The 2012 Africa Day Symposium, held at UNU Headquarters on Friday, 25 May, was attended by academics, ambassadors, ministerial and development experts, as well as the general public. The event was jointly organized by the African Diplomatic Corps in Tokyo and UNU, and sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.
The annual Africa Day symposium seeks to explore critical issues of African development. UNU Rector Osterwalder opened this year’s event by emphasizing that with each passing year, the symposium becomes “ever more vibrant, and ever more vital”.
The theme of the 2012 symposium was “Hard Infrastructure Development in Africa: The Role of Japan”. Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki, Chief Executive Officer of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Planning and Coordinating Agency, underlined the topic’s importance by highlighting the continent’s remarkable achievements over recent years. He noted that governance within Africa is continuing to “improve tremendously”, and remarked that according to the International Monetary Fund, African public finances are now better managed than in Europe.
It is for these reasons, he said, that 11 of the world’s fastest growing economies are now in Africa. The challenge, he warned, is ensuring that the benefits of success are felt equally.
A major constraint to equality and development is poor infrastructure, which hinders African economic growth. Currently, only 30% of the African population has access to electricity; the telecommunications penetration rate is just 6%; railway coverage is sparse; African ports are often uncompetitive; and inland waterways are hardly utilized for trade and travel.
With these challenges in mind, the new “Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa” (PIDA), led by the African Union Commission, African Development Bank and NEPAD, places priority on vital infrastructure projects supporting regional integration and physical interconnections between and among African countries. Dr. Mayaki noted that this opens up opportunities to the private sector, and that Japan is a “key partner with a critical role”.
This role was expanded upon by Akio Dobashi, Chairman of the Committee on Sub-Saharan Africa, Keidanren, who declared that Japanese technologies have the potential to improve African power production (while reducing emissions of greenhouse gases) and transportation infrastructure (enabling interconnections that can invigorate economies and improve markets).
Hideichi Okada, Vice Minister for International Affairs, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan, remarked that because Japan is rich in technology while Africa is rich in resources, Japanese investment could create a “win–win situation” and create of local employment opportunities.
The panel discussion that followed the keynote speeches gave the audience an opportunity to participate by asking questions.
In his closing remarks, Ambassador Ahmed Araita Ali of Djibouti quoted a saying from his country: “the speaker plants seeds, and listeners harvest the crops”. The Africa Day Symposium, he said, is an opportunity to plant seeds by contributing to a dialogue that is essential for economic growth.
For more about the 2012 Africa Day Symposium, including PDF transcripts of many of the presentations,click on the RELATED FILES tab.
Rector, UNU (190.6 KB PDF) Stuart Comberbach
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Republic of Zimbabwe, Dean of the African Diplomatic Corps (ADC) (158.2 KB PDF) Toshiyuki Kato
Parliamentary Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (134.7 KB PDF)
Ibrahim Mayaki, Chief Executive Officer, New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Planning and Coordinating Agency (3.1 MB PDF) Akio Dobashi, Chairman, Committee on Sub-Saharan Africa, Keidanren (127.2 KB PDF)
Sumio Kusaka, Director General for African Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan (2.9 MB PDF) Fumio Hoshi, Chief Operating Officer, Senior Managing Director, Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) (556.2 KB PDF) Alex Rugamba, Director, NEPAD, Regional Integration and Trade Department, African Development Bank (AfDB) (718.2 KB PDF)