Leaders Gathering In Yokohama For Africa Summit

Leaders gathering in Yokohama for Africa summit

Leaders from over 50 African countries, and officials from a range of international organizations are descending on the Japanese port city of Yokohama, for a three-day summit.

The Tokyo International Conference on African Development, TICAD, will begin soon with an opening address from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

TICAD is the central pillar of Japan's foreign policy in Africa. This is the seventh session of the conference since it began in 1993.

The main focus this year is on promoting Japanese private investment on the continent.

Before the conference officially kicks off, a business expo got underway Wednesday morning. It's an opportunity for both Japanese and African firms to form new partnerships.

Over 150 Japanese companies and organizations from industries such as telecommunications and agriculture are attending the event.

Africa's population is increasing quickly, with the UN projecting that by 2050, one in four people on Earth will be African.

The continent's economy has also been on the upswing -- growing around 3 percent a year.

Those factors make Africa a potentially lucrative market for players like Japan, the US, Europe and China, who are all jostling for influence in the region.

China in particular has been increasing its presence by extending huge loans for major infrastructure projects, as part of its "Belt and Road" initiative.

Officials in Tokyo aim to counter Beijing's approach. They're expected to announce support for training young African engineers, as well as initiatives to make it easier for Japanese businesses to invest on the continent.

TICAD will also address hot-button topics like health care services, security, and environmental concerns.