Tunisia hosts Japan-Africa economic cooperation meeting

Tunis, Tunisia — African heads of state, representatives of international organizations and private business leaders gathered in Tunisia on Saturday for the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, a three-day event. once a year launched by Japan to promote growth and security in Africa.

The economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the food crisis made worse by Russia’s war in Ukraine, and climate change are among the challenges many African countries are expected to face. present for the two-day conference.

Tensions between African countries also weighed on the meeting: On Friday, Morocco announced a boycott of the event and recalled its ambassador to Tunisia to protest the inclusion of representatives of the Polisario Front fighting for independence. for Western Sahara.

The conference comes as Russia and China seek to increase their economic and other influence in Africa.

While 30 African heads of state and governments attended the event in Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, many important talks are being held remotely, including those involving the Japanese Prime Minister. Fumio Kishida, who tested positive for COVID-19 before the summit.

The Japanese government established and hosted the first TICAD summit in 1993. The conferences are now co-organized with the United Nations, the African Union and the World Bank. The summits have generated 26 development projects in 20 African countries.

This year, it is expected to discuss the increase in Japanese investment in Africa, with a particular focus on supporting start-up initiatives and food security. Japan said it plans to provide rice production support, along with a promised $130 million in food aid.

The Africa Center for Strategic Studies, an academic organization of the US Department of Defense, compared the format of the conference to the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, “where leaders are government, business and civil society participate on an equal basis.”

However, this weekend’s summit has sparked controversy in Tunis, which is facing its own severe economic crisis, including a spike in food and gasoline shortages. recently.

Critics have been vocal about organizers allegedly “bleaching” the city, which has seen cleaner streets and improved infrastructure in preparation for the summit. A local commentator said the North African capital looked like it had put on make-up to impress the participants.

Meanwhile, the association of journalists in Tunisia released a statement on Friday condemning the restrictions on coverage and information surrounding the summit.

Morocco’s complaint stemmed from Tunisia’s invitation to the Polisario Front leader to attend. Morocco annexed Western Sahara from Spain in 1975 and the Polisario Front fought to make it an independent country until a cease-fire in 1991. It’s a very sensitive issue in Morocco, which is currently struggling. seeks international recognition of its jurisdiction over Western Sahara.

“The welcome of the head of state of Tunisia to the leader of the separatist militia is a serious and unprecedented act, which deeply hurts the feelings of the Moroccan people,” the foreign ministry said. Morocco said in a statement.

Morocco announced its withdrawal from the conference and recalled its ambassador for consultations. But the ministry said the decision “does not raise questions about the Kingdom of Morocco’s commitment to Africa’s interests.”


Tarik El-Barakah of Rabat, Morocco in attendance.


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