From humanitarianism to trade promotion: the changing emphasis of Japanese development co-operation to Africa

  • Shoko Yamada Graduate School of International Development, Nagoya University Nagoya, Japan


It is only in the last 20 years that Africa has become a region to which Japanese official development assistance (ODA) personnel have attached significance. Until then, in its development aid programs, Japan long focused on Asian countries with which it has strong relationships, not only in terms of history and culture, but also economically and politically. As Japan became the top bi-lateral donor in 1989, it started to explore its unique approach of leadership in international development and launched the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), which has convened every five years since 1993. The latest conference (TICAD V) was held in 2013. In this article, the author examines the diverse interests of stakeholders involved in the discourse on aid to Africa from business, diplomatic, and humanitarian perspectives. The background of these different motives will be analysed through published and unpublished documents, supplemented by interviews with people involved in the planning and implementation of TICADs, particularly those in 2008 and 2013. The paper find that while Japanese aid to Africa will likely be sustained at the current levels, the focus is likely to shift more toward pragmatic partnerships between African states and Japan economically and diplomatically.