President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, who attended the seventh Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD) in his capacity as the current chair of the African Union, hailed the conference as an important turning point in cooperation between the African Union and Japan.
TICAD was held from 28 to 30 August under the theme “Advancing Africa’s Development through People, Technology and Innovation”.
Egypt was especially keen that TICAD achieve tangible results in cementing partnerships between Japan and African states. Al-Sisi, who co-chaired the summit alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, said in his opening speech that developing African infrastructure, consolidating the African Continental Free Trade Agreement and creating more job opportunities across the continent were essential prerequisites for transforming Africa into an active strategic partner.
Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri told reporters last week TICAD’s end of conference declaration would focus on Africa’s development requirements and highlight Tokyo’s role in supporting development within the framework of Africa’s 2063 development agenda and 2030 sustainable development goals.
Abe described the Yokohama Declaration 2019 as a roadmap for the future and promised up to $20 billion of private sector investment in Africa over the next three years.
Abe stressed ongoing initiatives to engage with young Africans, saying Tokyo planned to host 9,000 young people from the continent for human resources training.
A number of important meetings were held on the sidelines of the summit, including a session on private Japanese investments in Africa attended by Al-Sisi, Abe and representatives from the Japanese and African private sectors.
On a bilateral level, President Al-Sisi held a meeting with Japanese officials and businessmen. A memorandum of technical cooperation was signed between the Egyptian Agency for Partnership for Development (EAPD) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The agreement was initialed by Shoukri and JICA President Shinichi Kitaoka, according to Presidential Spokesman Bassam Radi said.
Abe said Japan attaches great importance to its relationship with Egypt and applauded the pivotal role Cairo plays in the wider Middle East.
During Al-Sisi’s meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the UN chief said his organization was looking to boost cooperation with Egypt to promote peace, stability and development in Africa and the Middle East.
Al-Sisi told Guterres that Cairo is looking for UN help in implementing the 2030 sustainable development agenda.
The meeting, which was attended by a number of African leaders, also addressed ways to boost cooperation between the AU and the UN. Al-Sisi said deepening the strategic partnership between the two international organisations is a priority for Egypt’s presidency of the AU, particularly when it comes to post-conflict reconstruction and continental development.
Guterres responded by saying the two organisations are already working closely on peace and security and implementing the 2030 agenda.
“I welcome the TICAD 7 Yokohama declaration and its implementation as a vital way of scaling up partnerships for peace and sustainable development,” he said.
During Al-Sisi’s meeting with Zambian President Edgar Lungu, the latter praised Egypt’s contribution to promoting social development and economic growth in African states, saying Egypt’s own experience of economic reform could benefit Zambia as it targets increased economic growth.
Presidential Spokesman Radi said Lungu also hailed the strengthening of bilateral relations between Egypt and Zambia.
Al-Sisi’s meeting with his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni was dominated by a discussion of how to build cooperation across Nile Basin states to achieve common interests. The two leaders also discussed counter-terrorism efforts, trade and infrastructure development.
Al-Sisi met with the president of JICA and praised the agency’s development efforts in Egypt.
TICAD first convened in 1993, in cooperation with the African Union, the Japanese government, the United Nations, the World Bank, and the UN Development Programme, with the goal of promoting development, peace and security through multilateral cooperation and partnership.
While Cairo Opera House and the Grand Egyptian Museum are among the trophy projects Tokyo has supported in Egypt, the most important files of cooperation between the two countries are probably education and training, the latest evidence of which is the launch of a chain of Japanese schools in Egypt and an increase in the number of places on training schemes that Japan offers to Egyptian students.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 5 September, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly