Japan pledges investment in quality infrastructure in Africa

28/08/2016
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Investing in infrastructure and human resource development are crucial for Africa to realise Agenda 2063, a high-level panel during the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) heard Saturday in Nairobi.

The panel, under the theme "Africa, towards 2063 and beyond", sought to sought to discuss challenges, opportunities and strategies for development as Africa moves towards 2063, and what Asia and Africa can learn from each other. Agenda 2063 is an African Union-driven action plan that calls for collaboration to achieve accelerated development across the continent.

Speaking at the event, Shinzo Abe, Japan's Prime Minister, highlighted the need for investment in quality infrastructure that connects Africa. "We need to move ahead with investing for the future of Africa. Africa and Japan will work together. Japan will launch various initiatives that will support Africa in different sectors including infrastructure," he said.

At TICAD VI, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Japan announced a US $3 billion private sector development initiative to boost growth and reduce poverty in Africa. The resources, to be provided under the third phase of the Enhanced Private Sector Assistance for Africa (EPSA) initiative, will focus on, among other things, infrastructure - transport and energy.

The AfDB Group President, Akinwumi Adesina, reiterated the importance of energy in order to industrialise. "African economies must diversify by industrialising very fast. For this to happen, we need to solve the energy crisis," he said. The Bank's New Deal on Energy for Africa seeks to solve Africa's huge energy deficit by 2025.

He pointed out the critical role of research and development (R&D) in boosting growth, and urged African leaders to invest in the sector as in the case of Asia in order to realise increased development. "Research and development is at the core of what Asia has done. Africa spends only 0.1 percent of its GDP on R&D; this is so small compared to Japan which spends 3.7 percent of its GDP on R&D. We cannot succeed without R&D," he stressed.

Political will was cited as a key ingredient for ensuring formulation of the right policies for development. According to President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, "the basis of development for any society is going to be good politics. This will give way to the right policies that can blend into global instruments to forge one development path."

Some of the policies, especially around economic integration, are necessary to move the continent from one that exports raw materials into one that adds value to its products, noted Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the President of Liberia. Such policies, she asserted, will encourage inter-country trade, which is currently too low in Africa. Sub-Saharan African countries have the lowest trade among themselves compared with other regions. Statistics from the AfDB indicate that intra-African trade accounts for 11% (US $110 billion) of the value of total African trade.

Additionally, policies targeting youth employment emerged as crucial, particularly those enhancing digital technology. The AfDB has established a Jobs for Youth in Africa (JfYA) Strategy, aimed at creating direct and indirect employment in several sectors including ICT. The JfYA will see the Bank invest US $5 billion over the next ten years and create 25 million new jobs. These investments are expected to create opportunities for 50 million young people.

Japan, for its part, reiterated commitment to supporting African institutions to advance technology in Africa. Taku Otsuka, the country's State Minister of Finance pointed out that Japan would lay out concrete and tangible measures to support Africa.