Issues of the African economies progressive advance, the industrialization level improvement on the basis of natural resources, were discussed by the participants of the Fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development. Such meetings have been held since 1993 every five years and are aimed at promoting dialogue between Africa and its partners in the implementation of the continent development goals.
At the three-day conference, which was held from 1 to 3 June in Yokohama, representatives of 51 countries on the continent, African and Japanese business leaders raised the issues of expanding ties between Japan and Africa in the field of investment, infrastructure and mining.
The forum said that although manpower resources and technical capacity are the basis for the continuous development of Africa, the continent countries, mainly those with anemic economy, still have many obstacles to overcome.
The main leaders of the African countries mention the continent backwardness in the transport and electricity infrastructure, noting that this is the main obstacle to its economic development. As emphasized, in particular, at the conference by President of South Africa Jacob Zum, “the infrastructure development and improvement is an important tool for the integration of the African market and sustainable development.” Obstacles also include wars and armed conflicts, earthquakes and natural disasters. To finally solve all these issues, it is necessary, according to the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, to “combine the peace and stability with the development.”
The forum mainly discussed the programs Tokyo proposed to Africa – for the development of economy and infrastructure, improvement of the investment environment and attracting Japanese companies to participate in joint projects.
Hiromasa Yonekura, Chairman of Japan Business Federation, said that “availability of a well-developed infrastructure is one of the main conditions for attracting private investment from abroad. Japan has its know-hows in this area, we can share with our partners from Africa.”
Tokyo announced to be going to allocate in the next five years, $32 billion to Africa on infrastructure construction, health care and agriculture. Tokyo is also ready to finance the training of more than 30,000 specialized professionals in the African countries, as well as to invite more than a thousand people for internships in Japanese companies and universities.
Japan has decided to allocate about $2 billion to support projects in oil, gas, mineral, and other resources extraction on the continent. As part of this program, Tokyo intends to help its African partners to increase the security and environment level at resource-extraction companies.
Africa attracts Japan not only for its natural resources, but also for the prospects offered by continuing economic growth there. According to the International Monetary Fund, an average annual growth of the continent’s economy is fixed at the level of 6%. From 2002 to 2011, the Sub-Saharan African countries showed economic growth, primarily due to favorable raw material prices in the world market.
This year, the GDP growth in these countries should reach an average of 5.8%. Africa’s total trade in recent years has exceeded one billion dollars. The consumption and foreign investment level rose too. Their volume increased from $150 billion in 2001 to $570 billion in 2011. The IMF predicts that by 2015, seven of the ten world’s fastest growing economies will be in Africa.
As stated in the final Declaration of the conference and the Action Plan for 2013-2017, Africa becomes a new center of global economic growth, and Japan is willing to actively support its development particularly through investments in infrastructure, including urban transport, energy, agribusiness.
Japan is seeking to strengthen its presence on the continent and in the course of competitiveness with China, which has been lately actively developing relations with the countries of the region, dealing with major infrastructure projects and mining. Experts point out that Tokyo yields to Beijing by the level of direct investment in African countries. In 2011, Japan invested in the continent $460 million, and China - $ 3.17 billion Whereas the volume of China’s trade with Africa is now 5.5 times greater than the sum of their export-import operations with Japan.