Viewpoint: Shinzo Abe

Throughout the African continent, I cannot help but think that we are witnessing a quantum leap. To settle your financial transactions all you need is your phone – that is a service on the forefront of financial technology. Take a look, also, at the ID card that is spreading in many countries. With this, you can get social security payments directly. Today Africa has leapfrogged over legacy technologies and aims for cutting-edge quality. It is little wonder that an increasing number of young people from Japan find Africa intriguing and want to be a part of it.

Take, for example, AfricaScan. It is a company launched in Nairobi by some young people who happened to get to know each other: a Japanese woman who had worked in Senegal as a member of the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV), a Japanese man who had obtained his MBA at Harvard Business School and a man who grew up in Kenya. Visit one of the retail shops they run, known as Blue Spoon Kiosks, and you will see there is an innovative service offered free of charge: you can have your blood pressure checked. Africa has fostered a large number of JOCV members and this same continent has now become the stage for young Japanese entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams.

Africa is now up and running, aiming for long-range goals and aspiring to be a certain kind of continent with certain kinds of countries by 2063. Agenda 2063, the grandness of this concept, is, to the best of my knowledge, simply unparalleled.

However, the enormous continent of Africa has given no permanent member to the UN Security Council. Agenda 2063 states clearly that by 2023 it will rectify this situation. Africans have a right as a matter of course to demand that the international community better reflect your views. Reform of the UN Security Council is truly a goal that Japan and Africa hold in common. I call on everyone to walk together towards achieving it.

In the recent past Africa has not been free from tragedy. The ebola virus claimed over 10,000 lives. Some countries are troubled by the plunge in the price of commodities, while in other nations, peace has been shattered. I should nonetheless ask: Will Africa simply stop moving forward? Whatever problems there are in Africa, they are quite simply there to be solved. And Japan is a country that ardently hopes to resolve the issues facing Africa together with Africa, and will not let up in its efforts. We want to indulge as much vitality and self-confidence as we can from the continent when it is moving forward with eyes firmly fixed on the future.

That is why some 70 Japanese companies have sent executives to the Tokyo International Conference on African Development. We have a feeling in our gut that in Africa, where possibilities abound, Japan can grow vigorously – Japanese companies can grow vigorously. It is Japanese companies that are committed to quality. Theirs is a manufacturing philosophy that holds each individual worker in high esteem. Our hunch is that the time has come to make the best of Japan’s capabilities – and Japanese companies’ capabilities – for the advancement of Africa, where nothing but quality socio-economic development is sought.

We must not let a good opportunity slip away. I declare that we will launch the Japan-Africa Public and Private Economic Forum as a permanent forum. Members of the Japanese Cabinet, together with top executives from Japan’s major business associations and corporations, will visit Africa once every three years. They will meet with their African counterparts to pinpoint issues from the vantage point of businesses, identifying what needs to be done to enable Japanese and African companies to do more business together going forward. This makes it a forum bringing the power of the public and private sectors together to forge solutions.