The Sixth TICAD and Chinese Reservations on Japanese Pledged Development Aid to Africa

  • Vie Internationale with Bola A. Akinterinwa, Email:, Telephone : 0807-688-2846

TICAD is Tokyo International Conference on African Development. It was initiated by Japan and established in 1993 and co-hosted with the United Nations Office of the Special Adviser on Africa, UNDP, World Bank, and African Union Commission. It was a foreign policy strategy adopted to enable Japan to engage more meaningfully in global politics and reacquire the status of a great power, following the end of the Cold War.

Virtually all the powerful countries of the world, particularly the former colonial countries, have a development strategy largely predicated on the use of Africa as an instrument for their development. The French are on record to have started it with the establishment of a Franco-African Summit and the considerable support given by NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) countries which allow France free hands to do whatever is considered necessary to protect the interests of the Western world in Africa, during the Cold War era.

There are also the Europe-Africa dialogue, India-Africa dialogue, China-Africa dialogue and the Japan-Africa dialogue. With the exception of Europe-Africa dialogue, which has a collective or an organisational bargaining character at the level of foreign partners, all others have one single foreign partner relating with the whole of Africa as one equivalent stakeholder. It is a case of one country being the equivalent of 54 other countries.

Organisationally, TICAD was initiated by Japan as an individual country but it has generally been co-hosted with some multilateral organisations such as the United Nations (Office of the Special Adviser on Africa), World Bank, the African Union Commission and the United Nations Development Programme. It has a four-layered structure: Ambassadorial representatives or Senior Government Officials meetings, Council of Ministers meetings, Summits of Heads of States, as well as TICAD’s Ministerial Follow-UP Mechanism the main responsibility of which is to monitor the implementation of the Action Plan of TICAD.

Probably, if we do away with the less important argument of sovereign equality and consider the more important factor of territorial size, demography, economic resources, level of industrialisation and development, the equality of 1 and 54 may have a good substantiation and African leaders may not be blamed for always accepting partnership with any country. Some observers have said that the strategy of partnering with any country wishing to assist Africa by way of funding of development projects in the continent should be welcomed as it also enables the recovery of the ill-gotten wealth carted away by former colonialists. As good argument as this may be, it does not address the case of countries, such as China and Japan which do not have colonies in Africa and both of which not only have special partnership agreements with the people of Africa through the African Union. but are also looking at their partnership with Africa from the prisms of insincerity and rivalry following the conclusion of the Sixth TICAD held in Nairobi, Kenya, last month. But before dealing with the 6th TICAD, a prolegomena view of the previous TICADs is useful.

The Previous TICADs

The first conference, referred to as TICAD I, was held on October 5 and 6, 1993 in Tokyo. Only 5 African leaders attended the conference. It was then Japan versus the whole of Africa as represented by the 5 African leaders. The initial objective was two-fold: the first is to promote a high-level policy dialogue between African leaders, on the one hand, and the development partners, acting severally or collectively, on the other, especially regarding economic challenges with which Africa might be faced. In this regard, for instance, it was noted that, by the end of the Cold War, development assistance to Africa was on the decline and there was need to reverse the trend.

The second objective is to mobilize active support for African-owned development initiatives. The Japanese probably had in mind the ECA 1980 Lagos Plan of Action and the 1991 Abuja Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community and its attendant projects in talking about Africa’s development initiatives. These two objectives appear to be the main strategic interests pursued since then while the other declared objectives in subsequent conferences were the tactical strategic interests.

In this regard, TICAD II, was attended by 15 African leaders and also held in Tokyo on October 19-21, 1998. It focused attention on poverty reduction and integration of Africa into the global economy. It not only outlined in its Tokyo Agenda for Action (TAA) the framework for cooperation between Africa and its development partners but also predicated the TICAD processes on two principles: ownership of Africa and partnership of the international community. For the purposes of halving the extreme poverty in Africa as well as achieving universal elementary school education in Africa by 2015, Japan pledged a grant of ¥90 billion.

TICAD III was held on September 29-October 1, 2003 also in Tokyo. The number of African leaders participating in it further increased to 24, from 5 in 1993 and 15 in 1998. Reportedly because of Africa’s complaints about unfair trade practice, support was pledged for NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) and emphasis was placed on human security, peace consolidation and infrastructure.

Japanese Foreign Minister Kawaguchi Yoriko told the African Union in August 2002 in his presentation of the objectives of TICAD III that Japan believed that ‘Asia’s experience and expertise in development may also be useful for African Development in the twenty-first century, because Asia, in the latter part of the twentieth century, approached development challenges that are similar to Africa’s situation from a somewhat different angle and with some remarkable results.’ As also observed by Bert Edström, ‘Japan’s stress on the importance of economic development for poverty reduction was made all the more clear in the statement that “without economic growth, poverty reduction cannot be realised” (Bert Edström, Japan and the TICAD Process (Stockholm: Institute for Security and Development Policy, 2010; Asian Paper, December 2010. p. 21 et s.)

TICAD IV was a departure from the previous TICADS as it was held on May 28-30, 2008, but this time in Yokohama. It had in attendance about 3000 delegates and 41 African Heads of States. It focused attention on how to boost economic growth; ensure human security, especially in terms of attainment of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals and consolidation of peace and good governance; and how to respond to climate change and other environmental questions. It was at this TICAD IV that ‘Japan pledged to double by 2012 its five-year average of direct investment in Africa to US $3.4 billion, which had already tripled at the end of 2010,’ and for which the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) was also specifically set up. Additionally, Japan also committed itself to double by 2012 its ODA (Official Development Assistance) to US$ 1.8 billion and provide an ODA loan of US $4 billion for agricultural and infrastructural development in five years.

At this same TICAD IV, a TICAD Follow-up Mechanism Meeting was also established and has been meeting on a yearly basis in Africa on a rotational basis: Botswana in 2009, Tanzania in 2010, Senegal in 2011, Morocco in 2012, etc. What is important to note from the foregoing is that the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has it that ‘Japan has made steady progress in its commitments set forth at the TICAD IV. Almost all targets, including the doubling Japan’s ODA and direct investment to Africa, have been achieved.’

Indeed, the average level of total ODA from 2003 to 2007 not only increased from US $ 0.9 billion to US $1.8 billion in 2012, Japan’s direct investment in Africa also increased from US $1.7 billion in 2002-2006 to US $3.4 billion in 2008-2012 (JETRO Sources).

TICAD V took place on June 1-3, 2013 in Yokohama. Its theme for discussion was ‘Hand-in-Hand with a More Dynamic Africa’. Focus was on how to reduce Africa’s reliance on natural resources for development of its economy alone, how to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor, as well as nip in the bud crises and conflicts in the continent. In this regard, a strategic plan, predicated on three pillars, was adopted: attainment of a ‘robust and sustainable economy’, ‘inclusive and resilient society’, and ‘peace and stability.’

At the Ministerial level, the TICAD V Ministerial Preparatory Meeting took place on March 16-17, 2013 in Addis Ababa under the co-chairmanship of Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhano. Japan pledged to provide about US $550 million for the purposes of maintenance of peace and stability in Africa. The Japanese business community particularly promised to contribute in three main areas: infrastructure development, establishment of a favourable business environment, and development of human resources.

Above all, three landmark decisions were adopted at TICAD V: that future venues of TICAD should be alternated between Japan and Africa; that TICAD VI should be held in Africa, and that the interval of the conferences be reduced from five years to three.

Sixth TICAD and Chinese Reservation

on Japanese Pledge

TICAD VI, with which we are more interested was held in Nairobi last month, on Saturday 27th, and Sunday, 28th August, 2016. The Senior Officials Meeting and that of the Council of Ministers were respectively held on 23rd-24th August and 26th August, 2016 at the Kenyan International Conference Centre (KICC). The conference was significant from the perspective that it was held ‘in the first year of implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and AU’s Agenda 2063 and its first Ten-Year Implementation Plan.

It was also significant because of Japan’s new pledges. Japan had been making pledges partially, fully or not fully, fulfilled.

Before TICAD VI, pledges made by Japan required her to have, by 2005, ensured that 80%, at least, of African children should have completed primary education, with universal primary education by 2015. The Tokyo Agenda for Action also requires a reduction in adult literacy to half of the 1990 level, especially at the level of female literacy; elimination of gender disparity in primary and secondary education by 2005; reduce maternal mortality to half of the 1990 level, and half again by 2015; reduction of mortality rates for and children under the age of five years to one-third of the 1990 level; provision of access to safe water supply and sanitation for at least 80% of the population by 2005; reduction by half the number of people who are malnourished by 2015; and reduction by at least two-thirds the number of women living in poverty by 2015 (JICA and Mitsubishi, “Project Study on the TICAD Process: Review of the Past Achievements and Implications for Future Successes,’ Final Report, 2007, Tokyo, JICA).

What precisely can we say, as at today, is the current status of Japanese pledged commitment? To what extent have the pledges been fulfilled as at December 31, 2015? It is against this background that the new pledges made at the 6th TICAD and the Chinese reservations on them can be understood and appreciated.

On Sunday night, August 28, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe signed an agreement in which Japan pledged Sh 10 billion to fund various healthcare projects. Japan not only reportedly would disburse the monies mostly through the development agencies and also ensure that the funds are used for the purposes for which they are meant, but also that Japan would help Africa to get a Permanent Seat on the UN Security Council by 2023. Many observers have said that this offer of help is aimed that checkmating China. In other words, it is politics.

Mr. Zhang Ming, former Chinese Ambassador to Kenya from 2006 to 2009 and Head of Chinese delegation to TICAD VI in Nairobi, questioned Tokyo’s ability to fulfil the promises made at the summit. As noted by Ambassador Zhang, ‘there is a never shortage of conferences and promises for Africa, and yet action and implementation have not always followed. We hope Africa’s partners will honour their commitments with real actions and deliver tangible fruits to the African people.’

Ambassador Zhang also admitted that ‘both China and Japan are working with Africa as part of international endeavour to help the continent’ and therefore making China to ‘support the diversification of Africa’s partners.’ He indirectly cautioned Africa and its other partners to note that ‘the secret recipe for ever-lasting vibrancy of this relationship is sincerity, mutual respect and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs,’ in the hope that ‘other partners will also listen carefully to Africa’s voice and fully respect Africa’s will.’

These Chinese submissions raise some points for further reflection. Is China not saying that Japan is not honest with her pledges? What is the place of mutual respect and non-interference in Africa’s internal affairs in Japan’s foreign policy towards Africa? Is the attitude of Africa towards TICAD and China’s FOCCAC (equivalent of TICAD correct? The Kenyan Foreign Affairs Minister, Amina Mohammed, reportedly said a week before TICAD VI that the rivalry between Japan and China allows Kenya to benefit from both sides because ‘if there is no competition, there is a problem, it simply allows us to choose the best.’ This statement was most undiplomatic and unfortunate as both China and Japan are not likely to see Kenya as a true partner.

In fact, there is nothing to suggest that Kenya could gain more from any one side as Japan exports goods worth Sh36.4 billion (US $364 million) as against Kenya’s export of goods worth Sh2.8 million (US$28 million) to Japan. Besides, Japan has just 1% of its trade with Africa, compared with China’s 14%. In other words, China’s trade with Africa is valued at US$220 billion which is more than ten times that of Japan. In fact, China became Kenya’s biggest trading partner in 2013. Therefore, telling the Chinese and the Japanese that Kenya was speculating on the better partner to better relate with is, at best, a myopic strategic miscalculation.

For all Africans, there is the need to reason more objectively: If a country can singly develop itself to the extent of being able and capable of empowering others, and particularly empowering an Africa of 54 states, when will this empowered group of 54 countries have the capacity to develop themselves without outside help after more than 50 years of political sovereignty? Besides, it is shameful for Kenya, in particular, and all other African leaders who attended the TICAD VI, in general, for always seeking to define their future on the basis of foreign help and not on the basis of initial self-reliant efforts.

Help from others can be needed but self-initiative is a desideratum to launch self-reliancism in Africa. Who should Africa trust in this case: Japan or China? Time will tell.