TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — African heads of state, representatives of international organizations and private business leaders are in Tunisia this weekend for the eighth iteration of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, a triennial event launched by Japan to promote growth and security in Africa.
Economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, a food crisis worsened by Russia’s war in Ukraine, and climate change are among the challenges facing many African countries as well as some of the topics that are are expected to define the two-day conference, which starts Saturday.
While 30 African heads of state and government are set to attend the event in Tunis, Tunisia’s capital, many key talks will be held remotely, including that of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the summit.
The Japanese government created and hosted the first TICAD summit in 1993. The conferences now are co-organized with the United Nations, the African Union and the World Bank. Since the inaugural meeting, the summits have generated 26 development projects in 20 African countries.
This year, discussions around an increase of Japanese investments in Africa is anticipated — with particular focus on supporting start-ups and food security initiatives. Japan has said it plans to provide assistance for the production of rice, alongside a promised $130 million in food aid.
Africa Center for Strategic Studies, an academic institution of the U.S. Defense Department, compared the conference’s format to the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, “where government, business, and civil society leaders participate on an equal basis.”
However, this weekend’s summit has sparked controversy in Tunis, which faces its own acute economic crisis, including a recent spike in food and gasoline shortages.
Critics have spoken out about organizers’ alleged “white-washing” of the city, which has seen cleaner streets and infrastructure improvements in preparation for the conference summit. One local commentator said the North African capital looked like it had applied makeup to impress participants.
Meanwhile, the journalists’ union in Tunisia issued a statement Friday condemning restrictions on reporting and information around the summit.
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