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World opinion leaders discuss and propose solutions to the issues that Japan and the world face today.
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The last decade or so has seen rapid economic growth across the African continent. With its wealth of natural resources and the large potential market offered by a combined population of around 1 billion people, Africa is in the spotlight as the world's final frontier for development. And as more and more firms from overseas look to expand their activities in the continent, August 2016 will see the leaders of various African nations gather in the Kenyan capital Nairobi for the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD).
The 2016 installment represents a landmark for TICAD, as it is held outside Japan for the first time in its more-than-20-year history. The conference, which runs from August 27–28 in Nairobi, is a clear sign that African nations are playing a larger role in the TICAD process, and will bring together figures from both civil society and the private sector.
Ahead of TICAD VI, Global Agenda headed to Kenya for a discussion bringing together a panel of regional experts to address some of the key themes that are sure to figure prominently at the conference itself. The venue was Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, near the Kenyan capital Nairobi. It aims to produce Africa's next generation of technological and agricultural leaders.
The panel consisted of Jomo Kenyatta vice chancellor Mabel Imbuga; Stephen Chege, director of corporate affairs at the Kenyan communications firm Safaricom; Leeko Makoene, CEO of Made with Rural, a South African NGO that aims to reform agriculture and boost yields; Katsumi Hirano, who has spent more than 30 years researching Africa with JETRO, the Japan External Trade Organization; and Brian Ganson, head of the Africa Center for Dispute Settlement at South Africa's University of Stellenbosch. The moderator was senior NHK commentator Aiko Doden.
In the opening exchange, Doden asked the panelists about some of the different measures that are likely to prove key in bringing continued, inclusive sustainable development to the continent. Imbuga focused on the education and empowerment of young people, especially women, while Hirano and Makoene spoke about the importance of agriculture and improved food productivity with more farmers taking ownership of their own activities. Chege also chimed in on the facilitative role of Information Technology, and the need for web access for the younger generation when it comes to helping people achieve their goals more easily. Professor Ganson echoed the need for innovation, productivity and empowerment, while also stressing the importance of unity and consensus.
The panel moved on to discuss factors that have hitherto hampered development on the continent. Makoene pointed out that Africans were very used to producing items for export, or utilizing imported goods, whereas the next step needed would be a greater emphasis on local production for local consumption, with Africa becoming "its own customer." This was followed by a further exchange on the significance of education and training, with Imbuga and Hirano offering key insights.
Governance was also considered, with panelists highlighting the need for the public and private sector to work together to eliminate corruption, and Ganson pointing out how businesses needed to accept how integral they were to the process of development, and Makoene stressing the need for citizens to become less dependent on official assistance and take greater charge of their own affairs. Infrastructure was also seen as a vital part of the puzzle.
The discussion moved through methods of tackling youth unemployment and boosting agricultural yields, while the role of Chinese investment on the continent was also considered. With labor costs in China on the increase, Hirano saw potential to move manufacturing jobs to Africa, while Chege cautioned against becoming too indebted to the Asian superpower.
In the final exchanges, the panel considered ways forward for African development. Ganson proposed focusing on and leveraging the continent's many strengths rather than the various weaknesses that need to be addressed. Makoene stressed the importance of collaboration between the various sectors and between the cities and the countryside, with education and infrastructure especially crucial. Chege once more emphasized the need for the private sector to be more than a bystander and get directly involved. Imbuga brought the debate to a close with a statement of hope: "Africa is allowed to dream, to dream about the Africa that we want. An Africa that is peaceful. An Africa that is integrated. And an Africa that is prosperous."
Mabel ImbugaVice Chancellor, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology
Stephen ChegeDirector, Corporate Affairs, Safaricom
Leeko MakoeneCEO, Made with Rural
Katsumi HiranoExecutive Vice President, Japan External Trade Organization
Brian GansonHead, Africa Centre for Dispute Settlement, Extraordinary Associate Professor, University of Stellenbosch Business School
Aiko DodenSenior Commentator, Senior Producer, NHK