TICAD 30th Anniversary. Africa's Potential Lies in“People”


Yakushi Hiroyuki Deputy Director Africa Department

The Potential of the African Continent

What is the potential of Africa? Many people may think of its abundant natural resources. However, I would say that Africa's most notable resource is its abundance of human resources. By 2050, the continent's population is expected to reach 2.5 billion, or a quarter of the world's population, and the average age at that time is estimated to be about 25 years old. In the second half of the 21st century, it is said that the population of Asia will begin to decline. In this regard, Africa is an important partner that will hold the fate of the world's people, including Japan, in its hands for a prosperous future.

Investing in People

For Africa to continue to grow stably as a partner of Japan, inclusive social development and economic growth that involves Africa's great potential, its youth, is essential. Conversely, if the burgeoning youth population is left behind in the growth process, African socio economies will be destabilized by enormous unemployment, widening wealth disparities, increasing numbers of economic refugees, and the spread of crime, including terrorism. The presence of young people conversely poses a major risk. For this reason, there has never been a more important time than now, during the period of population expansion, to invest in the youth who will support Africa's future. Education and human resource development for young people, the subsequent creation of employment opportunities, and the development of industry are pressing issues that will affect the future not only of Africa, but also of the world, including Japan.

JICA's Cooperation

Since 1960, when many African countries gained their independence, JICA has consistently promoted cooperation with Africa focusing on "people" based on the belief that "nation building is people building”.
Especially since the early 2000s, under the leadership of President Sadako Ogata, we have strengthened our cooperation to reach African people, especially those suffering from poverty, in order to realize "human security" where all people can free from fear, free from want and achieve full dignity. At that time, I was in charge of technical cooperation in the field of basic education in African, and I still remember the sight of children in rural areas who were given the precious opportunity to attend school, learning with earnest eyes with hope for the future in the midst of a difficult environment. I myself was able to learn anew the potential that education can bring to people.

JICA's cooperation in Africa has always been characterized by an awareness of African ownership and partnership. These concepts were not necessary common for Africa, which was under centuries of colonial rule and the influence of the U.S. and Soviet Union during the Cold War. The principles of ownership and partnership have been the most important concepts from the beginning of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), which was initiated by the Japanese government since 1993, and are still upheld 30 years later. The people of Africa know the best how to solve Africa's problems, it is the people of Africa, not foreigners, who can put them into practice, and sustainable development is impossible without ownership by the people of Africa. Based on this belief, JICA has practiced cooperation in all areas for the past 30 years since the TICAD process began, adhering to the principles of "people-centered approach" and "ownership-oriented". As a result, JICA has earned a high reputation from the African side and contributed greatly to fostering a relationship of trust between Africa and Japan.

Challenges and Strengthening Resilience in Africa

Currently, Africa is facing a "compound crisis." Stagnation in economic growth due to falling commodity prices, debt issues, and adaptation to climate change have been prominent issues for some time, but these problems have intensified further due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine crisis. Importantly, many of these crises are not caused by Africa itself but are brought about by external factors.

In this situation, just a year ago, TICAD8 was held in Tunisia, where the importance of "investment in people" was emphasized. Furthermore JICA formulated a new strategy with a focus on enhancing Africa's resilience against external shocks. It should not be forgotten that Africa itself has a strong determination to overcome these challenges through the wisdom and innovation of its own people. Supporting this strong African determination is a crucial role for JICA.

For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, as part of JICA's Project NINJA activities, a pitch contest for startups was held, attracting business ideas from over 2,700 young African entrepreneurs aimed at addressing Africa's social challenges related to COVID-19. JICA is actively involved in building a startup ecosystem to support young African talents with hidden potential like these.In addition, to strengthen cooperation in line with African ownership, JICA has been promoting collaborative projects with the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD (AUDA-NEPAD) in recent years. One of these collaboration projects, the "Home Grown Solutions Program (HGS)," provided capacity-building support to African companies with business ideas that contribute to solving health-related challenges. Through this program, supported local companies raised a total of approximately 18 million dollars from the market and provided services to about one million people, contributing to the creation of 1,400 jobs and other achievements.

Cooperation that reaches people. Growing together with people.

“On behalf of the young people who are the future of Africa, we promise to use the knowledge and experience we have gained in Japan to contribute to Africa's sustainable development". Mr. Pascal from Benin, who participated in the ABE Initiative, a foreign student program to foster industrial human resources, made this declaration at the TICAD 30th anniversary celebration held in Tokyo recently. And Ms. Enola from Seychelles spoke encouragingly about how she is working as a bridge between Japan and Africa. Their confidence and conviction symbolized the assets of JICA's cooperation with Africa during the 30 years of the TICAD process and its potential for the future. The young people themselves believe in Africa's potential and have a strong desire to take ownership of Africa's development. It is these young people who will support Africa’s future and build a relationship of trust between Africa and the rest of the world, including Japan.

We believe in the potential of African youth. We engage in cooperation that reaches people and grow together with them. And we will connect the people of Africa with the people of Japan, further strengthen the relationship of trust. For the next 30 years, JICA will continue to work together with Africa.

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