The seventh Tokyo International Conference for Africa Development (TICAD7) held in Yokoma, Japan opened the eyes of the world to the existing wonders in Japan. Omololu Ogunmade, who was in Japan, writes on the issues that arose at the conference as well as the takeaways
The seventh Tokyo International Conference for Africa Development (TICAD7) ended in Yokohoma city, Japan, on Friday with loads of promises for both Nigeria and other African countries.
TICAD was formed in 1993 in Tokyo to serve as the platform for mutual economic benefits between Japan and Africa.
Although TICAD had been held six times since its formation, this year’s conference, otherwise known as TICAD7, appears to be the loudest, as it was the subject of review in the international media, before, during and after the conference with participants drawn from nearly all African countries and prominent international organisations such as the United Nations (UN), European Union, and the like.
This implies that Japan’s goal to competitively engage China in the battle of wits for African markets is becoming a fruitful adventure.
With the theme, “Advancing Africa’s Development through People, Technology and Innovation,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, declared TICAD 7 open on Wednesday, with virtually all African heads of government in attendance.
Egypt’s President Abdel El-Sisi co-chaired the conference with Prime Minister Abe.
For Nigeria, the event took off with a range of controversies that followed various scathing remarks on the social media against President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to fly to Japan, when some of his African counterparts such as Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Macky Sall of Senegal, were at the G7 meeting, which held in Biaritz, France.
According to critics, Buhari’s decision to head for Japan at the time his host, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, was himself in France spoke volume about the personality of the president, who in their own assumption opted to jettison a more important event for a lesser one.
However, as much as Nigerians, who genuinely expressed their feelings in sincere love for Nigeria, may be commended over Buhari’s decision, they also appeared to have committed what philosophers often describe as the fallacy of hasty generalisation, because they did not first investigate the reason Buhari was not in Biaritz.
In the first instance, G7, which is a group of seven most powerful countries of the world, comprises France, the United States, Canada, Japan, Germany, Italy and Britain. Until its suspension by the group in 2014, Russia was part of the group, hitherto known as G8, but the suspension of Russia over its decision to annex Crimea, reduced the number of the powerful nations to seven and thus, rechristening it as G7.
It is not clear why Nigerians expected Buhari to have attended the G7 summit bearing in mind that Nigeria is not a member of the group. A Nigerian leader can only attend the meeting on invitation to either serve as an observer or make a submission depending on the relevance of the country to an issue under consideration.
But Buhari was not invited to the meeting, and hence, ultimately lacked the qualification to attend the summit as other African leaders, who attended the meeting only did so on invitation.
Back to TICAD7
In Yokohama, Prime Minister Abe, while declaring open TICAD7 on August 28, welcomed African heads of states to the sophisticated city. He recalled that TCAD6 was last held in Nairobi, Kenya, with the theme: “Advancing Africa’s Development through People, Technology and Innovation.”
Abe told the gathering that in the past three years, Japanese private investment in Africa had risen to $20 billion, promising that the $20 billion Japanese investment in Africa today, will yet be increased every passing day.
“Let me introduce something brand new to you. That’s ‘New TICAD,’ born in Nairobi and growing by leaps and bounds. Our New TICAD is a magnificent ‘double E, double I’ springboard. It is a partnership that lifts to greater heights the double E’s of ‘entrepreneurship’ and ‘enterprise,’ along with the double I’s of ‘investment’ and ‘innovation.’
“I make this pledge to you. The Government of Japan will put forth every possible effort so that the power of Japanese private investment of 20 billion dollars in three years should, in the years to come, be surpassed anew from one day to the next. For example, our cooperation with local financial institutions will create a new trade insurance that could cover 100 per cent of your transactions,” Abe had said.
TICAD7 as a Market Place of Ideas
Given the trend of events at the summit, it is appropriate to describe TICAD7 as a market place of ideas. With African leaders dazed by the wonders of innovation and technological advancement in Japan, each leader tried to outdo the other by maximising the opportunity at his disposal at the event to market his country as a potential investment haven.
The drive to benefit from Japan’s enormous wealth and uncommon technological innovation had probably been spurred by Abe’s declaration that Japan would henceforth massively invest in Africa specifically in the area of infrastructure, technological development and healthcare.
Nigeria’s president, Buhari, for instance, dared to portray Nigeria as an investment haven with enormous investment opportunities that guarantee the highest returns. Presenting a speech at the third plenary session of the second day of TICAD7, Buhari described the period of the conference as a “moment of opportunity” which he tagged as the case of “investment meeting opportunities” in Nigeria.
He advocated increased trade and investment in Nigeria by Japan as he unveiled a new initiative, Japan-Nigeria Business Facilitation Council, which he described as Japan’s fresh initiative, conceived to serve as the platform for trade cooperation between Nigeria and Japan.
Appreciating Japan for this initiative, the president, who disclosed that the council would be formally launched upon his return to Nigeria, expressed optimism that this fresh initiative would further foster increased trade and partnership between the two countries.
He described the schedule of TICAD7 as strategic for Nigeria, noting that the event was coming at the time Nigeria was confronting economic challenges, which he said prompted it to diversify the economy to agriculture and manufacturing.
He insisted that the period of the conference was also strategic, because it was taking place at the time Nigeria was not only striving to address both the energy crisis and infrastructure deficit plaguing it, but also at the time the federal government is promoting a private sector-driven economic initiative meant to enhance good governance, human capital development and business climate reform.
“Nigeria appreciates the existing bonds of friendship and economic cooperation with Japan, a strategic partner for our socio-economic development. In this regard, it is our intention to further encourage relationships with key public and private sector stakeholders.
“I am also pleased with the discussions on the establishment of the Japan-Nigeria Business Facilitation Council, an initiative of the Japanese government, which would be launched on our return to Nigeria. I look forward to positive reports of increased trade and investment between Nigeria and Japan from these initiatives,” he said.
Buhari also attempted to maximise the opportunity of the conference to Nigeria’s advantage by proceeding to get Japan acquainted with existing viable sectors in Nigeria, which it can explore.
He further wooed Japan to take advantage of the activities of the Presidential Committee on Enabling Business Environment established by the federal government to enhance ease of doing business in Nigeria, saying the country was committed to eliminating known hindrances to private sector-driven investments in Nigeria through favourable policies.
Specifically, Buhari listed areas of investment, which he urged Japanese investors to explore to include power, renewable energy, petrochemicals, automobile, gas, agribusiness and healthcare, among others.
“Furthermore, our administration has identified important sectors that are key drivers to the diversification of the economy. These include power, transportation, infrastructure, maritime/shipping, agro-processing, mining, manufacturing, petro-chemicals, food processing and textiles, among others. We consider these sectors as priority areas that will drive our economic agenda.
“I have also established a Presidential Committee on Enabling Business Environment, which is made up of key ministries and prominent businessmen to promote the ease of doing business and make Nigeria more attractive and competitive for investment.
In this regard, we are committed to removing all impediments to private sector participation in these sectors by creating policies that will ensure consistency, predictability and a level playing field for all.
“In view of the foregoing, reform programmes of our government, Japanese investors are invited to invest in the following priority sectors in Nigeria, namely, power and renewable energy, petrochemicals and gas, maritime (shipping and ports), automobiles, mining, agribusiness, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, ICT and railway,” he submitted.
The Scramble for Africa Continues…
TICAD is one of the recent initiatives of the world’s leading economies to expand the frontiers of their economic interests in Africa in recent times with a view to benefitting maximally from the recent growth of the African economies. It has recently occurred to advanced countries that the streets of Africa are paved with gold and hence, the need to explore them.
Thus, against the background of the fresh battle for Africa’s fertile economies, China had founded Forum for China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), a platform through which the second largest world economy meets with African countries biennially to pursue mutually beneficial economic interests.
These underscore the resurgence of the scramble for African economies by the two biggest Asian economies in recent times. Furthermore, the world has lately discovered Africa as a breeding economic fertile ground, resulting in a competition for the soul of Africa by China and Japan.
For instance, the August 28, 2018 edition of Japan Times reported that ahead of the takeoff of the conference on Wednesday, “Tokyo is worried that some leaders may cancel their trips right before the summit, because of direct or indirect pressure from China.”
The newspaper further reported that, “Tokyo’s concern highlights the intensifying race on the continent (Africa) among many countries including Japan, China and Russia, to expand their presence there.”
The newspaper also reported that, “From 2000 through 2017, African countries enjoyed relatively high real economic growth of 4.3 per cent on average, which has prompted many Western firms to believe in the future potential of African economies.”
But despite the alleged pressure from China to stop some African leaders from attending TICAD7, the event was a huge success as several African leaders, representatives of international organisations and successful entrepreneurs fully participated in the event.
For instance, Nigeria’s Tolu Elumelu, founder of Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) and President of African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina, made presentations at the event. Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, was also one of the guests at the meeting.
Nigeria’s Takeaways from TICAD7
Although the prospects of TICAD7 are not expected to manifest immediately, yet, it didn’t end without yielding certain on-the-spot benefits for Nigeria. First, Abe pledged to donate $300,000 to the Nigerian Defence College as an expression of Japan’s military support to Nigeria. He also promised to support the country’s public health sector with 12 million Yen.
The Japanese Prime Minister made the pledges, when he led his country’s delegation to a meeting with the Nigerian delegation led by Buhari to the summit.
Second, Nigeria, on the sideline of TICAD7, signed a €50 million memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the European Union (EU) as EU’s support for humanitarian mission and development efforts in Nigeria’s North-east region devastated by Boko Haram terrorist group.
The MoU was signed by Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geofrey Onyeama and EU Commissioner, Neven Mimica, thus reportedly bringing the total EU monetary support to Nigeria to €562million since 2014.