The long-awaited Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development is getting underway tomorrow morning and Nairobi’s international airport has been a beehive of activity as some 10,000 delegates and participants from around the world have begun to arrive in Kenya.
It is understood that airport personnel like immigration, customs, security services, and airline staff have been prepared for the rush of passenger arrivals, and in a few day departures, to be Kenya’s ambassadors through a friendly disposition and giving their visitors a genuinely warm welcome.
Help desks and ushers are deployed both airside and landside at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and in particular the Kenya Airways terminal – KQ is the official carrier for the event – will be seeing all hands on deck, as will the other terminals too.
Kenyan protocol sources continue to speak of up to 38 Heads of State and Government to arrive from across Africa in Nairobi for the event and ‘Wananchi’, i.e. ordinary Kenyans, will brace for a weekend of key road closures into the city and around the Kenyatta International Convention Centre, where the event and many of the side events will take place.
Some 4.000 Japanese are expected, as part of the official TICAD delegation including Prime Minister The Right Honourable Shinzo Abe, who is accompanied by representatives of hundreds of Japanese companies seeking to invest in Africa or trade with Africa. From across Africa are some 6.000 government officials and private sector participants expected, many of them taking advantage of special fares offered by Kenya Airways.
All previous summits have taken place in Japan, starting with the inaugural event in 1993 and the fact that it was Kenya which was chosen to host the first ever such summit in Africa is neither lost on the Kenyan government nor governments on the continent.
Kenya is East Africa’s economic powerhouse and major infrastructure projects now underway are notably financed by China, Japan’s main economic rival in the Far East, setting the stage for some interesting talks on trade, investments, infrastructure development and no doubt financing too.
Trade volumes, in comparison with China and India, has some way to catch up, as the annual exchange of goods and services is, according to economic data available, stands at only just over 92 billion US Dollars, compared with 330 billion US Dollars for China and 260 billion US Dollars for India.
Kenya’s and East Africa’s agricultural sectors are keenly eyeing an increase in trade for coffee and tea with Japan while flower farms and agro processing and produce exporting companies too are prepared to make a bid to increase Japan’s imports of such products from the region.
There are presently no nonstop air connections between Kenya and Japan and this component too will no doubt be explored to open the way for direct flights between the two countries. Once in place will this not only help trade but also tourism, as Japanese visitors continue to come to Kenya to see ‘Magical Kenya’ close up and personal.
Hotels during the run up to TICAD VI, the summit period itself this weekend and immediately afterwards are said to be all sold out and tourism stakeholders report a keen interest from delegates to seen the annual migration of the wildebeest in the Masai Mara, where lodges and safari camps too will be fully booked for some days to come before delegates depart again for home.