15 August 2016

Japan to strengthen ties with Africa through dialogue

What is Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) all about?
TICAD represents Japan’s policy framework towards African development. It is the pioneer international forum focusing on African development.
The first TICAD head of states meeting was held in Tokyo in 1993, shortly after the Cold War ended.
Japan had noticed that developed countries’ interest in providing assistance to Africa had begun to weaken. It was Japan that argued for the importance of Africa. Nowadays, there are various forums through which many countries engage with Africa.

Critics say many international conferences are talking shops. How different is TICAD from the other forums organised by different powers for Africa?
Two features distinguish TICAD from other forums. One is the openness of the forum. The openness comes from the fact that Japan co–hosts TICAD with the United Nations, the World Bank and the African Union Commission. It invites all African leaders, relevant international agencies, development partner countries, private companies and civil society representatives.
The second distinguishing factor is TICAD has a follow–up mechanism.
What Japan and other countries promise at the conference is later verified – at ministerial level so that we do not make empty promises.
The results are reported so that the participants at the conference can verify.

Who is invited to, or will attend, the conference in Nairobi?
Our Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be coming to Kenya. Your President [Yoweri Museveni] will be in Nairobi, Kenya.
The UN, World Bank and AU [African Union]. It is a global conference. We invite the US [United States], the European Union, NGOs [nongovernmental organisations] and private companies to the forum. We expect 100 Japanese companies to come.
They will discuss a lot of issues connected with African development, including peace building.

What themes will this year focus on?

The last TICAD in 2013 identified three issues. They are sustainable economy, inclusive economy and peace and stability.
Japan’s current development assistance to Africa has been guided by those themes and, Japanese assistance to Uganda originates from these core issues.
I would like to emphasis peace and stability. In the case of Uganda, that is the rehabilitation of northern Uganda. Northern Uganda’s social economic conditions lag behind other parts of Uganda because infrastructure was damaged during the LRA [Lord’s Resistance Army] insurgency.

Which are some of the Japanese companies that will be represented at the conference?
Trading companies, heavy industry companies, companies related to health and sanitation.
Some of the companies that are expected are Hitachi, Mitsubishi Corporation, Fujifilm Corporation, Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited, Yamaha Motor Company Limited, Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation, among many others.
Some of the companies are asking to meet me before they travel to Nairobi. Maybe they want to know about this side so that they can have a clearer picture.

How does Africa benefit from TICAD?
Through technology, Japan strengthens economic development.

Japan will lend Uganda money to finance construction of flyovers in Kampala. When will work begin?
I hope your subcontractors will work very well. Japanese companies – as main contractors – are very few, just four or five people. Japanese workers are so expensive; so we cannot afford to bring Japanese workers here.

When will construction start?
The flyover has three components. One is around the Clock Tower.
The second one is at Nsambya; Nsambya will be an underpass.
The third component will be at the Kitgum House and Oasis Mall intersection.
I heard from JICA [Japan International Cooperation Agency] that the first two components are going very well. But the third component needs some coordination with SGR [Standard Gauge Railway].
Kampala flyover project started on the assumption that there will be a level crossing of the SGR. But a few months ago, there was an announcement that the SGR would be a bit higher in order to avoid level crossing. Currently, we need coordination with SGR project.

Have you talked to the Ugandan side about coordination?
We are waiting for response from UNRA [Uganda National Roads Authority], Ministry of Works.

Will that affect the timelines?
Depending on the coordination, that might cause some delay. I cannot exclude such a possibility.

In terms of cost, what effect would a high level crossing for the SGR mean?
If there are some changes – that the flyover could go up then that could lead to a higher cost. That would be natural.

The government of Uganda needs assistance. This could be in the form of concessional loans, to develop its electricity generation capacity. Will Japan help?
I think there is no room for new, big hydropower generation. What is important is the transmission line to be networked. Maybe transmission is better….
When I was here, Ayago HPP was talked about a lot. At that time, we were willing to consider [financing its construction]. Over time, the situation surrounding power generation changed.


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