VIOLET MENGO, Lusaka
THE Sixth Tokyo International Conference on Africaâ€™s Development (TICAD VI) two-day summit opens today at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi, Kenya, with a number of important issues set to be discussed.
It is the first time that TICAD is being held in Africa since its inception in 1993, a great honour and privilege in itself.
The decision to host the summit in Africa was made during the last meeting in 2013 when it was agreed that the venue of the subsequent TICAD summits be alternated between Japan and Africa. The interval of summit meetings was also shortened from every five years to three years.
TICAD was launched in 1993 by Japan to promote Africaâ€™s development, peace and security through strengthening of relations in multilateral co-operation and partnership.
It came at a time when aid fatigue had become apparent and its launch was therefore catalytic for refocusing international attention on Africaâ€™s development needs.
Indeed, in the course of the past 20 years, TICAD has evolved into a major global and multilateral forum for mobilising and sustaining international support for Africaâ€™s development under the principles of African â€œownershipâ€ and international â€œpartnershipâ€.
The forum brings together leading industrialists, top business executives and heads of business associations from Africa and Japan.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and various African heads of State and Government are expected to attend.
Holding the meeting, which is as a result of Japanâ€™s collaboration with the African Union Commission and the World Bank, clearly demonstrates growing African ownership in the conference process. It has been attracting much attention from African states and other international organisations including the United Nations (UN) Systems and regional organisations.
The Nairobi conference is taking place at an opportune time; 2016 is the first year of the implementation of the global and regional development agendas â€“ the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Agenda 2063 and its first 10-year implementation plan.
In line with these development agendas, the Nairobi meeting will discuss some thematic issues that Africa has been facing since the TICAD-V in Yokohama, Japan, in 2013. These issues include industrialisation, health and social stability, among others.
Further, taking into consideration the growing role that the private sector plays in promoting socio-economic development, the conference will feature the private sector from Africa and Japan.
The meeting is also expected to review the Yokohama Declaration of 2013 to 2017 which focused on robust and sustainable economy, inclusive and resilient society, and peace and stability.
At that meeting, six priority areas were agreed upon in the declaration that was adopted. These are promoting private sector led growth, accelerating infrastructure development, empowering farmers as mainstream economic actors, promoting sustainable and resilient growth, creating an inclusive society for growth as well as consolidating peace, stability and good governance.
During the last meeting, Prime Minister Abe announced that over the following five years, Japan would support Africaâ€™s growth through public and private resources worth about US$32 billion including approximately US$14 billion of Official Development Assistance (ODA) and around US$16 billion from other public and private resources.
Under this package, the Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) was mandated to implement the Yokohama Declaration 2013 to 2017.
And JICA president Shinichi Kitaoka says the agency, which has been implementing the Yokohama Declaration, is prepared for the Nairobi conference which has attracted over 150 Japanese private companies.
â€œOur pre-occupation since 2013 has been working at the Yokohama Declaration resolutions and I am happy to note that the implementation in various areas has been good,â€ Mr Kitaoka says.
In trying to narrow the gap between Japan and Africa, JICA has been inviting African students to study in Japan through an initiative called African Business Education (ABE) which was part of the TICAD-V resolutions.
The students are offered scholarships in different fields of their interest, and upon completing their studies, they are encouraged to return to their countries and contribute to the development of their respective nations.
Mr Kitaoka says Africa is important to Japan because of trade and the continentâ€™s stability is of paramount significance for smooth trading.
â€œIn 20 years, Africaâ€™s population will grow and the stability of the continent is important. We therefore have to think together and find ways or measures that will ensure stability of the continent,â€ he says.
During the Nairobi meeting, TICAD will also conduct various technical activities to promote them.
Otherwise, JICA has been supporting various infrastructure projects all over Africa in areas such as transport, electricity and water supply, all in line with the Yokohama Declaration.
In Zambia, the agency has been active in the health, education and agriculture sectors of the economy. It has infact supported the Chirundu and Kazungula one stop border posts shared with Zimbabwe and Botswana respectively.
The agency is expected to continue supporting Africaâ€™s efforts of further infrastructure development to bring real benefits to the continent.
To that end, it will promote the use of renewable energy so as to reduce the burden on the environment.
Japanâ€™s Ministry of Foreign Affairs director general for African affairs Norio Maruyama told African journalists who visited the Asian country recently that the Nairobi meeting is significant, particularly because it is business oriented.
VIOLET MENGO, Lusaka