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The 7th TICAD comes to grips with the Japanese ‘can do’ psyche

30 September 2019

“It’s not only about the amount of assistance,” explains HE Norio Maruyama, Japan’s Ambassador to South Africa during a discussion on TICAD 7 with The Diplomatic Society.  Ethical culture, a can do attitude and capable behaviour in relation to work and society are the basis of innovation, skills and management. The theme for this TICAD 7 was “Advancing Africa’s Development through People, Technology and Innovation.”

Photo: His Excellency President Cyril Ramaphosa welcomed and received by the Japanese Ambassador to South Africa, His Excellency Norio Maruyama, at the Tokyo International Airport, Japan, ahead of the 7th Tokyo International Conference on African Development. Looking on are Mr Yasushi Naito, Japan's Consul General in Cape Town and Mr Ebrahim Edries, Chief Director, State Protocol, Dirco (Siyabulela Duda​)

It is unprecedented that in 26 years since the establishment of the conference. 42 African heads of state/government attended the 7th TICAD (Tokyo International Conference on Africa’s Development) in Yokohama, Japan at the end of August 2019. The huge attendance saw the Tokyo conference moved to Yokohama, Japan’s second largest city to accommodate the 10 000 participants who attended the conference this year.

TICAD, a one of a kind open and inclusive engagement on Africa’s development on an international platform was first held in 1993. It is co-organised by the Japanese government, the United Nations, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) , the World Bank and the African Union Commission (AUC).

Japan is exemplary in the way it conducted its own development in the aftermath of the defeat in 1945. The use of the atomic bomb against Japan was the first and only time that such a weapon of mass destruction was used against a nation, and the USA is the only country that has ever used such a devastating weapon. The cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were completely destroyed, and the impact of the fallout still remains today.

Building from this devastation by developing Japanese own approach to business and infusing it with millennia old Japanese culture and tradition, Japan reached the rank of the second largest economy in the world without losing its Japanese identity.

Photo: Heads of State during the TICAD Summit (Jacoline Schoonees/DIRCO)

‘At TICAD 6 which took place in Nairobi, Kenya the first on the African continent, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was accompanied by more than 70 members of the Japanese business society at CEO level. For many it was the first contact with the African continent and radically changed their perception of Africa as a distant and unknown continent. Since then Africa has experienced a flow of $20 billion from the private sector over the last 3 years and an increase in this figure is envisaged by the next TICAD, which will be hosted in Africa.  It is vitally important to keep Japanese business interested in Africa, said Ambassador Maruyama.

According to JETRO, Japan’s External Trade Organisation, 57% of Japanese firms currently based in Africa intend expanding their investments into Africa. “South Africa plays an important gateway in this regard. Most of the investments come through South Africa and some stay here. With more than 160 Japanese companies operating in South Africa it has the largest representation of Japanese business in Africa,” said Ambassador Maruyama.

To make doing business easier a Business Council will be established with Ambassador Maruyama as co-chair with the high official of South Africa. The council will perform a key function of facilitating Business to Government and Government to Government interactions. The key participation of business at TICAD 7 has brought into sharp focus the transfer of knowledge and skills development to spur job creation.

JICA, Japan International Cooperation Agency works at grassroots level along with the central government. It identifies the needs and priorities at local government level. According to this information the Japanese government will take the appropriate steps, be it knowledge transfer, skills or other technical assistance.

Agriculture and rural development has been identified as sectors that will receive the most attention. Water management is regarded as critical. “In Japan water usage is divided between individual, industrial and agriculture, a demarcation that is not very clear here,” explained Ambassador Maruyama.

Rice is becoming popular in Africa and you can grow rice here instead of importing it, said Ambassador Maruyama. CARD - The Coalition for African Rice Development was established in 2008 and has since doubled African rice production from 14million tons to 28 million tons. More countries are joining CARD encouraged by the successes achieved.

Universal Health Coverage is another area in which Japan is keen to share its experiences and expertise. They are ready to dispatch resources that will develop, manage and maintain financial structures to support healthcare. Kenya and Senegal have already started receiving assistance in this regard.

In the 50 year history of the Shinkansen, the Japanese bullet train has not had a single fatality or injury due to a train accident. This, explains Ambassador Maruyama, is due to the culture of management and also the culture of using this high speed train. It epitomises the capable behaviourial culture that permeates throughout the Japanese society and serves as an example for Africans.




February/March 2020








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