Japan were signed. The MoUs cover infrastructure, education, health, agriculture, ICT and mining among others.Japan promised to support Africa’s position to have an expanded UN Security Council that would include representation from the continent. The Summit had the all-important focus on Africa’s transformative Agenda 2063 that is being collectively spearheaded under the umbrella of the African Union.Japan pledged to work with Africa towards combating insecurity and terrorism. African leaders and Japan committed themselves to tame the rising threat of extremism and piracy on the seas.The Japanese pledged to provide $500 million for vocational training for 50,000 youth in Africa to discourage them from joining terrorist groups like Al-Shabaab.

With reference to Kenya, the Country secured a pledge of USD 266 million from Japan to construct an industrial park and free trade area (Special Economic Zone) at Dongo Kundu, Mombasa. The first phase of the Special Economic Zone is scheduled to be ready by 2019. The agreement involves the development of infrastructure, including Berth 1 at the Port of Mombasa, access roads and transmission line, water supply pipeline from the mainland and sub-station drainage, power supply and a free trade zone.Four international companies donated a Kshs. 7.6 million mobile laboratory to the ‘First Lady’s Beyond Zero Campaign’. Kenya and Japan signed the Agreement on Promotion and Protection of Investment (APPI) that is expected to spur Japanese investments in Kenya.Kenya’s private sector also took advantage of the TICAD VI conference to showcase their companies at the exhibitions, business fora and symposia as well as in many side events that were held before and during the TICAD VI conference.


Top 10 ODA donors USD million, net disbursements in 2013:-

Development Aid at a Glance (Statistics by Region –Africa, OCED 2015 Edition)


Top 10 DAC donor countries to Africa (USD million, net bilateral disbursements):-

Development Aid at a Glance (Statistics by Region – Africa, OCED 2015 Edition)

ODA to Africa by Donor and Sector in 2013 (As a percentage of total bilateral commitments):-

Development Aid at a Glance (Statistics by Region – Africa, OCED 2015 Edition)

Analysis of Social Sector ODA to Africa by Donor

(As a percentage of total sector-allocable commitments for each donor in 2013):-

Development Aid at a Glance (Statistics By Region –Africa, OCED 2015 Edition)


In addition to ODA, the other important pillar for development within TICAD is the involvement of the private sector in trade and investment. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is considered to bring about positive effects on economic growth of host countries; for example, local firms can improve managerial skills and technological capacities, which can improve productivity. Furthermore, FDI is expected to create jobs. Indeed, Ernst & Young forecasts that new FDI projects in Africa will create 350,000 jobs a year by 2015. In this context, FDI from Japan has been expected to play a pivotal role in achieving these outcomes mentioned above.

The Japanese Government has devised various ways to attract Japanese investors to the region. In practice, this trend has been supported by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), which promotes public-private partnerships, thereby supporting enterprises seeking to enter a new market. As a result, by 2010, the number of Japanese companies in South Africa had increased considerably. One of the prominent examples reflecting such support is South Africa’s Standard Bank, who signed a US$ 150 million loan agreement with the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) in order to boost trade finance in Africa in 2009. This agreement was designed to facilitate trade finance in South Africa and other African countries.By narrowing the case to South Africa, JBIC has provided more than US$1.2 billion since 2007, including US$470 million to finance ESKOM power generation equipment and transformers, as well as power transmission installation. In 2010, the total value of bilateral trade between Africa and Japan amounted to US $ 24 billion, a 30% improvement over 2009.(16) Since 2008, Japan has expanded its scope and amount of trade with Africa, especially Liberia and South Africa. Liberia alone accounts for 50% of all Japanese investments in the region.

However, Japan should invest in more African countries, not just in a few. In fact, trade with South Africa and Liberia accounts for only approximately 1% of Japan’s total exports and imports. In examining statistical data from the Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO), it is clear that little attention has been paid to Africa. Japan’s trade is still concentrated on East Asian partners and the United States. According to the JETRO Global Trade and Investment Report, 2010, Japan has also focused on trading with regional blocs, such as the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the European Union (EU), and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It seems that no attention has been paid to any other African regional economic organizations.

Finally, it seems that African countries rely heavily on the mineral and raw materials sector in their trade with Japan, which indicates the potential to perpetuate Africa’s reliance on mineral exports in the future. In other words, by focusing on the resources sector, the manufacturing sector will never be able to catch up with other developing countries.At the moment, what most African countries need is to transform their economies and to encourage diversification based on industrialization, which can result in high-quality growth in Africa. Japan should deliver its promise in a way that assists African countries in building capacity for self-sustainable economic growth. The request from African countries to bring TICAD to Africa has changed its cycle to three years with the hosting country alternating between Japan and Africa. The African request is proof that Africa has high expectations for TICAD. By focusing on “development, energy production, good governance and human security,” Japan hopes to turn Africa into a flourishing trade partner while improving the lives of millions of people.


  1. Trade and investment between Japan and Africa in the context of follow-up to the fourth Tokyo international conference on: African development (TICAD IV) a paper presented at the 2008 African Economic Conference (AEC) organized by the African Development Bank (AfDB) AfDBHeadquarters(12 TO 14 November, 2008 Tunis, Tunisia By Nicholas, GouedeProgramme Specialist TICAD/UNDP Africa Bureau, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) New York.
  2. Yejoo Kim, Consultancy Africa Intelligence’s Asia Dimension Unit ([email protected]).
  3. Elizabeth Donnelly. The Tokyo International Conference on African Development: Something Old, Something New? (www. Chatham house.org.uk/Africa), June 19, 2016.
  4. ‘Towards a vibrant Africa: A continent of hope and opportunity’, TICAD website, http://www.ticad.net.
  5. Kei Yoshizara, https://jica.ri.jica.go.jp.App.1:TheTicadProcess, pp.301-401
  6. TICAD October, 1993, http://www.un.org/en/africa/osaa/partnerships/ticad.shtmlhttps://ticad6.net/,https://www.oecd.org/dac/stats/documentupload/2%20Af...

Published Date: 13th January 2017, Image Source: http://www.japantimes.co.jp

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