#MAUJapan2024: Now open for application

[Goal 13] Climate Action
[Goal 17] Partnerships for the Goals


Tomori Mai Planning and TICAD Process Division Africa Department

The very first Model African Union (AU1) in Japan, an initiative led by Japanese university students, is now officially open for application.

I have been supporting the initiative as a program officer of the Planning and TICAD Process Division of the Africa Department at JICA HQ, and I would like to share my thoughts on why Japanese young people need to think about the AU and Africa now, as part of call for participation.

Let me start from some 27 years ago. In the year of 1997, Hong Kong was returned to China, and East and Southeast Asia was stormed by a currency crisis which broke out from Thailand. It is also the year that Toyota launched Prius in Japan, which can be seen across the world nowadays, and “Titanic”, the movie that became a worldwide hit was released. Though these may not sound very familiar to university students under the age of 27, it is not a long time ago in history, but “just a little while ago”.

If we set the clocks forward for 27 years, we would reach the year 2050. According to the United Nations World Population Prospect, the population of Africa will exceed 2.4 billion in 2050, and it is estimated that Africans will account for one-fourth of the world population. This is not the distant future far ahead, but again it is indeed just “a little” further into the future. Also, it is said that in Africa, there are about 30% of the world's mineral resources and 60% of the world's arable land. Supported by the rare two factors, growing population and abundant natural resources, Africa is expected to increase its presence in international politics, economics, as well as international community as part of the “Global South” that leads the world economy.

Photo: JICA/ Hiromi NAGAKURA (Children in Mozambique)

While the world has high expectations for its great potential, Africa is also facing major challenges. If it fails to create sufficient employment opportunities to accommodate its fast-growing population, it could become a cause of widening disparities between the rich and the poor, deterioration of security situation, economic and social instability, and even conflicts.

Meanwhile in Japan, we rely more than 60% of our food on imports (on a caloric basis). As such, there has been a growing attention to the food security, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine and other negative events have caused food prices to skyrocket worldwide. It might not be too pessimistic to say that similar price spikes could occur in energy resources such as oil and coal, as well as industrial products and raw materials in the future. The key is to diversity the origin of the material, and Africa is expected to become an important exporter of natural resources and agricultural products to Japan.

Now, what is needed for Africa to develop stably as a member of international community? There are many important issues: a peaceful society that is not threatened by terrorism, conflict, or epidemics; the ability to produce high value-added products; electricity and power supply networks to run factories; roads and ports to transport industrial products across borders; and unified rules for imports and exports, including tariffs and non-tariff barriers.

AU is an African initiative to discuss these issues with the participation of all countries and areas on the African continent to realize Africa's own vision. In our “Model AU in Japan”, Japanese students are to represent African countries to discuss and learn about African development issues to compile policy proposals, and announce them at the Model AU Summit Meeting.

The words “international politics” or “international cooperation” may sound somewhat unfamiliar and difficult, but thinking about Africa is thinking about the society we want to live in. I hope that the very first Model AU in Japan will encourage as many people as possible to think and discuss “Africa,” “Africa and Japan,” and “the society in which we all live in the near future”.

At the Model AU in Japan, we are looking forward to welcoming everyone with a passionate mindset seeing Africa as a partner to learn from each other and grow together.

With MAU Secretariat members, we visited Frist Africa Division of MOFA Japan to share the progress of MAU.

  • ※ 1 One of the world's largest regional organizations, with 55 African countries and regions as members.

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