Promote development via assistance for high-quality infrastructure

The world’s attention is focused on Africa, where economic growth is expected. Japan needs to increase its presence in the region by taking advantage of its strengths in transparent financing and an emphasis on human resources development.

The 8th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 8), a framework for discussing assistance for Africa led by Japan, was held in Tunisia. The “Tunis Declaration” was adopted, clearly stating the promotion of development and financing based on international rules.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced a plan to provide a total of $30 billion in both public and private sector assistance over the next three years. Of this amount, $300 million will be allocated for food aid, which will be provided in cooperation with the African Development Bank.

Many African countries are suffering from a food crisis due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It is necessary to continue providing timely assistance.

Africa’s population is expected to reach 2.4 billion in 2050, an increase of 1 billion from the current level. The United States, Europe and China are increasing their investments in African nations.

Since the creation of TICAD in 1993, Japan has been making efforts to support infrastructure development and medical and health care in Africa. In recent years, however, China has begun to advance into Africa with its overwhelming economic power, and Japan’s direct investment in Africa is only about 10% of China’s total.

On the other hand, Chinese investments, which load African nations with debt through loans that exceed their repayment capacity, are being viewed with caution in Africa as a “debt trap.”

Japan’s assistance takes into consideration the financial situation of recipient countries and helps with sound development via job creation and other means, using fair procedures. It is essential to work persistently to encourage African countries to grow under democracy and to solve issues such as poverty.

Japan has assisted the construction of railroads and road development in developing countries through official development assistance (ODA). However, the Board of Audit of Japan has pointed out that there are cases in which infrastructure has fallen into disuse due to defects being left unattended and maintenance and management being neglected.

It is important to accurately assess local needs and inspect whether the facilities are being used effectively. The way ODA is provided must be improved.

The Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, established in Ghana in 1979 with Japanese assistance, is now said to be serving as the West African hub for fighting against the novel coronavirus. It is essential for Japan to develop diplomacy that strategically publicizes such contributions.

Each country has one vote in the United Nations, and the 54 African nations have a great deal of influence. Japan must not forget the importance of its relationship with Africa in its quest to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 30, 2022)