Japan, Africa vow to fight terrorism, stress rule-based order at sea

Leaders also agree to promote investment in infrastructure that would lead to job creation in the fast-growing region

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 August, 2016, 3:29pm
UPDATED : Monday, 29 August, 2016, 11:03pm

Japanese and African leaders pledged to fight terrorism and emphasised the importance of rule-based maritime order as they wrapped up a Japan-led international conference on the continent’s development on Sunday.

In the Nairobi Declaration adopted at the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, the leaders also agreed to promote investment in infrastructure that leads to job creation in the fast-growing region.

“Japan’s public and private sectors will offer cooperation for the development that is led by Africa itself,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a press conference after the sixth TICAD, convened in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, wrapped up.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta told the same press conference that Japan does not press its own ways and continues to be a force for African development.

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The gathering was held outside Japan for the first time, as Tokyo seeks to strengthen its economic and political presence in the continent amid China’s increasing influence.

On the opening day on Saturday, Abe pledged that Japan will mobilise a total of US$30 billion in private- and public-sector funds to invest in Africa over three years to boost infrastructure building in the resource-rich continent.

“We stress the importance of promoting regional and international efforts related to maritime security, including piracy, illegal fishing and other maritime crimes, maintaining a rules-based maritime order in accordance with the principles of international law,” the Nairobi Declaration said.

The reference to maritime security comes as tensions remain high in the South and East China seas amid China’s growing assertiveness. Japan has repeatedly called for the rule of law and opposed the use of force or coercion in maintaining maritime security.

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The declaration also said the leaders “reaffirmed our determination to urgently reform UN bodies including the Security Council”. The powerful group currently comprises five permanent veto-wielding members – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – and 10 elected members that serve two-year terms.

Africa is vital for Japan in its bid to become a permanent member of the Security Council. There are 54 countries in Africa, making up a large voting bloc among the world body’s 193 members.

As for investment in infrastructure, Japan hopes to distinguish its aid in the region from that of China through the promotion of “quality infrastructure”, Japanese officials said.

“We will promote investment in quality infrastructure which leads to job creation and transfer of expertise and know-how, as well as to capacity building of African countries and people,” the declaration said.

In the TICAD discussions, Abe called on his African counterparts to take measures to create a favorable business environment in terms of safety and legal matters so that Japanese investments in the region can be promoted.

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On terrorism, the declaration said, “We strongly condemn terrorism in all forms and manifestations, wherever and by whomever committed ...We call for enhanced international cooperation in strengthening counterterrorism capacity in Africa.”

Abe was accompanied by around 200 officials of more than 70 Japanese companies during his trip to Nairobi, the first official visit by a Japanese prime minister in 15 years. Sadayuki Sakakibara, chairman of the Japan Business Federation, the country’s most influential business lobby known as Keidanren, also took part.

Noting that Africa faces challenges such as terrorism, diseases and the decline of global commodity prices, the Japanese and African leaders also vowed in the Nairobi Declaration to make efforts to create jobs for young people and women, promote structural economic reforms through diversification and strengthen health systems to improve the quality of life.