Japan is another Asian country that is keenly courting African interest. Much like India, it also held a conference that gathered African leaders in August 2016. Japan’s summit that gathers African heads of state is called the Tokyo International Conference on African Development or TICAD for short. Japan started TICAD in 1993, seven years before China’s FOCAC that inaugurated its ministerial conference in the year 2000. In fact, Japan had been keen to bolster its relations with Africa a long time before China became a contender on the continent.
When TICAD was launched in the early 1990’s, the Cold War was in its concluding stages. The United States and the Soviet Union, once competing in Africa to promote their political ideologies and economic principles, were at risk of abandoning their interests in the continent. According to the Japan International Cooperation Agency, (the country’s government arm responsible for foreign aid), Japan wanted to support development in Africa when “the focus of developed countries had shifted to former republics of the Soviet Union, coupled with “donor fatigue,” when the international community was showing signs of losing interest in Africa and African development.”
Although Japan began its African engagement much earlier, it was not able to sustain its long-term influence in the following years. Ironically, however, it might have contributed to the rise of China in the African continent. Former World Bank economist, Takeshi Daimon, mentions how Japan was a top donor for many African countries in the 1980’s and that “lots of Chinese companies have entered Africa through Japan’s overseas development assistance.” This is because Japan’s aid money allowed for all projects to be open for bidding, allowing Chinese companies to take part. The policy has now been altered so that only Japanese firms and companies of the recipient country are able to tap into the projects.