Driving the Africa agenda with a slate of new and urgent initiatives

Driving the Africa agenda with a slate of new and urgent initiatives

Japan’s TICAD breaks new ground, clearing a path to the G8 Summit

Over 40 African heads of state, Japanese ministers of state, World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick, and other development agency heads pose on the opening day of TICAD IV

TICAD (Tokyo International Conference on International Development) was established in 1993 by Japan as a high-level policy forum to bring African development issues into focus. This year’s TICAD IV may be remembered as the forum that brought development of the African continent and investment opportunities in Africa into the limelight for the international community.

Over 40 heads of state from Africa, the chair of the African Union, the Prime Minister of Japan and ministers of state, and leading international development organizations convened in Japan for the 4th TICAD last week (May 28-30), a summit co-organized by the Bank, where movement took place on multiple fronts with new initiatives to address poverty and the opportunities of economic growth in Africa.

Robert B. Zoellick met with Japanese Finance Minister Nukaga during TICAD

The global food crisis also made its way onto the agenda in Yokohama, as African leaders spoke urgently in favor of initiatives by the international community to respond to rising food and energy prices that threaten to undermine progress in Africa on economic development and poverty reduction, potentially undermining the Millennium Development Goals.

Held every five years since 1993, this is the first TICAD attended by a World Bank president. Along with the large number of heads of state, this fact seems to have changed the dynamics of the meeting. “TICAD has played an important role in keeping the international community’s attention on Africa, and Africa can be the next pole of growth in the global economy if we can build on gains made in the past decade, continue to promote private sector investment, encourage regional integration, and contain the negative impact of the food prices crisis,” World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick said in an address to the May 28 plenary session. The Japanese government has also forcefully stepped up its diplomacy and financial commitments during TICAD, as the meetings come only two months before it hosts the July G8 Toyako Summit in Hokkaido, and it is trying to shape the agenda as African development, the food crisis, and climate change are expected to feature prominently in Hokkaido.

Prime Minister of Japan Yasuo Fukuda, Deputy Secretary-General of the UN, Dr. Asha-Rose Migiro, and Obiageli Ezekwesili, World Bank AFRVP speak at TICAD IV press conference on May 30 in Yokohama, Japan

Despite the optimistic outlook about a renaissance of African growth, the urgency and immediate risks related to skyrocketing food and energy prices hung over the meetings. Ever since the April 2nd announcement of the Bank’s “New Deal for Global Food Policy,” the Bank and UN agency partners including the Food and Agriculture Organization, World Food Programme, and International Fund for Agricultural Development, have been driving the global response. Mr. Zoellick said that African leaders came to him with urgent pleas for such action.

Zoellick and other UN agency heads reassured numerous African heads of state, at a panel discussion on food prices held on the sidelines during the TICAD meetings on May 29, that their message had been heard. “The message we got from the Africans is that we have to move from discussions to action,” the World Bank President said in a post-panel news conference.

And action is what the Bank President, along with the government of Japan, is now offering. While in Japan, Robert B. Zoellick announced that the Board of Executive Directors has approved a global food crisis responsefacility. Immediate needs related to the food crisis will be addressed with $1.2 billion, including $200 million in grants for the most vulnerable countries like Haiti, Djibouti and Liberia. This new fast-track facility was approved on May 29, and the government of Japan has shown strong interest in working together with the Bank on addressing the food crisis.
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More broadly, the Bank’s financial commitments and resources dedicated to sub-Saharan Africa already are increasing sharply. Fiscal year 2007 commitments were at $7.5 billion, a 30% increase over 2006, including $1.4 billion from IFC. Mr. Zoellick has promised renewed focus on infrastructure and agriculture, while its current portfolio and the Bank’s and the Japanese government is reviewing the current portfolio of Japan and the Bank’s, and he has already announced agriculture lending n Africa will double to $800 million annually. Meanwhile, the Japanese government used the TICAD to announce the provision of new loans up to $4 billion over the next 4 years. In addition to support for infrastructure and agriculture, the Bank and GoJ are supporting other key sectors including education, health, and climate change. Overall, the World Bank Group will expand assistance for agriculture and food-related activities from $4 billion to $6 billion over the next year.

TICAD IV concluded on May 30 with the announcement of a key output from the meetings, the Yokohama Declaration. The declaration includes, for the first time, an action-monitoring mechanism. With the conclusion of TICAD, Japan is now setting the stage for the July G8 Toyako Summit, where Africa will be high on the agenda.

President Zoellick wrapped up his visit to Japan by reviewing the Africa agenda and food prices with Japanese parliamentarians in a breakfast meeting and recording a panel debate on Japan’s national network NHK with the President of Japan’s JICA Sadako Ogata, Bono, and other leaders in the development community.

World Bank, JBIC, and JICA co-organize gender workshop during TICAD

As part of TICAD, the Bank’s Gender and Development program organized a workshop on Gender and Infrastructure titled “The Role of Infrastructure on Women’s Economic Empowerment,” in collaboration with the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The workshop sought to bring gender and infrastructure issues to the fore of the development agenda by creating a space to share experience and knowledge on policies, programs and projects that successfully integrated gender concerns in infrastructure design and to identify areas of cooperation for mainstreaming gender in infrastructure in Africa.

The distinguished speakers included Dr. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia, who exposed the problems faced by women due to lack of infrastructure in the context of a post-conflict country, and Mrs. Obiageli K. Ezekwesili, World Bank Vice President for Africa, who pointed out that women constitute 70 - 80% of the agricultural labor force for food crop production and processing, and that increasing their access to electricity and roads would lead to greater agricultural output, and greater food availability in markets.

Mrs. Ezekwesili also discussed the Bank’s Gender Action Plan (GAP) Gender Equality as Smart Economics, whose objective is to advance women’s economic empowerment. The GAP has so far allocated $1.3 million to the Africa region.

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