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Japanese Cooperation Ready to Ignite Africa’s Recovery

JICA's south Africa symposium
JICA's south Africa symposium ? JICA

The fading of the Covid-19 emergency heralds a new dawn for free trade and economic integration in Africa. The key to success, says the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), is that Africans chart their own path forward in partnership with the international community.

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"Regional integration is key to the continent’s future resilience”, said Toshiyuki Nakamura, Senior Vice-President of JICA during a high-level symposium in Johannesburg on 21 June. Panellists from JICA, the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) debated how to reignite economic integration on the continent following the pandemic, which disrupted the developmental ambitions of African nations.

The event formed part of the lead-up to the 8th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD8) on 27 and 28 August. Established in 1993, TICAD is Japan’s flagship initiative to support Africa’s growth. Held in partnership with the African Union Commission, the United Nations, the UNDP and the World Bank, this open forum brings together African countries, international organizations, private companies and civil society for Africa’s development.

Japanese-led cooperation, outlined by JICA at the symposium, aspires to accelerate Africa’s recovery with infrastructure development and policy reforms to achieve the goals defined in Agenda 2063 of the African Union. In his keynote speech, H. E. Norio Maruyama, Ambassador of Japan to South Africa, emphasized the two pillars of Japanese investment in Africa: “Ownership and partnership.”

For Nakamura, the shift from aid to ownership and partnership has allowed the continent to become attractive for the markets, inviting private and public capital.

Africa - Budding Heavyweight of Free Trade

The symposium looked ahead to the implementation of the landmark African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which entered into force in May 2019 and is expected to reshape international trade. The agreement covers nearly all African Union (AU) countries, connects 1.3 billion people, and has the potential to lift 30 million people out of extreme poverty, according to the World Bank.

“In the post-crisis world, Africa must have its place at the table”, said George Kararach, Lead Economist at the AfDB. Ayodele Odusola, Resident Representative of UNDP South Africa and Director of the UNDP’s Finance Sector Hub for Africa, concurred, saying it was time for Africa to rethink trade. “African countries do not consume what they produce, and they do not produce when it comes in. We need to really think this one around."

The AfCFTA will be the world’s largest free trade area in terms of number of countries. Its realization will include multi-million infrastructure projects and multilateral agreements.

Its success will depend on the resilience of institutions and policies, said Odusola. Nakamura echoed this point, noting that the road ahead would need to include “enhancing productivity and improving the business environment to invite investments.”?The panel also emphasized the fundamental importance of investing in quality infrastructure, an area of active JICA support across the continent, under the flagship Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), and to strengthen start-ups and small businesses.

Streamlining Customs Procedures - A Key to African Prosperity

Central to facilitating trade are One Stop Border Posts (OSBPs), which reduce the time and cost of moving people and goods across borders by placing customs procedures under one roof. Nearly 120 such posts are in operation across Africa, with 14 receiving support from JICA.

At the symposium on June 21, AUDA-NEPAD launched the Third Edition of the OSBP Sourcebook. This operational guide for OSBPs jointly produced by JICA and AUDA-NEPAD has become an invaluable resource for the promotion of free trade in Africa.

Third Edition of the OSBP Sourcebook
Third Edition of the OSBP Sourcebook ? JICA

“The third edition comes at a significant time for us”, said Dr. Towela Nyirenda Jere, Head of Economic Integration, AUDA-NEPAD, in announcing the Third Edition. “We have yet to take full advantage of the economies of scale that greater market integration can provide. Against this backdrop, OSBPs are central to enhancing interconnectivity and to deepening regional market integration.”

TICAD8 - An Integrated Approach to Resolving Africa’s Challenges

During TICAD8 in August, public and private stakeholders will address the unprecedented recession of Africa’s economy as a result of Covid-19 and global financial instability. A developing continent, Africa is particularly vulnerable to financial fluctuations in foreign markets, geopolitical and health crises.

TICAD has stressed the importance of African ownership in the development process since its inception and promoted concerted efforts to meet the objectives of Agenda 2063, the African Union’s blueprint “to achieve inclusive and sustainable socio-economic development”.

“When talking about economic integration we must also consider health, education, social networks and other factors. We need an integrated approach. This is the basic concept of TICAD”, explained Nakamura.

Through the years, JICA has contributed to the economy, society, peace and stability of the continent. Its offices in 31 African countries strive to diversify industries, create jobs and promote innovation and investments. Among its flagship achievements is the Corridor Development initiative, which has contributed to robust and inclusive economic growth in targeted regions in North, West and Southeast Africa by effectively combining infrastructural, institutional, industrial and social development under a long-term plan.

Across these activities, JICA’s approach has always centered on empowering African people to take charge of their own future. TICAD8 will provide possibilities not only to strengthen the international community’s partnership with Africa, but also Africa’s role and influence in the world.

“TICAD has really given us an opportunity”, said Odusola. “It is one of the few win-win partnerships on the continent.”

Japanese Cooperation Ready to Ignite Africa’s Recovery

Learn more about JICA’s projects and operations at www.jica.go.jp/TICAD/en/index.html

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