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August 5, 2016

Africa Today and Preparations for TICAD VI, According to JICA Chief Representatives

photoKenya's Kenyatta International Convention Center, where TICAD VI will be held in August

The sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI), to be held in Nairobi, Kenya, Aug. 27-28, is drawing near. Though TICAD is getting attention for being held in Africa for the first time and switching from a quinquennial schedule to a triennial one for the first time, it is hard for people in Japan to get information about what is happening in Africa with regard to it.

So JICA gave a briefing on Africa for members of the media on April 21. The JICA chief representatives in six African countries provided unfiltered local information on such topics as local conditions and developments in each of the countries in advance of TICAD VI.

Africa continues to grow against a backdrop of abundant resources and an enormous market

photoKeiko Sano, chief representative of the JICA Kenya Office

To kick off the event, Keiko Sano, chief representative of the JICA office in Kenya, where TICAD VI will be held, said, "Some people are worried about security, but the Kenyan government is bolstering security. Far more Japanese companies than expected applied to participate in the Japan Fair to be put on by the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) during TICAD VI, so we can surmise that Japanese companies have a high level of interest in Africa," she said, describing the state of affairs in Kenya as TICAD VI approaches.

Also, looking back on the history of Japan's continuous assistance, with ODA-based assistance beginning in 1963, the year Kenya gained independence, and the dispatch of Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCVs) beginning in earnest three years later, in 1966, she said, "Kenya is a showcase for Japan's assistance to Africa. In addition to the five pillars of economic infrastructure improvement, agricultural development, human resource training, health care and environmental conservation, Japan has been implementing its volunteer programs there for 50 years."

photoAkira Nishimoto, chief representative of the JICA Madagascar Office

JICA cooperation projects recommenced in 2014 in Madagascar, where a president was democratically elected in 2013. Akira Nishimoto, chief representative of the JICA Madagascar Office, explained that ahead of TICAD VI, "JICA's cooperation is predicted to become more active and it is currently putting effort into creating an economic foundation." The fields it is emphasizing in its cooperation projects are agricultural development, infrastructure and economic development, and education and social development.

"Though it is in Africa, Madagascar's culture is similar to Asia's," he said, commenting that the amount of rice consumed per person is twice that in Japan and it has the most students of the Japanese language in sub-Saharan Africa. “I would like JICA to continue engaging in cooperation that takes advantage of this Japan-like quality," he added.

photoKoji Makino, chief representative of the JICA Ghana Office

Koji Makino, chief representative of the JICA Ghana Office, explained that Ghana is a safe, English-speaking country and an entry point to West Africa. The World Bank white paper "Doing Business 2015" ranked Ghana first in Western Africa, and it is an easy country to do business in, he added. Projects to improve maternal and child health as garnering attention, he said. "Based on a foundation of maternal and child health improvement rooted in the community, we are supporting nutritional improvement in partnership with Japanese companies and lifestyle disease countermeasures. In the future, we will contribute to the creation of a West African infectious disease monitoring system that includes Ebola, based in the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research in Ghana," he said.

Contributing to the recovery of a peaceful, stable society as the basis of development

photoMitsuaki Furukawa, chief representative of the South Sudan JICA Office

South Sudan is the world's newest country, having gained independence in 2011. A dispute broke out there in December 2013, but a compromise agreement was reached in August 2015 and currently there is movement toward the establishment of an interim government.

Chief Representative Mitsuaki Furukawa of the South Sudan JICA Office explained the projects JICA is emphasizing, such as one to build a durable bridge on the Nile River, where there was only a temporary bridge built in 1974, and peace building through sports. These projects are of the sort that bring people together, he said. "We are putting effort into peace building initiatives such as supporting a national athletic meet with the slogan "national reconciliation and unification" and using famous people (such as Atong Demach, the first Miss South Sudan, and cartoonist Adija) as PR advisors at the JICA South Sudan office to spread a message of peace," he said.

photoKatsuyoshi Sudo, chief representative of the JICA Mozambique Office

Japanese companies are quite interested in Mozambique, which has plentiful natural resources. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Mozambique in January 2014, promised cooperation centered on Nacala Corridor development and concluded an investment agreement that was the first in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Nacala Corridor is an economic corridor that connects Mozambique with landlocked countries including Malawi and Zambia, and it is one of three priority development areas decided at the Africa Economic Strategy Conference held in Japan.

Chief Representative Katsuyoshi Sudo of the JICA Mozambique Office said, "JICA has worked out a Nacala Corridor Economic Development Master Plan, which aims for implementation by 2035, and we will move forward with cooperation on repair and expansion of the Port of Nacala — the entryway to the Nacala Corridor, on strengthening electric power generation and conveyance, on improving roads, on developing agriculture, on developing society and on developing human resources."

photoTsutomu Iimura, chief representative of the JICA Ivory Coast Office

As a producer of agricultural products such as cacao and cashew nuts, Ivory Coast is one of the liveliest countries in western Africa. On the other hand, civil war and political turmoil have been ongoing for the decade plus since 1999. While looking back on that history, Chief Representative Tsutomu Iimura of the Ivory Coast JICA Office explained JICA's assistance that emphasizes the areas of "accelerating growth" and "achieving a peaceful and stable society."

He also touched on the formulation of the Corridor Development for West Africa Growth Ring Master Plan, which takes into consideration the regional integration of western Africa, saying, "Western Africa consists of small countries with populations of between 10 million and 20 million. If it were successfully integrated, a large market would be created. I want to move western Africa forward as a whole through this kind of assistance."

Also engaging in PR efforts in Africa ahead of TICAD VI

In the subsequent question and answer session, someone asked to what extent TICAD VI is known in Africa. Ms. Sano, chief representative of the JICA Kenya Office, answered as follows: "It is not very well-known. The Japanese and Kenyan governments are coming up with ways of remedying the situation, including the Japanese side putting advertisements in local newspapers and the Kenyan side considering creating a theme song to liven up the preparations." Hideo Eguchi, the Director General of the JICA Africa Department said, "JICA is also focusing effort on PR activities."

JICA has been carrying out its assistance centered on the three pillars of "a robust and sustainable economy","an inclusive and resilient society" and "peace and stability", the targets from TICAD V (2013-2017). New problems have manifested themselves since TICAD V, including a drop in the prices of primary products of Africa, the outbreak of Ebola and the rise of violent extremism.

In light of such problems, and in advance of TICAD VI, JICA will further focus on assistance based on the keywords of "transformation" and "resilience." This will include assistance for transformation into a more modern, diversified and productive economy and industrial structure, and assistance for building a resilient society that includes a stronger health care system.

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