African leaders were united in calling for increased trade ties between the continent and Japan as the Sixth Tokyo International Conference of African Development kicked off in Nairobi at the weekend.
Some 23 presidents are part of the huge delegation of leaders in Nairobi for the Tokyo International Conference on Africa Development — the largest delegation of Heads of States on Kenyan soil at the same time in recent years.
Speakers pitched for increased financial and technical support in agriculture, infrastructure, health, security and innovation.
The meeting underscored the role of the private sector, NGOs and the civil society, with leaders confirming that it is important to build a resilient economy.
The conference brought together 34 Heads of State and government and delegates from across the globe.
The deliberations set the stage for commitment to Africa’s growth, with Japan pledging Sh1 trillion to the continent to bring about quality of life and boost the economies of the developing countries.
In 23 years since the inception TICAD, Japan has invested $47 bilion in Africa.
This feat was acknowledged in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s opening remarks, when he urged Japan to enhance its friendship by building a shared prosperity in the African continent.
“The African continent is driven in the right direction. We must press for open and fair trade, for deeper infrastructure integration and to develop the human resources of our people,” said the President, who also asked Japan to aid Africa in war the against terrorism.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, African Union (AU) chairman and President of Chad Idriss Déby, chairperson of the Africa Union Commission Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) were in attendance.
The summit has been tailored to firm up two key documents. Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed yesterday revealed that the participating countries’ Heads of State and government have been furnished with the draft Nairobi declaration and the Nairobi Implementation Plan.
“The senior officials and planners of this conference prepared this documents during the pre-summit meeting held in Nairobi on Friday. The draft declaration has been placed before the Heads of State and government for consideration,” said Dr Mohammed at the opening session of the summit at KICC, Nairobi.
She went on: “The Implementation plan is a living document and work in progress and for this, we have been given time the co-organisers to submit any views we have before its implementation.” Though details of the two crucial documents was not immediately available, it is believed to hold the key to major trade deals with Japan, at a time scramble for the continent’s rich markets is gaining momentum.
Abe assured the African leaders that under the ‘Abe’ Initiative, Japan will build the human resource capacity of 1,500 Africans in the next 3 years.
“Japan will support African human capital development to bolster industrialisation. Self-efficacy and esteem of African youth will be advanced through vocational training of 50,000 youth,” he guaranteed.
For Kenya, he said the two countries will sign an investment agreement. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon was absent but sent a video message to the delegates assuring them of his support.
The World Bank Group President said: “It’s almost hard to believe how much people are ready to write off Africa. With your support, we can build the kind of Africa we all desire. It’s almost hard to believe how many people are willing to write off Africa. We have to fight the naysayers.”