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April 26, 2013

Cooperation that is Truly for Africa

PhotoEiji Inui, Director-General of the Africa Department at JICA

By Eiji Inui
Director-General of the Africa Department at JICA

The Fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD V) will be held in Yokohama in June. This TICAD conference will mark exactly 20 years since the first TICAD and the 50th year since the Organisation of African Unity (OAU)[1] was established. It has been nearly 30 years since I first set foot on African soil. Since then, Africa has steadily undergone change, and overall things have progressed in a favorable direction. I would like to look back on the past two decades of JICA's cooperation to Africa since the first TICAD and take a look into the future.

20 Years of Development

PhotoThe opening ceremony at TICAD IV in 2008

The First TICAD was held in 1993. As TICAD I was held at a time when assistance to Africa drew little interest right after the end of the Cold War, the role that the Government of Japan played in leading TICAD was highly significant in making the world pay more attention to Africa. Subsequently, assistance to Africa became one of the top priority issues for development assistance as seen at the United Nations General Assembly (the Millennium Summit) in 2000 and the Gleneagles Summit hosted by the UK in 2005.

In the meantime, JICA focused its assistance to meeting Basic Human Needs. In order to supply safe water, a large number of deep wells[2] were constructed, bringing the number of wells JICA has built to date to more than 10,000. On the education front, the foundation has been laid for ongoing projects to strengthen mathematics and science education. In Kenya, an in-service training system has been established to improve the quality of science and mathematics education. It encourages teachers to make continuous efforts in improving their teaching methods. This initiative has been scaled up to every region of Africa, forming a network of 34 participating countries to strengthen their mathematics and science education.

At TICAD III in 2003, the importance of peace-building and human security was affirmed. The 2000s were a time when many conflicts and civil wars came to an end in Africa. Given this change, JICA began assistance in consolidation of peace in countries such as Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sudan and South Sudan. One of JICA's strengths is the ability to seamlessly continue its cooperation from the stage of restoration and reconstruction to development. JICA started to support South Sudan immediately after the peace agreement was signed with (North) Sudan, with an urgent water supply project in the capital of Juba, as well as by building infrastructure and carrying out a vocational training project. JICA extended its assistance to community development, education and health.

At TICAD IV in 2008, four priorities were established—boosting economic growth, ensuring human security, addressing environmental issues/climate change, and broadening partnerships—and the Government of Japan committed to doubling the amount of ODA to Africa. Over the past five years, JICA has developed projects that build on the Yokohama Declaration and the Yokohama Action Plan adopted at TICAD IV.

JICA's Four Approaches in Assistance to Africa

PhotoKigali City Tower, symbolizing the growth of Rwanda in the capital of Kigali (photo: Kenshiro Imamura)

What is the current state of affairs in Africa? In a word, Africa is vibrant. Since 2000, the economic growth in Africa has held a vitality exceeding even that of Asia. Foreign investment has also expanded favorably, with investments in Africa exceeding the total amount of Official Development Assistance since 2005. The progress made in natural resource development and soaring prices for natural resources have driven the growth.

Meanwhile, the population in Africa is rapidly growing, and the percentage of the world population in Africa, together with South Asia, are expected to reach the largest in the world in 2060 (UN population estimates according to World Population Prospects 2010). Tying the recent growth in Africa to effective industrial development and employment that will absorb the rapidly expanding younger generation is an immense issue that many African countries currently face. Also, there are many countries that will not achieve the Millennium Development Goals[3] by 2015, so resources need to be appropriately redistributed to better achieve social development. African leaders are currently focusing on "Economic and Social Transformation" and taking necessary measures at the national and regional levels.

What can JICA do to achieve inclusive economic growth? Although this extremely complex question has no single answer, JICA is taking the four approaches discussed below and considering projects through dialogue with governments given national and regional situations.

One approach is the so-called upstream initiative, which provides support for industrial policy and development plans. The second approach is improving the investment climate and capacity development of government institutions.. The third is assistance for human resource development to produce workforce boosting industrial development, and the last approach is building infrastructure such as transportation and energy.. A strength of JICA's is the ability to provide comprehensive assistance, including physical infrastructure, policy and system and human resource development. It is desirable for JICA to use that strength in creating partnerships with Japanese private companies interested in Africa and connecting Japanese technology and expertise to solving development challenges in Africa.

Another important aspect of assistance is promoting regional integration in Africa. In recent years, there has been an increase in trade and investment within Africa, instead of the conventional trade and investment that occurred with developed countries, particularly the former suzerains. Many of the countries on the African continent are landlocked (16 out of 54), and there are also many countries with small populations (25 out of 54 have a population of 10 million people or less). To stimulate intraregional trade and expand markets, economic blocs must be formed that encompass multiple countries. African countries acceralate their efforts in strengthening regional economic communities by forming customs unions and common markets, as well as introducing common currencies and taking other measures.

Development plans are also being formulated for the African continent overall and on the regional level on a variety of fronts. The Programme of Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) for transportation, energy, ICT and water resource is representative of such efforts.

Cooperation Planned Carefully from a Practitioner's Standpoint

PhotoThe author (left) visits a site of the Project for Supporting Rice Industry Development in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.

Building on such movements in the countries of Africa, JICA is studying important issues with a regional perspective, and proactively forming and implementing infrastructure projects that will contribute to regional development. To stimulate intraregional trade, JICA is supporting establishment of One Stop Border Posts, which make trade smoother by bringing all the customs and other procedures at national borders to one location and standardizing the procedures. JICA intends to provide technical cooperation to further strengthening partnerships with major regional economic communities and solve regional issues.

What is needed to ensure JICA's cooperation is more effective? Beginning from our bases in 34 African countries, we must carefully analyze the situation in individual countries and regions, and carry out dialogues with governments from a standpoint of practitioners, and then create project plans with a mid-term perspective and put them into implementation steadily.

It is also important to evaluate project results in the field, and to ensure that the opinions of beneficiaries are reflected in policies. TICAD V is the venue where, with agreement from African countries, the strategic direction of JICA's assistance to Africa will be determined for the next five years. We will closely partner with stakeholders in Japan and other countries to implement projects that are truly helpful for Africa, contributing to the commitments the Government of Japan makes at TICAD V.

About the Author

Eiji Inui

Born in Chiba Prefecture in 1957, he served for three years in the Philippines as a Japanese Overseas Cooperation Volunteer starting in 1982. After working as coordinator for a human resource development project in Zambia, he joined the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in 1990. After four years as Chief Representative for JICA Zambia Office starting in 2003, he served as Executive Advisor to the Director General to the General Affairs Department and Chief Secretary of the Office of the President before taking his current post in 2012.


  • [1] The predecessor to the African Union (AU), the organization that unifies the countries of Africa.
  • [2] Generally speaking, a depth of up to 10 meters is referred to as shallow and a depth beyond 30 meters is considered deep.
  • [3] Eight goals to be achieved by 2015 in the areas of reducing poverty, education, gender equality, maternal and child health, infectious diseases and the environment. Unifying the United Nations Millennium Declaration that was adopted at the Millennium Summit in 2000 and international development goals adopted at major international conferences and summits held in the 1990s, the Millennium Development Goals provide a single common framework.


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