On 24 March 2021, Stellenbosch University's Department of Political Science and the Embassy of Japan in South Africa co-hosted a webinar to highlight the various ways in which the major economies of Asia engage with Africa, and the developmental and political impacts this could have on the African continent.
The webinar “Japan, Africa and the Free and Open Indo-Pacific" centred on Japan's Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) strategy, a diplomatic initiative of the Japanese government to foster collaboration in areas such as maritime security, trade and infrastructure in the Indo-Pacific region. This region stretches from the Asia-Pacific across the Indian Ocean, to the Middle East and Africa, and is home to many of the world's fastest-growing economies. Through its FOIP strategy, Japan seeks to facilitate physical and institutional connectivity in the region, thereby contributing to global economic growth.
Experts from Asia and Africa tuned in for the event. Their discussions focused on the objectives of the FOIP strategy, the link between the strategy and other major diplomatic initiatives, and the potential for African development.
Japan's ambassador to South Africa, Mr Norio Maruyama, delivered introductory remarks. Keynote speaker Prof Yuichi Hosoya, a professor of international politics at Keio University in Tokyo, then discussed the goals of the FOIP strategy, stressing that the strategy needed to be viewed against a broader geopolitical backdrop. This, according to Prof Hosoya, included the interests of other major economies, in particular China, who was promoting its Belt and Road Initiative.
Finally, Dr Veda Vaidyanathan, a fellow at the Institute of Chinese Studies in New Delhi, India, and Dr Cobus van Staden, senior researcher at the South African Institute of International Affairs, reflected on the role that states such as China and India played in Africa's political economy. Both speakers emphasised the synergies that could be established in Asia's engagement with Africa, and how Asian powers could support infrastructure development on the African continent.
The webinar was hosted with administrative support from SU International. The event built on past programmes of academic, research and exchange collaboration between Japan and South Africa. One such collaboration was a joint seminar held in Stellenbosch in August 2018 to commemorate the centenary of the first Japanese diplomatic mission in Africa, which was established in Cape Town in 1918. The seminar coincided with Stellenbosch University's own 2018 centenary.