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At TICAD7, China is Invisible, but Ever-Present


There’s a real disconnect
at TICAD7 this year. This gap isn’t between Japan and Africa. Rather it’s
between the experience of being inside TICAD and how it’s represented in the
media. The dominant outside narrative is that TICAD is all about China – in
fact, phrasing this as Japan ‘taking on’ China in Africa has almost become a

However, the one place
where China seems absent is inside the ocean liner hull of the Pacifico
Yokohama conference center. Here, the mood is all about the potential for
Japan-Africa business. While the summit’s long list of side events touch on
many familiar developmental themes (climate change, UN Sustainability Goals,
poverty reduction) the suggested solutions frequently veer away from
traditional aid, towards business solutions aimed at achieving a wider good.
This focus reflects a continuation of the goals for African cooperation Japan
set during its G20 presidency this year, one of which was a focus on small,
medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs). This focus has been honed into a
narrative of African success via Japanese investment, a new version of win-win
development. In Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s words: “The
Japanese government will do its utmost to support Japanese enterprises, betting
on the future of Africa,”

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