Sixty trade agreements expected at the Tokyo Conference on African Development

Sixty trade agreements expected at the Tokyo Conference on African Development

26/08/2016 source “Jeune Afrique”

Three years after its fifth edition in Yokohama, which saw Japan announcing an investment program for Africa of 24 billion Euros over 5 years, the Sixth Tokyo International Conference for African Development will take place in Nairobi, Kenya, next 27 and 28 August, during which organizers hope the signing of sixty different protocols and trade agreements.

The Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and several members of his government will take part in this first edition outside Japan, to who joins 80 businessmen and Japanese personalities and thirty African heads of state, among who are the Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma, with who Abe will have a bilateral meeting. “At the request of African countries, a large number of private sector representatives will be part of the delegation”, says Shu Nakagawa, an official of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This is the first time that the Conference will take place outside the archipelago, as an additional commitment from Tokyo to its African partners to enable them to better adapt to this event first held in 1993. “Japan’s strength consists in its high quality technology and in staff training”, insisted the Japanese prime minister on Thursday, on his departure to Kenya.

There are three main themes that will guide the works to develop what will be the “Nairobi Declaration”: economic development (which includes building infrastructures, people training and improving productivity), a health component including a social security project for all, and social stability.

At the end of 2015, with 687 active Japanese companies in Africa, Japan competes with China in playing a leading role in the financing and construction of new African infrastructure, but more than a battle of money, Tokyo is locally known as a best quality supplier, even if it is slower and develops smaller scale projects than Beijing.

“Japan knows how to compete with China, but once that cannot be financially equated, it focuses on quality,” says Koichi Sakamoto, professor of regional development studies at Toyo University in Tokyo.

China, in turn, counter-attacks, stating that “has been the greatest imaginary enemy of Japan in its diplomatic strategy in Africa,” says Lu Hao, of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, who believes that “Japan now sees densely Africa populated as the last market to conquer”.

If, for the African common citizen, Japan materializes today by the massive presence of used Toyota robust vehicles, Japanese brands aspire to deploy with more intensity, but being cautious because of several risks.

A clear example is Panasonic, which plans to develop smartphones specially designed to African countries, although the electronics giant has decided not to promote them in rich countries.