By HENRY OWINO (Senior Science Correspondent)

African leaders who attended the just concluded TICAD 7 forum held on 28-30 August 2019, in Yokohama, Japan applauded the host country for their role in shaping African development through technology.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa welcomed Japan’s efforts to boost technology on the African continent. He acknowledged Science and Technology in Society (STS) by TICAD 7, a conference that focused on African development.

“South Africa endorses the focus on science, technology, and innovation as a priority theme for TICAD 7, given its great potential to accelerate African development through mutually beneficial partnerships with Japan,” President Ramaphosa told participants.

“The STS forum has successfully changed global discourse on the role of science in development, we seek the forum’s support in changing the discourse on the role of Africa in science and innovation,” President Ramaphosa concluded.

Over twenty African presidents and other highly ranked leaders participated in this seventh edition Summit.

Mr Sameh Shoukry, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt stated an intention to strengthen partnerships and to aim to achieve AU Agenda 2063 and SDGs through the TICAD7 process, under the theme of TICAD 7, “Advancing Africa’s Development through People, Technology and Innovation”.

Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) is the largest international conference held in Japan.

It is an international conference led by the Japanese government and co-sponsored by the United Nations, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the African Union Commission (AUC) and the World Bank.

According to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, science, technology and innovation as well as human resource development are critical in Africa, the continent with the biggest potential on earth.

Prime Minister Abe said the STS forum is one of the largest and most influential nonprofit organizations established in 2004 by Koji Omi, a former Japanese Minister of Finance, adding the forum aimed to strengthen cooperation between Japan and Africa in science, technology, and innovation.

In his address, Prime Minister Abe also noted the important role that science and technology played in the history of Japan’s modernization.

In attendance were Yasutoshi Nishimura, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary, Ramaphosa, Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank Group, Koji Omi, founder and chairman of the STS forum, and Asako Omi, member of Japan’s House of Representatives.

Adesina shared insights on the Bank’s work and support to train and develop the next generation of scientists. Since 2005 the Bank has provided financing of over $2 billion to support education, resulting in educational opportunities for 6 million students.

“We are proud of our investment in supporting the establishment of the Regional Center of Excellence in Kigali in conjunction with the Carnegie Mellon University, which is providing world-class Masters degree training in ICT. I am delighted that all the students that have graduated from the university have 100% employment, including setting up their businesses,” Adesina said in his keynote remarks.

The Bank has supported the establishment of ICT digital parks in Senegal and Cape Verde and is working with the Rockefeller Foundation, Microsoft, Facebook, LinkedIn and Safaricom to establish coding centers in several countries.

Adesina offered some key areas to prioritize in science and technology, including the establishment of regional centers of excellence; the urgent need to increase the share of GDP devoted to science and technology and close the gender gap in higher education.

“Let’s be visionary. Let’s be bold. Let’s support concrete initiatives to boost science, technology, and innovation in Africa,” he concluded.

Ministers for Science and Technology, Ambassadors, executives of international and national Agencies and business in Africa and Japan attended the Forum.

In this meeting, the measures expressed during the TICAD process over the past three years were also presented through the ‘TICAD VI Report 2016-2018’.

The government of Japan leads the conference with co-hosts such as the United Nations, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), World Bank and African Union Commission (AUC).

TICAD is a summit-level international conference regarding development of Africa launched by Japan in 1993. TICAD was held every 5 years until TICAD V (2013).

The hosting period was shortened to 3 years since TICAD 6 (2016), during which it was held for the first time in Africa ( Nairobi, Kenya).

Aside from the main deliberations by presidents, heads of state and government representatives, there are a number of side events slated for countries to engage in bilateral talks with the host nation and among themselves.

During TICAD 6, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, disclosed that Africa will benefit from a $30 billion investment package by 2018 including a $10 billion investment in infrastructural development.

“When combined with the investment from the private sector, I expect the total real amount to be $30 billion. This is an investment that has faith in Africa’s future,” he said at the time.

TICAD is therefore seen as Japan’s own way of seeking to consolidate its influence across the continent much like with the Forum for China – Africa.