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Ticad 7, Summit Russia-Africa, Ambition Africa… Who will be the « best partner » of Africa?

Now that the seventh edition of Ticad, the traditional meeting of the partnership Japan-Africa, was completed with new ambitions and promises, are awaits the summit Russia – Africa, Ambition & Rencontres Africa in October. What are the challenges in these huge fora between Africa and his partners? 

By Dounia Ben Mohamed 

The seventh edition of TICAD (Tokyo International Conference on Africa Development), which took place on the 28th to the 30th August 2019, organized under Japan and the United Nations, the United Nations of Development Program (UNDP), the World Bank and the African Union (AU) over the theme “Advancing the African development through the population, technology and innovation”, was finalized with new ambitions and promises.

47 billion of dollars disbursed by Tokyo at the title of public aid for development

African responsible, very much participating_amoung them, tens of leaders_, since the beginning shared their intentions to make “business” with their Japanese counterparts, and not wait for “help for development”. Japanese, on their side, who are the pioneers to organize these meetings with Africa, since 1993 with TICAD, since overtaken by Chinese notably, but also by Americans, Europeans and Turks, and even Moroccans, staked in a lot. The Third world Economy, in search of bringing new growth in the continent, had to return to his position of partnership of “quality” with the continent. Therefore, after disbursing, in title of public aid to development (PAD), 47 billion of dollars since 1993 and the first Ticad, an amount superior to the one promised in Ticad 6, to know 30 billion, but then again far from the 60 billion promised by Beijing at the last Summit China – Africa, Tokyo came up with heavy artillery through this edition. The flagship of Made in Japan, Toyota, announced the construction of a Factory in Abidjan; Mizuho Bank, leader of the Japanese bank sector, signed a MoU with the Moroccan group bank Attijariwafa Bank who plans to share good practices through these three coming years, experts of how to manage the risks related to finance and public debts in 30 countries of the continent; etc. Widely, the government has decided to invest 50 billion of dollars in Africa. The priority was given for “quality” infrastructures.

Already, Tokyo has established implements and institutions in order to conquer the continental market. To start with Jetro, the Japanese Organization of foreign trade which is in more than 20 countries in the continent. As well as Jica, Japanese International cooperation agency. But Japan is still far to be the only to concur for the “best partner” to Africa.

Highly anticipated, the summit Russia Africa of Sotchi, supposed to be held in October, willing to strengthen, or better to redirect in order to mark the presence of Russia on the continent. Historical partner of the continent, notably since the cold war, Kremlin, wants now to diversify his relations with the continent and do not want to be limited to the role of « arms dealer » . A turnaround charqcterized by very symbolic measures. To start with the cqncellqtion of the debts contracted from Moscow by a certain number of countries of the continent at the high amount of 20 billion of dollars, the signature of military and industrial cooporqtion agreement, and more visits of russian delegations in Africa. « Russia does not only want to regain the situation, but also want to heigthen her relations with Africa, in a mutual respect », indicated Mr Mikhail Bogdanov, the vice Minister and the representative of the Russian President, Poutine, while on a visit on the continent for the Midlle East and Africa, before admitting that his country is « late and comes after Europeans, Americans and Asians ». 

On his side, Paris also wants to regain its former position which was « his african backyard » and at the same time expand their action field over the continental scene. Notably using the French Tech and instruments like Choose Africa or Digital Africa. But the fact is, the french african strategy, depending on the states leaders, hard to define, is not going well. For instance, last year, two appointments France Africa and the two on October, the Rencontres Africa and Ambition Africa. In fact, the french private sector and the Quai d’Orsay are notthe same category and each of them play their own paws on their own sides. And in the game amoung big powers, France with the 5 billion of the AFD commitments, play small.

“If you want good revenues, come in Africa. It is a Market in which investments bring out hundreds of billion of dollars. This is the new profile of Africa actually represented to the world”

Therefore, for the new leadership working on the continent is heading more of a pragmatical approach instead of the ideological approach, the best partner is the one who is bringing more expertise, such as skills and funds. In this game, the Chinese are the champions. China with its roadmap, “the new silk road”, already the first commercial partner of the continent with more than 3 billion dollars of commercial exchange, seems to be difficult to compete. “We are open to all countries and we trust in technology transfers”, assured Amadou Hott, Minister of Economy of Senegal, during the Ticad 7 in front of Japanese strategic investors. 

Tony Elumelu during a vibrant speech expressed at Ticad.

“Africa is one of the worldwide promising destinations for investments. Our big demographic density – almost 1,3 billion inhabitants – create one of the most attractive market in the world. Every country grants a lot of attention to Africa, but is Japan in center of the debate or did it stay on the sidelines?, reminded the famous business man Tony Elumelu during a vibrant speech expressed at Ticad.

If you want good revenues, come in Africa. It is a market in which investments are worth hundreds of billion of dollars. It is the new image of Africa actually profilized in the world”.

“Go beyond speeches: Africans must be able to subscribe those events  in their agendas in accordance with their interests and preoccupation”.

But this Africa, does it have all cards in hands to enter into the game of big powers? The interest revival for the continent, very different from the one picture dressed at the conference of Berlin in 1885 where great powers shared a “Spectator” Africa of its own fate, does it make it a turnaround on Africa profit? Yet, Cheikh Ibrahima Diong, founder and CEO of the Panafrican cabinet based in Dakar Africa Consulting and Trading (ACT). For instance, those big for are still standing outside the continental borders and Africa participate, again, as a “spectator”. “Either it can be Japanese, Chinese, Russians or once more Americans, each one wants to have his part in the Continent, each with different reasons. The advantage with Chinese is the fact that, the country does not have a colonial past with Africa and can mention a balanced relationship with no heavy historical heritage that comes often while negotiating. Same case concerning Japan and Turkey. For those countries, like Russia and USA, we should consider the geopolitical aspect and the security. It is in their interest that Africa remain stable, for them to work with African countries about economic plans. Not forgetting the international level, with the Security Council whereby every one wants to have Africa by its side. We are, therefore, facing geopolitics challenges in positioning issues, and more and more economic with a continent, where resources are huge, that offers opportunities for private sectors for those states. That is the reason why we see occidental state leaders are always accompanied by business men from their respective countries when they go to the continent at the perspective to situate them the very best way possible”.

A diplomatic economy that nowadays all are focusing on. But, who among their African “homologue”? “When we hear them saying that they don’t need help for development but for business, it is an old speech, which makes us believe that Africa is still begging but yet want to have an equal relationship. The fact is that today, things have to beyond slogans and have a pragmatic approach. First of all, when we say Africa, it sounds as if we are talking about a country which is wrong because, each country has its own specialty and have to be considered. Therefore, in order to have a real partnership, Africans must be able to subscribe those events into their agendas in accordance with their interests and preoccupations”. This said, it takes control: “we can see that lately, there is a tendency of organizing African editions to these big appointment. The Ticad 6 took place in Kenya. Senegal will receive the event in 2024…”

Whatever happens, either there might be direct investments or public aid, amounts are much lower than fund transfers from Diaspora to the continent.Isn’t that such good facts ?

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