TOKYO International Conference on African Development, “TICAD 6” just ended in Nairobi, Kenya and in attendance were several African Presidents and Prime Ministers including our own Muhammadu Buhari and the co-convener of the conference, Shinzo Abe, the head of the Japanese government.
The TICAD seeks a win-win partnership between Japan and Africa.
A key objective of the conference is to build up African ownership of its own vision of growth and development.
In furtherance of this, Japan seeks to differ with the other players on the continent by placing emphasis on high quality infrastructure that do more than job creation by transferring technology through the training of youth and women.
The conference held every five years from the time it started in 1993 until the last one in 2003 when it was decided that it should be convened every three years instead.
The one that just finished is significant in the sense that this was the first time it took place in Africa.
They met in Japan all the time in the past.
Another significant departure is the recognition of the role of the private sector in the economic take-off of the continent. In this respect, more than 100 Chief Executive Officers, CEOs from leading Japanese companies accompanied Prime Minister Abe.
This is a clear indication that more and more Japanese companies are eying the African continent.
A modest number of Nigerian business and state-owned enterprises were equally present.
From its start, Prime Minister Abe made known the intention of Japan to spend 10 Billion Dollars in the next twelve months and overall USD 30 Billion over a three-year period on areas key to African economies, targeting infrastructural projects such as roads, energy, ports, hospitals and training institutions.
The money will partly be disbursed through the African Development Bank, ADB.
At the end of the conference, a statement tagged “Nairobi Declaration” was issued.
Among its highlights is the launching of “Initiative for Food and Nutrition Security for Africa, IFNA.”
This aims to bring African governments together to swiftly implement food and nutrition security policies and programs.
There were important resolutions taken on economic diversification and industrialization; promotion of “resilient health system for quality of life” and measures for the promotion social stability and shared prosperity.
For Nigeria in particular, “TICAD 6” milestones include the important meeting between President Buhari and Prime Minister Abe, at which event problems militating against the inflow of Japanese investment into Nigeria were discussed and agreed upon.
Japanese companies had done a lot by way of investment in the past in Nigeria but there has noticeably been a drop in the last decade or two.
Chiefly to blame is the problem of security, disguised in official discussions as “business environment.”
President Buhari used this meeting effectively in giving assurances that the problem is being addressed.
Boko Haram terrorism is nearly gone and sabotage in the Niger Delta will soon be ended preferably through dialogue and if not, by force of arms.
Coming into close personal contact for the second time, the two leaders discussed the issues of trade and investment, health, peace and development of the continent.
In addition, they discussed issues in diplomacy and international relations.
President Buhari’s statement at the Head of States’ round table meeting with business leaders underscored the serious efforts government is making to improve Nigeria’s notoriously bad business environment.
At this meeting, he announced the coming into place of a soon-to-be inaugurated “Presidential Enabling Business Council, PEBEC.”
He described it as an inter-ministerial council to oversee the efforts of government to remove various bottlenecks that stifle business and economic activity to give way to the right enabling environment and investment climate in Nigeria.
It will be powered by the government but will be private-sector driven.
According to its vision, the PEBEC will make Nigeria one of the most attractive business destinations in the world.
It will start with the modest effort of moving the country up 20 points in the World Bank ranking in the ease of doing business in the first year, taking it into the top 100 at the end of the four-year mandate of the current administration.
A third takeaway is on the sidelines of the TICAD where the Nigerian government delegation met a good number of big Japanese enterprises.
Collectively and individually, these businesses expressed their intention of either coming in newly or expanding their participation in Nigeria’s private sector.