Statement by H.E. Mr. Yoshifumi Okamura
Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations

Africa Week 2016 High-Level Event
13 October 2016




Distinguished Speakers,


Ladies and Gentlemen,


          At the outset, I would like to thank Mr. Maged Abdelaziz, Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Africa, and Ms. Cristina Gallach, Under-Secretary-General of the Department of Public Information, for organizing and chairing this important opening event of African Week.


          In the first session of this week, our Permanent Representative introduced the recent outcome of TICAD VI in terms of “strengthening partnership.” Since the theme of this session is “the effective implementation of the SDGs and Agenda 2063,” I will discuss TICAD again, this time focusing on its relation to today’s theme.


          At the time of previous TICAD summit (TICAD V), I was the Director-General of the African Affairs Department of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and served as the Director-General of TICAD V. Therefore, I can explain the components of TICAD with a certain confidence. TICAD is not only a partnership meeting between Japan and Africa, but also a framework where many stakeholders can discuss Africa’s development issues with our co-organizers, including the UN, World Bank, UNDP and AUC. Among the various conferences which discuss African development, TICAD takes a unique approach. Instead of the traditional “aid approach”, which focuses on individual topics such as poverty and social issue separately, TICAD takes the “growth approach”, which aims to foster development holistically focusing on Africa’s ownership and strengths, believing that those individual topics will be solved under this larger picture.


          Japan has scarce natural resources and limited land available for farming; however, we achieved robust economic development in the process of modernization by learning from the Western countries. Especially after World War II, while Japan was rebuilding itself from the devastation of the war and reconstructing itself almost from nothing, Japan went on to become one of the biggest economic powers in the world. In fact, it was not just Japan. Many other Asian countries, which had suffered from even more severe poverty than Africa and experienced continuous conflict and political instability, also went on to achieve significant economic development and become nations with peace, democracy and respect for human rights. Our basic principle is to apply our own development experience to African development through a process of mutual communication. TICAD is the framework where we can provide advice and support based on the economic development experience of Japan and other Asian countries.


          Accordingly, the target of TICAD is “high quality growth.” Here “high quality” means that the following three components, namely: sustainable economy, resilient society and peace and stability, are harmonized and support the economic development of Africa. From this perspective, TICAD proposes that trade investment and commitments by the private sector, in addition to foreign aid, are necessary to ensure the economic development of Africa. At the same time, obstacles to development remain, such as the lack of widespread infrastructure, the inability of shifting from “farm to feed” to “farm to earn,” (that is from subsistence farming to commercial agriculture), and the difficulty of establishing of peace and security. TICAD VI enhanced the discussion on these issues and applied them to current issues.


          Leading up to the adoption of the “Nairobi Declaration,” we conducted intensive discussions on such issues as the decline of global commodity prices, the vulnerability of health systems against public health crises such as the recent outbreak of Ebola, and social instability. In the Declaration, we specified three priority areas, namely: Economic Diversification and Industrialization, Social Stability for Shared Prosperity and Resilient Health Systems for Quality of Life.


          Furthermore, the “Nairobi Implementation Plan”, also adopted at TICAD VI, provides concrete measures which international society needs to take.


          Our Prime Minister, Mr. Shinzo Abe also announced at TICAD VI Japan’s commitment to invest approximately 30 billion USD under public-private partnership over a period of three years from 2016 to 2018. He further stated that Japan will invest for the future of Africa through implementing measures centering on developing quality infrastructure, building resilient health systems and laying the foundations for peace and stability.


          There is another critical principle of the TICAD process; African ownership. Of course, international support and financing are required for Africa’s development. In this context, however, sometimes outside support from international society is over emphasized. On the other hand, to ensure that African countries achieve sustainable development, Japan has been continuously promoting TICAD under the concept of ownership. The word “ownership” here represents our belief that African countries have their own potential to lead the region to economic development, and that we must build partnerships under the condition that African countries decides their own direction and establish development strategies for themselves within the region. If African countries are waiting for money to fall from heaven, Japan will not support them. But to those countries that will decide for themselves and make efforts to develop, we are more than happy to finance and provide technical assistance.


          The outcomes of TICAD VI, needless to say, respond strategically to pertinent continental and global agreements, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and form an integral part of them.


          However, let me add one comment. The SDGs are truly ambitious goals which we should always have in our mind. As I mentioned earlier, the implementation and ultimate achievement of such lofty goals should be done not only with the help of outside aid but also through each country’s and region’s own economic development. If African countries conclude that such goals cannot be achieved without further aid, this may deter the implementation of the 2030 Agenda itself. But we believe there is much that Africa can do by and for itself.


          Africa is often referred to as a poor continent, but this is a misunderstanding in my view. When I say “Africa is rich”, you may think that I am speaking of matters such as mineral resources. But that is not the even the tip of the iceberg. When I served as the Ambassador of Japan to Côte d'Ivoire, I saw the ample sunshine, the plentiful water and the spacious and flat fields. In such a place, the people can harvest rice as often as three times a year. As long as there is a motivation to work, you can create as much wealth as you want.


          People in Africa may complain that the markets of developed countries are not open to them, but the biggest markets available are their own domestic markets. We need to develop access to this enormous market in such a way that makes it work effectively for the people of Africa. There is also a need to establish fair domestic systems which benefit all the people through proper taxation. Voluntary efforts in these regards are part of what we call “ownership” in the context of TICAD. I hope that the TICAD process, continuing its 23-year history, will further contribute to the development of Africa and to the inclusive implementation of international agreements, including the 2030 Agenda.



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