By August 29, 2019

“It’s As If The AU Chose To Have A Meeting In Yokohama” – Here’s Why 32 African Leaders Have Left Their Countries For Japan

By August 29, 2019

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In the last few days, Japan has thrown its doors wide open to visitors from across the globe in preparation for the seventh edition of the Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD) Summit which officially got off to a start yesterday, August 28, in Yokohama, Japan.

President Muhammadu Buhari  participates at the Plenary Session 3 (Facebook/Femi Adesina)
President Muhammadu Buhari participates at the Plenary Session 3 (Facebook/Femi Adesina)

One thing that stands out in this year’s event is the sheer number of African leaders who are in attendance — 32 African Leaders at the last count; it’s almost as if the African Union (AU) got bored of Addis Ababa and ran off to Yokohama to hold an emergency meeting out of earshot.

African leaders in Japan include:

  • Faustin Archange Touadera, Central African Republic
  • Azali Assoumani, Comoros
  • Danny Faure, Seychelles
  • Alpha Conde, Guinea
  • Patrice Talon, Benin
  • Julius Maada Bio, Sierra Leone
  • Andry Rajoelina, Madagascar
  • Ismail Omar Guelleh, Djibouti
  • Joao Lourenco, Angola
  • Hage Geingob, Namibia
  • George Weah, Liberia
  • Felix Tshisekedi, Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya
  • Yoweri Museveni, Uganda
  • Abdul Fatten Al-Sisi, Egypt and current African Union president
  • Paul Kagame, Rwanda
  • Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, Somalia
  • Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe
  • Faure Gnassingbe, Togo
  • Mahamadou Issoufou, Niger
  • Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Ghana
  • Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria
  • Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa
  • Ibrahim Boubakar Keita, Mali
  • Edgar Lungu, Zambia
  • Macky Sall, Senegal

Leaders of delegation that aren’t presidents include:

  • Thomas Thabane, Lesotho Prime Minister
  • Everton Herbert Chimulirenji, Malawi Vice-President
  • Isatou Touray, Gambian Vice-President
  • Amadou Gon Coulibaly, Prime Minister of Ivory Coast
  • Osman Saleh, Foreign Minister if Eritrea
  • Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopian Prime Minister

Except for its sixth edition, every edition of TICAD has taken place in Japan, but no edition has brought together such a large number of African leaders under one roof, such that some African leaders have even decided to use the opportunity to finally have a sit down with fellow African leaders.

President Muhammadu Buhari  participates at the Plenary Session 3 (Facebook/Femi Adesina)
President Muhammadu Buhari participates at the Plenary Session 3 (Facebook/Femi Adesina)

For instance, Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, has held talks with his South African counterpart, President Cyril Ramaphosa, and he had time to have a chat with Benin’s President, Patrice Talon.

President Ramaphosa and President Buhari discusses in Yokohama
President Ramaphosa and President Buhari discusses in Yokohama

It would be recalled that the South African President extended an invitation to President Buhari to visit South Africa for a discussion in light of the recent cases of violence targeted at Nigerians living in South Africa and reprisal attacks targeted at South African businesses in Nigeria. And having crossed paths in Japan, the duo probably sought to make acquaintance.

So, Why Are 32 African Leaders In Japan?

While African leaders are holding talks with one another on the sidelines of the TICAD Summit, they’re actually attending the event with the intention of snapping up bigger fishes to fry. Simply put, these African leaders recognise that the continent is ripe for investments and the goal is to entice as many global business leaders as possible.

Zimbabwe president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, participates at the Japan-Africa business forum (Twitter/UNIDO)
Zimbabwe president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, participates at the Japan-Africa business forum (Twitter/UNIDO)

There are billions of dollars flying around in the TICAD Summit and the idea is to attract as much of it as possible. For starters, Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, on Wednesday, renewed Japan’s pledge to boost investment in Africa from the country’s private sector to more than USD 20 Bn over the next three years, in the hope of facilitating the development of the world’s second-largest and second most-populous continent, and probably outdo their Asian neighbours, China, on that front, who are doing the most on the African continent at this point in time.

“We will do whatever it takes to assist the advancement of Japanese companies into Africa,” Abe told African leaders who gathered for the Tokyo International Conference on African Development.

In a speech at the opening ceremony of the three-day conference in Yokohama, near Tokyo, Abe said Japan has long emphasized human resource development in Africa, adding, “We are in an era in which the challenges Africa faces will be resolved through science, technology, and innovation.”

Fresh from attending the G7 Summit in Biarritz, France, Abe also proposed a set of human resource development programs for Africa, including training 3,000 people in Japan over six years, who can contribute to the promotion of business between Japan and the continent.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Prime Minister Abe Shinzo hold bilateral talks on the sidelines of the ongoing TICAD7 in Yokohama, Japan
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Prime Minister Abe Shinzo hold bilateral talks on the sidelines of the ongoing TICAD7 in Yokohama, Japan

According to Japan’s Foreign Ministry, between 2016 and 2018, a total of USD 20.6 Bn was invested in Africa from the Japanese private sector between 2016 and 2018. And Abe’s pledge meant that the government of Japan is more prepared than ever to encourage greater investment from the private sector with the aim of eclipsing the figures from the last three years, though the Japanese Prime Minister did divulge a specific target figure. 

According to government officials, this year’s TICAD summit will focus more on business opportunities than previous meetings as Japan is convinced that investment by the private sector is crucial to realizing sustainable economic growth of the resource-rich continent.

Japan is pushing domestic companies to tap into the growth of the continent, whose population is projected to reach 2.5 billion in 2050, or a quarter of the global population, amid fierce competition with China, the United States, and other rivals.

Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who co-chairs the conference along with Abe, said, “On behalf of Africa, I’ll be calling upon the world institutions and multinational companies to invest in our continent.”

Japanese companies had nearly 800 offices in Africa in 2017, up around 50 percent from 10 years ago, according to the Japan External Trade Organization. More of those will be expected to spring up on the backs of this year’s conference and the African leaders in attendance appear to be jostling for the best serve.

Featured Image Courtesy: africanews.com

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