Japan Looks to Reinvigorate Africa Policy

Japan Looks to Reinvigorate Africa Policy

Last month, newly minted Chinese President Xi Jinping toured Africa promising more investment, stronger people-to-people ties and a more dynamic trading relationship with the continent. Considering that China’s trade with Africa totaled nearly $200 billion last year, this visit was more than mere window-dressing. India also has been staking out an aggressive strategy of engagement in Africa, building on its historical ties to Eastern Africa. Last year, Indian trade with the continent neared $70 billion.

Where does this leave Japan? For years, Tokyo maintained an impeccable reputation across the continent as a result of its generous supply of overseas development assistance. While it may not garner the same headlines as China’s energy politics in the region or U.S. counterterrorism work in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, Japan’s efforts across Africa are increasing in depth and scope. On the development side, Japan will be hosting the 5th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) this June in Yokohama. Despite economic troubles at home, TICAD continues to enjoy high-level support from the government of Japan and serves as one of the premier development assistance forums on the continent.

This year, which marks the 20th anniversary since TICAD’s launch, is an important one for the regional engagement mechanism. TICAD has been pushing a two-pronged approach to development assistance that focuses on African ownership complemented by international partnership and high-level policy dialogue between leaders. In a sense, TICAD has effectively worked to form a bond between Japan and Africa that might otherwise be absent due to a lack of historical or cultural ties. Some examples of recent projects under the TICAD framework include the development of post-conflict Sierra Leone, combating malaria in Tanzania and working to improve and expand energy access in Burkina Faso.

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