TICAD 2016 as a New Vista for the Nigeria Economy

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The Trade Commissioner and Managing Director of Japan External Trade Organisation, Lagos, Taku Miyazaki, on his return from the 2016 Tokyo International Conference on African Development, held in Nairobi, Kenya, told Raheem Akingbolu that the conference touched on deepening Nigeria-Japan bilateral relations

With a promise of implementing measures centering on developing quality infrastructure, building resilient health system and laying the foundation for peace and stability, amounting to approximately USD 30 billion under public-private partnership in Africa, Japan might have seen the need to invest more infrastructural development of the continent.

According to the Managing Director of Japan External Trade Organisation, JETRO, Lagos, Taku Miyazaki, who spoke to journalists on the various activities that shaped the sixth Tokyo International Conference on Africa’s Development, TICAD IV, in Nairobi, Kenya, Japan has decided to invest for the future of Africa for a period of three years from 2016 to 2018.

Speaking about the relevance of the conference to African nations, the managing director said TICAD remains a unique process that has contributed remarkably to Africa’s development and regional integration agenda.

“It is a forum that promotes synergy with a candid and heart-to-heart communication among Africa, Japan and the international community and values the sense of equality and mutual benefit. We recognise that Africa is a dynamic continent that now hosts most of the fastest growing economies in the world. This has led to an increase the in the number of countries progress from low income to middle income status,” he said.

To Nigerians, including President MuhammaduBuhari, who attended the conference, the declaration holds a great promise for if the promised is kept. The theme of the conference according to Miyazaki was; “Advancing Africa’s Sustainable Development Agenda-TICAD Partnership for Prosperity”. Buhari, according to the JETRO boss particularly called for increased participation of the Japanese government and the private sector in the Nigerian economy.

Miyazaki pointed out that the interest to develop the continent informed the decision by the Japanese government to move the venue of the conference to Africa. Hitherto, Tokyo, the political capital of Japan, had always hosted the event since its inception in 1993. The latest edition of the event attracted over 35 African countries including Nigeria. Also, chief executives of about 80 major companies from Japan were present.

Agenda for development

“The TICAD VI agenda focused on three areas: “Economic transformation through diversification and industrialisation; promoting resilient health systems for quality life and promoting social stability for shared prosperity. To this end, $30 billion has been earmarked for investments in various areas of Africa’s development: Infrastructure, health, industrialisation, water, energy, agriculture, et cetera for three years starting from this year. The Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, who made the announcement while addressing the conference, was quoted as saying that Japan is, by the token, committed to the greatness of Africa’s future.
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,” he added.

Under Economic Diversification and Industrialisation, Abe 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”. “Japan will provide training to 1,000 people to promote public awareness for intellectual prosperity in Africa”, the Prime Minister said, adding: “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”.

Take away from the conference

For Nigeria, the conference provided a healthy economic opportunity. Apart from being an appreciable buyer of Japanese made vehicles, the diplomatic relationship between the two countries speaks volumes. But both countries needed to take their relationship a notch higher and explore more new grounds. This was why President MuhammaduBuhari engaged in bilateral talks with Abe. Buhari’s presentation was direct and simple: Nigeria has decimated Boko Haram and would also contain the crisis in the Niger Delta.

Buhari was also reported to have held bilateral meeting with Prime Minister of Japan H.E. Shinzo Abe at the sidelines of the event.

Recalling his audience with G7 leaders in Germany, which was attended by the Japanese Prime Minister, Buhari thanked Japan for responding positively to the request for the rehabilitation of victims of BokoHaram and rebuilding of infrastructure in north eastern Nigeria. The President, however, said there was still more to do on education, health and other infrastructure to ensure quick and voluntary return of displaced persons to their native communities. Nigeria’s support to Japan on the United Nations Security Council reform, the President agreed to work with Japan to achieve it, stressing that the case for a permanent seat for Africa on the council was a moral one. He equally expressed Nigeria’s support for Japan in its bid for a UN resolution on the problems in East China and South China as well as the “uncontrolled nuclear tests by North Korea.” “The UN system is sufficient for the resolutions of all disputes and no nation should be above the United Nations. This has to be made absolutely clear and I assure the Prime Minister that I will meet as many leaders as possible at the forthcoming UN General Assembly concerning the issues”, Buhari said.

“We are creating enabling business climate in Nigeria’ While making his submission at the plenary session on “Dialogue with the priave sector” at TICAD, the President told the Japanese business community that Nigeria’s business environment was now healthy for investors. He explained that government had established a Presidential Enabling Environment Council, PEEC, and Inter-Ministerial Council to eliminate inherent and artificial bottlenecks likely to impede the ease of doing business in Nigeria. Buhari hoped that the efforts would move Nigeria from the rating of World Bank’s business index to 20 places this year and be in the top 100 within the next three years. “One of the most important priorities is to create right and enabling environment for business and investors in Nigeria. Our vision and objective is to make Nigeria one of the most attractive and the easiest places of doing business in the world”, he said. “We believe government has a particular responsibility to create right and attractive environment for businesses and economic activities to thrive. “In furtherance of this vision, we have launched the Presidential Enabling Environment Council, PEEC and Inter-Miniterial Council to oversee the efforts of government to remove various bottlenecks that stifle businesses and economic activities and thereby create economic activities; thereby create the right enabling environment and investment climate in Nigeria.
“The secretariat will include strong private sector representation that would be led by experienced business professionals from the private sector. We are committed to moving up the rating of the world bank’s ease of doing business index 20 places in first year and be in the top 100 within the next three years”. Buhari said Japan’s story of rapid economic growth, hardwork and advanced technology should encourage Africans to strive harder and solve its development challenges.

“Japan has greatly advanced in technology, particularly in solar power infrastructure to spur growth in medium and small-scale industries. Because of the advanced use of technology, farming and agriculture can become competitive. Japan has the knowledge, technology and capital to assist African countries to develop and Japanese firms are in a very good position to successfully compete for the development of infrastructure in Nigeria,” he said.