Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed special appreciation to the government of Japan for donating $800 million to the fight against malaria, tuberculosis among other deadly diseases in Nigeria.
The contribution was part of the $1.3 billion made available to the Nigerian health sector by the Global Fund.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) in Nairobi, Kenya yesterday, Buhari gave an assurance that his government would ensure full rehabilitation and resettlement of the victims of the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-east who are currently scattered in different camps as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
The two-day summit which had a theme ‘Advancing Africa’s Sustainable Development Agenda – TICAD Partnership for Prosperity’, was attended by Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe, some 35 African leaders and chief executives of at least 80 major companies from Japan.
The TICAD VI agenda and programme specifically focused on three thematic areas which included “Economic transformation through diversification and industrialisation; promoting resilient health systems for quality life; promoting social stability for shared prosperity.
Buhari said the Nigerian military had decimated the insurgents and that normal life was beginning to return to North-east Nigeria. The president however said the welfare of the IDPs remained his primary responsibility. He commended development partners for their help to improve the lives of the two million IDPs in the country.
He said: “The bottom line is that these problems are our primary responsibility. We must tackle them and find lasting solutions for ourselves. I took over the mantle of leadership in Nigeria when the North-Eastern part of the country was being ravaged by Boko Haram.
‘’However, soon after assumption of office, our administration with the support of our immediate neighbours – Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin – and international partners including Japan, faced the challenge frontally.
‘’As I speak, the terror group has been decimated, and life is beginning to return to normal in the affected region. The challenge we currently face which is also being addressed, is that of the IDPs which number over two million to get them re-integrated with their families and their original homes.”
On the gains of TICAD which was holding on African soil for the first time since its beginning in 1993, the president noted that partnerships between Africa and Japan would help create and improve investment opportunities in industries, agriculture, information technology, science and technology among others for the good of the continent and investors from Japan.
He told the conference that already his government had taken concrete steps to diversify the economy. ‘’In view of the challenges Africa is facing, the imperative for a viable partnership like the Tokyo International Conference on African Development cannot be over emphasised. Today, many countries in Africa including the oil producing ones are wisely seeking to diversify their economies away from mono-cropping.
‘’In Nigeria, our administration has already taken concrete steps to diversify the economy by making agriculture not just a development programme but a thriving business. Investing in the economies of this continent especially through Public-Private-Partnership can contribute to building capacity for our economies,’’ he said.
Prime Minster Abe announced that Japan would be investing $30 billion in different areas ranging from agriculture, industrialisation, health, energy, water among other things in Africa. He expressed delight that finally TICAD has come to Africa.
He said: “With 23 years behind us, TICAD is now on African soil, opening a new chapter in the relationship between Japan and African countries. Throughout the continent, I cannot but think that we are witnessing a quantum leap.
“Today, Africa has leapfrogged over legacy technologies and aims at cutting-edge quality. It is little wonder that an increasing number of young people from Japan find Africa intriguing and want to be a part of it.
“For a period of three years from 2016 to 2018, Japan will invest for the future of Africa through implementing measures centering on developing quality infrastructure, building resilient health system and laying the foundation for peace and stability, amounting to approximately $30 billion under public-private partnership.”
The Japanese prime minister recalled that one of the priority areas in the Nairobi Declaration of TICAD VI was that “Japan will steadily translate into action in Africa the outcomes of the G7 Ise-Shima Summit”. He said his country would contribute to African’s human resources development.
He also said: “Japan will provide training to 1,000 people to promote public awareness for intellectual prosperity in Africa. Japan will promote practical training for youths engaged in the IT industry which is expected to grow in Africa under the collaboration among industrial, public and academic sectors.
“Japan will aim by 2020 to have agreements related to investments signed or entered into force in 100 countries and regions and will intensify work towards concluding them with African countries to achieve the goal above”.
While expressing regret that Africa has no permanent membership at the United Nations Security Council despite huge potentials and contributions the continent has made to the world, the Prime Minister said Agenda 2063 was aimed at rectifying the problems by 2023.
He said: “Africa is now up and running, aiming at long-range goals, aspiring to be a certain kind of continent with certain kinds of countries in 2063. Agenda 2063 — the grandness of this concept, to the best of my knowledge, is simply unparalleled.
“However, the enormous continent of Africa has given no permanent member to the United Nations Security Council. Agenda 2063 states clearly that by 2023, it will rectify this situation. Please accept my complete support on this point.
“You in Africa have a right as a matter of course to demand that the international community better reflect your views. Africa should send a permanent member to the United Nations Security Council by 2023 at the very latest.
“Reform of the United Nations Security Council is truly a goal that Japan and Africa hold in common. I call on everyone here to walk together towards achieving it. Can I have your approval of that?”
Welcoming participants to the conference, Kenyan President, Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta urged the world to support Africa. He pointed out that terrorism was dismembering African countries.
He said: “I am happy that TICAD will be held every three years. Together we must ensure that global trade is supportive of African aspiration. We must press for open and fair trade for the development of human resource for our people.
“Terrorism in particular is threatening or even dismembering some states. Organisations practicing this illicit and savage form of violence are spreading themselves throughout the world. We must also ensure that global governing system response is robust to Africa security as it does to other parts of the world”, he added.
The Chadian, President and Chairman of African Union, Idris Derby called for the establishment of an African Fund against Terrorism (AFT). He also called for massive Japanese investments in Africa.
“AU is happy to be part of TICAD and will play its role. I plead in favour of massive Japanese investments in Africa agriculture, industrialisation, health, energy, water etc. The trend of terrorism compromises…to contribute to African fund against terrorism as was established”, he said.
In a goodwill message, President of World Bank Group, Dr. Jim Yong Kim said the world must stop the illicit flow of stolen funds, recognising that Africa though faced with numerous challenges still had opportunities in energy.
“African countries face key economic challenges, yet there are significant opportunities especially in energy. There are untapped resources. We must stop illicit financial flows”, he said.