Japan held its flagship Africa Partnership Summit Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in its eighth edition in Tunis on 27-28 August 2022.
The purpose of TICAD 8 was to show that in a post-COVID world also struck by the Ukraine crisis, Japan would be a stolid partner for Africa. It is usually a well-attended event, but this time there was an absence of heavyweight leaders. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida could not make the trip due to COVID. Compared with the 42 African heads of government who attended the conference in Yokohama in 2019, this time half the number, 21, made the trip to Tunis (though 48 countries were represented). Elections and civil strife in some countries, and the funeral of former Angolan President dos Santos on 28 August, were the reasons for modest attendance.
The Japan-Africa partnership, however, continues to be emphasised. The goal is consistently to build human capital, sustainable and high-quality growth and the security and stability of the global order. In it “government, business, and civil society leaders participate on an equal basis.”  It is important because world attention now is not on Africa, but on other crises too. TICAD 8 in Tunisia showed a commitment to Africa and with the help of the UN agencies, the UNDP the World Bank and the like, the conference aimed to revitalise Japan’s role in the global South, despite international upheavals.
This edition emphasised global health care initiatives and linked Africa to the Indo-Pacific region. These were the focus of Kishida’s online address, where he also announced a $30 billion public-private investment plan and the training of about 300,000 African people to build capacity over the next three years. Japan promised loans of $5 billion through the African Development Bank to promote sustainable development and resuscitate fiscal wellbeing. Japan pledged to invest $4 billion for green growth through decarbonization and to assist African food capacity. Training in agriculture is part of efforts to alleviate the food crisis – for which Kishida directly blamed Russia.
Cutting across TICAD 8 was the theme of resilient and accessible quality healthcare. Despite several support measures, African countries continue to suffer from COVID-19 and its economic consequences and Japan’s commitment will help relieve those pressures. It should build on the TICAD 6 promise to fight and prevent infectious diseases including Ebola, through the network of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) programmes across Africa.
Human security has been a consistent TICAD focus. Japan continues to push this agenda. In the Tunis Declaration, Japan managed to persuade African leaders to share their concerns over Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and the consequent impacts on Africa and the world. This was done indirectly, without naming Russia. This is sensitive since many African countries abstained on voting against Russia in the UNGA on this issue.
Japan continues to pursue its goal of a free and open international order, which means reforms to the world system and punishment to those who violate these norms. This puts the Japan-Africa partnership in the vortex of a very contentious and complex international situation.
Japan’s late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is credited for bringing TICAD to Africa. During his term, for the first time the TICAD 6 conference was held on the African continent, in Nairobi, in 2016. The Tunis conference returns to Africa, building on Abe’s legacy. Abe is also credited for shifting the emphasis of TICAD from purely providing aid to private sector-led trade, investment and development cooperation between Japan and Africa. At TICAD 7 in 2019 under Abe, Japanese businesses were given centre stage and told that they would be the future of the TICAD. The Yokohama declaration of TICAD sought $20 billion in private investment in with Japanese government support. Thirty agreements were signed between Japanese companies and African countries, but there is little to show how those were implemented. Commentators have criticised Abe’s Africa policy for lacking reality as Japan’s private sector did not share the enthusiasm that the Japanese government had for Africa.
Between 2010 and 2019, the number of Japanese companies present in Africa increased from 520 to 796. Japanese FDI, however, has been steadily declining, from $12 billion in 2013 to half that at$6 billion in 2019. The reason: a 2021 JETRO survey showed that 65% of Japanese companies saw regulations in Africa as a risk in their operations.
TICAD 8 clearly presented itself as an alternative to the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative and an effort to reduce debt stress in Africa. The challenge to BRI comes from TICADs long-standing commitment to quality partnership with African ownership and Japanese leadership. Here Japan must learn from the dexterity that the BRI provided. Japanese companies are very dependent on government funding and have low risk appetite.
Through TICAD 8, Japan is now trying to show that the Indo-Pacific economic aspects can have a partnership with Africa. In this, Japan may want to work with partners like India, which have a head start and better acceptability in Africa. The trilateral cooperation with India that Japan promotes is based on private sector partnership, which is the hallmark of the TICAD partnership with Africa. A report on trilateral cooperation in Africa, brought out by the CII in March 2019, recommended that India and Japan deepen the B2B connection in Africa and also promote more digital cooperation, including start-ups.
It is now for Indian companies to grasp this narrative and work with Japanese companies to expand the agenda of TICAD 8.
Gurjit Singh was India’s ambassador to Germany, Indonesia, Ethiopia, ASEAN and the African Union.
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 TICAD 8 Tunis, https://www.ticad8.tn/content/1/presentation
 Angola: The funeral of José Eduardo dos Santos, a historic moment at a political turning point, The Africa Report 29 August 2022, https://www.theafricareport.com/236379/angola-the-funeral-of-jose-eduardo-dos-santos-a-historic-moment-at-a-political-turning-point/
 TICAD 8 Tunis Declaration, https://www.mofa.go.jp/afr/af2/page24e_000325.html
 Paul Nantulya, The Tokyo International Conference on African Development—Fostering Stability through Peace and Security, Africa Centre for Strategic Studies
 Opening Speech by Prime Minister KISHIDA Fumio at the Opening Session of the Eighth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD8), 27 August, Speeches and Statement by the PM, https://japan.kantei.go.jp/101_kishida/statement/202208/_00017.html
 TICAD 8: Japan’s contributions to Africa, https://www.mofa.go.jp/files/100386138.pdf
 Gurjit Singh, TICAD 7’s agenda: engaging private enterprise, Gateway House 3 October 2019, https://www.gatewayhouse.in/ticad7-agenda/
 Gurjit Singh and Jhanvi Tripathi, India in Africa: Developing Trilateral Partnerships, https://www.ciieximafricaconclave.com/Document/Reports/CII%20Report%20on%20India%20in%20Africa%20Report%20-%20Developing%20Trilateral%20Partnership.pdf