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TICAD: The Evolution of Japan’s Africa Diplomacy

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TICAD: The Evolution of Japan’s Africa Diplomacy

The Tokyo International Conference on African Development has come a long way since its debut in 1993.

TICAD: The Evolution of Japan’s Africa Diplomacy

Then-Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo speaks at the opening session of TICAD 7 in Yokohama, Japan, Aug. 28, 2019.

Credit: Flickr/TICAD7 Photographs

This summer, the Eighth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), or TICAD 8, is scheduled to be held in Tunisia on August 27-28. TICAD is a multilateral international conference to discuss and deal with issues relating to the development of the African continent. TICAD has been held by the Japanese government in affiliation with the United Nations, the U.N. Development Program (UNDP), the African Union, and the World Bank since 1993. This year’s conference will see a country in Africa host TICAD for the second time, after Kenya did so in 2016.

Why is Tokyo motivated to contribute to the development of the African continent? To understand Japan’s approach and motivations, it is necessary to contextualize and examine the TICAD process and keynote speeches given by successive Japanese prime ministers.

After the end of the Cold War, the Japanese government hosted TICAD 1 in Tokyo on October 5-6, 1993, co-chaired by Parliamentary Vice Foreign Minister Azuma Shozo. On October 5, Prime Minister Hosokawa Morihiro delivered a keynote speech and argued that the Tokyo Declaration should be adopted in the conference as a guideline for the future development of Africa. On the following day, the Tokyo Declaration on African Development was adopted and participants agreed on an agenda for African development, including measures against infectious diseases, which had long had a disastrous impact on the continent.

TICAD 2 was held by the Japanese government in cooperation with the United Nations and the Global Coalition for Africa (GCA) in Tokyo on October 19-21, 1998. On October 19, Prime Minister Obuchi Keizo delivered a keynote speech and contended that Japan should prioritize its contribution toward the social development of Africa, such as in primary education, water supplies, public health, and medical access. On October 21, Foreign Minister Komura Masahiko stated in his policy speech at the conference that Japan would continue its support for lowering early mortality of pregnant women and infants in Africa and for addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic and eradicating poliovirus in the continent. In addition, malaria and tuberculosis were included in the Tokyo Declaration of TICAD 2 as other main infectious diseases that should be prevented. Notably, it was confirmed that Japan would cooperate with the United States on polio eradication through grassroots collaboration between the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) and the U.S. Peace Corps.

TICAD 3 was held in Tokyo from September 29 to October 1, 2003, chaired by Mori Yoshiro as former prime minister. Mori made opening remarks at the conference and stressed the importance of a concept of “human security” as one of the key visions of Japanese diplomacy. After the opening remarks, a keynote speech was made by Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro, who stated that Japan’s contributions to the development of Africa should be based on the three pillars: human-centered development, poverty reduction through economic growth, and consolidation of peace in Africa. Koizumi also mentioned the concept of human security as Japan’s diplomatic vision for the development of Africa.

TICAD 4 was held in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, on May 28-30, 2008, chaired by Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo. In his keynote speech, Fukuda emphasized the significance of the “maternal and child health handbook” used in Japan for maintaining the health condition of pregnant women and children. He pointed out that a similar handbook can be used in Africa too to promote the health of both mothers and children. Notably, Fukuda pledged that Japan would double its official development assistance (ODA) to Africa in five years. In this way, the Fukuda administration expressed its stance and contributions to achieving human security in Africa.

TICAD 5 was held in Yokohama under the basic concept of “Hand in Hand with a More Dynamic Africa” on June 1-3, 2013, chaired by Prime Minister Abe Shinzo. In his opening remarks, Abe stated that Japan would provide 650 billion yen (approximately $6.5 billion) for infrastructure development in Africa in five years. In the field of global health, Abe argued that the Japanese government would try to make universal health coverage (UHC) part of the “Japan brand” in the African continent. He also mentioned the role of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces in anti-piracy activities in Djibouti and nation-building operations in South Sudan to achieve human security in Africa.

During the conference, the Yokohama Declaration 2013 was adopted on June 3. The declaration emphasized the importance of infrastructure development and regional conflict prevention mechanisms, especially the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA). It also reconfirmed the necessity of promoting child health and supporting the African Union’s Campaign for Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA).

TICAD 6 was held in Nairobi, Kenya, on August 27-28, 2016, co-chaired by Abe. In his keynote speech at the opening session, Abe stressed the importance of achieving UHC in Africa and touched on Japan’s contribution to peacekeeping operations in the continent since 1993. Notably, Abe stated that Japan “bears the responsibility of fostering the confluence of the Pacific and Indian Oceans and of Asia and Africa into a place that values freedom, the rule of law, and the market economy, free from force or coercion, and making it prosperous.”

This statement has been regarded as the beginning of Japan’s free and open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) vision. As an outcome of the conference, the Nairobi Declaration was adopted as agenda for sustainable development in Africa. In the declaration, the establishment of a resilient health system in Africa was emphasized as one of the priorities, partially due to the outbreak of Ebola pandemic. Other communicable and non-communicable diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, Zika, and yellow fever were mentioned and the importance of preventing and preparing for pandemics were stressed, as was UHC.

TICAD 7 was held in Yokohama on August 28-30, 2019, chaired by Abe, and co-hosted by the U.N., the UNDP, the World Bank, and the African Union Commission (AUC). In his keynote address, Abe emphasized the fact that Japanese private investment into Africa for the past three years amounted to as much as $20 billion. He also stressed the significance of African Business Education Initiative for Youth (ABE Initiative) to encourage and foster young entrepreneurs in the continent. During the conference, the Yokohama Declaration 2019 was adopted on the final day. The declaration acknowledged that it is imperative to promote the achievement of UHC in Africa while controlling communicable diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, polio, and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). At the same time, it was confirmed that TICAD participants agreed to respect the rule of law reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), implying African countries’ collective opposition to China’s maritime policy in the South China Sea.

Regarding Tokyo’s motivation for the development of Africa, Bolade M. Eyinla, a professor at the University of Ilorin in Nigeria, observed that Japan’s policy toward TICAD has been based on its national interest. Moreover, the TICAD process can be seen as part of Japan’s balancing diplomacy against the rise of China, as pointed out by Kyoto University Professor Takahashi Motoki. Given Abe’s keynote speech at TICAD 6, it is fair to analyze that the TICAD process has been embedded in Japan’s FOIP vision vis-à-vis China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Having said that, a re-examination of the previous TICAD conferences, keynote speeches, and declarations indicates that Japan’s TICAD diplomacy has been based not only on its national interests, but also on humanitarian purposes, i.e., human security for the African people. In particular, healthcare and disease prevention have been consistent themes since TICAD 1 in 1993. During the upcoming TICAD 8 in Tunisia, Japan’s TICAD diplomacy is expected to make a further contribution to the enhancement of basic human needs and human security in the African continent as it continues to struggle with recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.