CCfA Continental President worries over declining Japanese commitments

The Continental President of the Civic Commission for Africa (CCfA) Maungo Mooki has called on all African governments to leverage Japan’s experience and technologies to promote and support regional integration.

Mooki, who doubles as TICAD Africa CSO Focal Person was speaking during a virtual Dialogue Session with Japan Africa CSOs ahead of TICAD 8 Summit, which is slated to be held in Tunis, Tunisia later this month from the 27th to 28th.

More importantly, Mooki wants African governments to prioritise the domestication and operationalisation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and to seek Japan’s assistance within the context of the TICAD framework, to develop policies and institutions that facilitate trade, develop industrial capacities, infrastructure, and regional value chains.

She said it is critical to also promote the use of digital technologies that enable teleworking and online education at scale. Speaking on the theme ‘Achieving sustainable and inclusive growth with reduced economic inequalities’ - Mooki, who is a recipient of Japan’s Foreign Minister’s Award, warned that Covid-19 pandemic had severely disrupted Africa’s upward growth trajectory.

She said that COVID-19 has highlighted the need for countries and regions to build value chains at national, regional, and continental levels to reduce vulnerabilities to shocks associated with fluctuations in global market prices and/or health pandemics.

“Building national and regional value chains is crucial as they can bring about new forms of production, technological transfer and development, labor skills upgrade, long-term industrial upgrade, job creation, poverty reduction, inclusive growth, and global networking" she said.

In a post-dialogue interview with Botswana Guardian, Mooki expanded on her submission, saying that in their pursuit to “Build Forward Better,” African governments should not overlook their quest for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In order to achieve this goal, she proposed that African governments must “vigorously” address the social and economic impacts of the ‘Double Crises,’ that is, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Russia-Ukraine war, through the following measures:

At the top, she said they must invest in the domestication and implementation of the African Development Bank’s Hi-5s Strategies. This, she said, calls for investments in infrastructure, human capital, and climate change resilience. Mooki reminded that a UNDP pre-COVID-19 report has shown that implementing the bank’s High-5s would ensure that Africa achieves over 90 percent of the SDGs and the African Union’s Agenda 2063.

Mooki said that Africa’s civil society was grateful to the Government of Japan and other TICAD Co-organizers for their vision in availing financial assistance to doubling investment in Africa for road networks and other infrastructure since TICAD IV in 2008.

“This did result in the development of some of the much-needed infrastructure throughout Africa. We, therefore, call on TICAD VIII to prioritise supporting African governments in their efforts to domesticate and implement the AfDB’s High-5s through availing financial and technological resources in order to assist the continent to achieve the UN SDGs and the AU’s Agenda 2063,” she said.

Mooki enumerated some of the demands of Africa’s civil society to TICAD 8. These include the need to light up and power Africa, because, she said, without universal access to electricity, Africans cannot participate in the new digital economy which has become the new normal in the post-COVID-19 world.

They also demand that Africa be fed. She emphasised that feeding Africa is a pre-condition for inclusive health and wellness for Africans and they want rapid industrialisation in Africa to ensure self-sufficiency in basic necessities such as the production of personal protective equipment (PPEs), medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, food, and other production.

Accelerated integration of the continent provides unique opportunities for building national, regional and continental value chains in all sectors to reduce the vulnerabilities associated with over-dependence on global value chains.

“Ultimately the goal of every policy for Africa should be to improve the quality of life for Africans. Creating jobs for African youths; investing in education, science, technology, and mathematics; and accelerating gender empowerment."

Lastly, she insisted that the twin crises of Covid-19 and the Russia-Ukraine war have demonstrated the need for Africa to strengthen her resilience to global shocks.

“This calls for African governments to reduce dependency, starting by demanding a boost in domestic resource mobilisation; recognising and promoting the dual social and environmental benefits from within their countries by utilising the TALD approach to development; accelerating a just energy transition; promoting innovation and entrepreneurship, especially for women and youth”.

Mooki added that debt management and transparency need to be prioritised so that new debt adds to the growth and promotes a favourable investment climate for Africa if ever Africa is to “Build Forward Better”.

That notwithstanding, she said that African civil society thanks the World Bank and the IMF for introducing the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) during the COVID-19 crisis as it allowed governments to use the freed-up resources to increase social, health, and economic spending in response to the pandemic.

Therefore, she said this calls for the TICAD, as a multi-lateral platform, to implore the World Bank and the IMF, and other DFIs, in their support to enabling countries to focus on responding to the pandemic and building back better, to consider “debt forgiveness to the poorer and debt refinancing for the middle to upper-income countries” to allow them to slowly rebuild their economies.

TICAD is co-corganised by the Government of Japan, the AUC, UNDP, UNOSAA, and the World Bank and is open to other international organizations, regional bodies, private sector, private foundations, civil society, and Africans in the Diaspora.

However, Africa’s civil society has some concerns, chief among them are worried that TICAD as a forum that was set up to help address Africa’s socio-economic challenges is “slowly shifting towards a trade and investment forum”. They are also worried by the ‘seemingly’ current shift in the TICAD assembly that excludes CSOs, regional bodies, and other known partners from in-person participation during TICAD VIII.

The government of Japan has however assured that this is merely due to challenges occasioned by COVID-19 and nothing more. Mooki said they are also concerned by the level of declining assistance, for example, the pronouncement by former Prime Minister H E Shinzo Abe (MHSRIP) during TICAD VI was USD32b and for TICAD VII USD20b only.

Mooki however, hailed the contribution of the late Japanese Prime Minister Abe, to Africa's development,sayng they had enjoyed working with his government.