With more strategic investments, Japan may hold a key to sustainable development on the continent.
n late August, Japan will host the Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in Yokohama. The conference is the cornerstone of Japan’s development efforts on the continent and is co-organized with a number of international partners, including the United Nations, the United Nations Development Programme, the World Bank, and the African Union Commission. This year’s summit will look to cement Tokyo’s shift from focusing on outright assistance to a more holistic partnership with Africa that involves working with the private sector on sustainable development and critical infrastructure. As Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe noted at the last conference—held in Kenya in 2016—Japan wants African countries to view Tokyo as a partner rather than simply a donor.
Traditionally, Tokyo focused its efforts in Africa on soft-power diplomacy, mainly through the provision of development aid. That is changing, though, for a number of reasons. First, given its size and its domestic economic woes, Japan is finding it harder and harder to compete in terms of quantity of funding with other players on the continent, especially China.
First, given its size and its domestic economic woes, Japan is finding it harder and harder to compete in terms of quantity of funding with other players on the continent, especially China.
Second, Tokyo is realizing that its assistance should be more directly linked to its core foreign-policy interests, including promoting its Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) vision, in which Africa plays an important role.