President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, presented a comprehensive view of Africa’s plans and needs of development during the seventh round of the Tokyo International Conference on Africa Development (TICAD 7), held last week in Yokohama. With a long history of cooperation between Egypt and Japan, El-Sisi attended the conference not only as the leader of Egypt but also as the chairman of the African Union; practically a leader of a continent that has been longing for its rightful place in the world.
The multiple aspects of the relationship between Tokyo and Cairo reflect the very special position Egypt has in Japan. The Japanese have always been interested in offering their support and expertise, starting from rebuilding the Opera House in “Al- Gazeera” to the Grand Egyptian Museum near the Pyramids in Giza.
However, the mutual interest that came to the fore and took centre stage in cooperation between the two countries has been education and training. Japan is known for precision and creativity in this field. It is also distinguished by a rich heritage of scientific expertise that has been accumulating for generations. The Japanese are entitled to be proud of their educational and training system that opened up new horizons for development. In such a densely populated country that has limited resources, human resources have been the key to realise such an economic miracle.
In Cairo, the issue started with the launch and following expansion of Japanese schools that promote the spirit of teamwork and ethical well-being among its students, in addition to laying the foundation for modern sciences, research and scientific thinking. In higher education faculties, the number of fellowships, particularly in the field of training, has drastically increased.
TICAD 7 was thus the right venue for Egypt to present its views on cooperation and development in Africa. The Japan government has been co-hosting this conference since 1993 along with the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank and African Union Commission. This round of TICAD 7 discussed the economic transformation and improvements in the business environment and institution through private investment and innovation.
The unique role of TICAD as a multilateral forum for Africa’s development has been encapsulating a particular relationship between Japan and Africa. It allowed Africa and Japan to benefit from each other’s comparative advantages including Japan’s experience in Asia’s development and Africa’s recent economic dynamics.
The two sides have thus been responsive to President El-Sisi’s calls for cooperation on issues such as quality infrastructure, private-sector impact investment, macroeconomic stability, technological innovation, notably in industrialisation, economic transformation and social development, and above all climate change adaptation and mitigation.
Sustaining and accelerating development and taking advantage of Africa’s opportunities for transformation have been among the issues discussed between President El-Sisi and Japan’s Prime Minister Shenzo Abe. “Advancing Africa’s Development through People, Technology and Innovation” was the overarching theme for TICAD 7. This theme is fully aligned with the continental priorities for integration, as reflected in its flagship programmes.
There is a crucial importance to placing “people” at the heart of Africa’s development and the TICAD 7 theme could serve as a development accelerator and multiplier because it will help deepen trade and investment; capacity and skills development; investment in quality infrastructure; exchange and networking; innovation, and technological transfers and diffusion.
The continent has large untapped sources of renewable energy, arable land, and natural resources that could be used to propel socioeconomic transformation. Africa is the most youthful continent, with a population of over one billion people and a middle class of 300 million that is growing as incomes increase.
President El-Sisi stressed the fact that some African Union member states are also among the fastest growing economies and the top performers in terms of improving the business climate. The continent is thus an attractive destination for investors and serves as a huge source of consumer markets for locally and internationally produced food, goods and services.
The continent is now linked from top to toe by a land road connecting Cairo and Cape Town. The electricity project that connects the north and south of the continent, starting from Cairo, will also offer abundant and cheap power that will accelerate the development process in the continent.
President El-Sisi presented the continent’s views on international issues that affect the world population. He reviewed issues of trade wars that led to the decline in growth and youth employment rates, and negatively affected the global trade transaction.
The president also raised the issues of the climate change and the excessive use of traditional powers that called for the need for more projects using clean and renewable energy.
However, all these efforts will not yield results unless, as President El-Sisi said, the world coordinates its efforts to fight terrorism and settle the international conflicts that drain world resources and deplete the global means to raise the living standards of all peoples.
Such comprehensive views as stated by President El-Sisi, have created a new horizon for cooperation and development between Africa and Japan. It is the new Africa that will eradicate years of poverty and backwardness. It is a new continent that has ambitious and well-designed plans to catch up with the latest developments worldwide.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 29 August, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Presidential views on Africa-Japan partnership