Japan’s Engagement with Africa

In modern times, Japanese and African relations can be traced back to the 1960s when Japan started its Official Development Assistance (ODA) program to Sub-Saharan Africa with the aim of promoting economic development and welfare. The oil crisis in the 1970s made Japan shift its strategy in Africa by developing stronger links with a wider range of nations but keeping a focus on oil exporter countries such as Nigeria.
With the end of the Cold War and collapse of Soviet-sponsored states in Africa, Japan’s interest in locating strategic partners in the continent only grew. Its strategy remained fairly unchanged though, as Japan continued to use foreign aid and loans as a driver of foreign policy in Africa. From 1991 to 1997, Japan had ranked top amongst the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) peers and became a leading donor for several states in Africa.

Urbanization in Sub-Saharan Africa: Access to Electricity

The centrepiece of the evolution of any city is access to electricity. However, this basic element of modern life, and what most of the people take for granted, does not reach a large proportion of the population living in Sub-Saharan Africa. Only 40% of the people in that region have access to electricity. This number gets even smaller in the rural areas, where less than 25% of the population can turn on a lamp at night (Figure 1). This is the third article of the “Urbanization in Sub-Saharan Africa” series, following “City Master Plans” and “Affordable Housing.”

Urbanization in Sub-Saharan Africa: Affordable Housing

The growing urban population in Sub-Saharan Africa is rapidly driving up the demand for affordable housing in urban areas. On the one hand, there is the opportunity to build a more inclusive future, where every citizen has a decent house to call home. With the right policies and focused implementation, cities can concentrate businesses and services such as schools, hospitals and police, which allow more people to enjoy them. On the other hand, there is the difficulty of building infrastructure at a faster pace than that of the growth of the urban population, and of revamping slums and poorly planned areas. This is the second article on the “Urbanization in Sub-Saharan Africa” series, following the “City Master Plans” article.

Urbanization in Sub-Saharan Africa: City Master Plans

Sub-Saharan Africa is undergoing a wave of changes as its urban population grows in an unprecedented pace. Since the beginning of the century, the urban population in the region grew by more than 200 million.
Among the companies engaged in this transformation, we have Surbana Jurong, Hyflux and Meinhardt: three Singapore companies prominent in the infrastructure business.

Smart Cities in Africa: Nairobi and Cape Town

Smart cities leverage on technology and use the large amount of data their citizens generate every second to optimize resources, to connect people and to improve business and trading. A smart city targets energy savings and adopts environmentally friendly technologies, which helps promoting sustainable development.
Nairobi and Cape Town rank among the most advanced cities on the African continent on the smart city front. Nairobi, capital of Kenya and home to over 3 million people, won the title of Most Intelligent City in Africa for two years in a row. Going south, Cape Town blossoms as one of the best places to do business in the continent as the South African government continuously implements thoughtful planning and cutting edge technology to attract businesses and improve the lives of its citizens. Both Nairobi and Cape Town look at Singapore as a role model for the city of the future.

Integration Efforts in the East African Community

The East African Community (EAC) is an economic bloc formed by Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. The countries have a history of cooperation dating back to the early 20th century. In the recent years, they have started various infrastructure projects to improve the connection between its members, ultimately decreasing the cost of doing business and making the bloc more attractive to trade with foreign countries.

Singapore is enjoying this opportunity, with investments in the African continent growing at a compound rate of 12% per year; the city-state has traded more than US$400 million with the EAC alone in 2013. Singapore is currently involved in various businesses in the region, ranging from agriculture to digital logistics solutions, and is eager to expand its presence even more. This pace will increase as legal frameworks and institutions covering the whole EAC bloc gain strength and eliminate corruption in the region; and when basic infrastructure problems are solved and an easy flow of goods and services is reached in the region.