Nigeria: Looking to Japan for economic revival

President Muhammadu Buhari returned from Nairobi, Kenya last Sunday after attending the sixth meeting of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI), hoping he had made a case for more Japanese assistance for Nigeria as he bids to steer the country back to the path of economic prosperity. LEON USIGBE, who was at the summit, writes on its outcomes.


last weekend, President Muhammadu Buhari, led a delegation to Nairobi, Kenya to participate in the sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI), joining 34 other leaders from the continent.

Launched in 1993, TICAD is a pan-African development forum pioneered by Japan to promote high-level policy dialogue between African leaders and development partners. It is co-organised by the United Nations, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank and the African Union Commission (AUC). Its innovative approaches include advocating African ownership and the international community’s partnership; promoting the participation of international organizations, donor countries, the private sector and non-governmental organisations to Japan-led aid initiatives; and creating follow-up and review mechanisms to ensure progresses of each project. All previous five meetings of TICAD were held in Japan. The sixth meeting in Nairobi with the theme: Advancing Africa’s sustainable development agenda TICAD partnership for prosperity  was thus the first to be held on African soil.

At the conference, Japan and nations sought a new type of win-win partnership amid unstable social and economic conditions on both divides. They attended the conference hopeful of an evolution of a new framework that will create a sustainable business and investment environment that can withstand sharp drops in commodity prices and fight escalating threats such as terrorism, which hampers growth.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on his part, was keen to promote Japanese businesses and push for a bigger share in the last frontier as global players such as China are competing aggressively to gain access to the market. He observed at the summit that Africa had made substantial progress as a continent, keying into some cutting-edge technologies, some of them provided by young Japanese, which have brought benefits to the people of Africa.  But, he recognised that problems remain in Africa though they can be solved. “Whatever problems there are in Africa, they are quite simply there to be solved, period,” he observed in his opening address at the summit, where he also noted: “And Japan is a country that ardently hopes to resolve the issues facing Africa together with Africa, and will not let up in its efforts.”

Abe told the African leaders that his country would “indulge in as much vitality and self-confidence as we can from you, when you are moving forward with your eyes firmly fixed on the future.” He said that was why some 70 Japanese companies sent executives to the  Nairobi TICAD meeting. Stressing the Japanese renewed interest in Africa, he said: “We have a feeling in our gut that in Africa, where possibilities abound, Japan can grow vigorously. Japanese companies can grow vigorously. It is Japanese companies that are committed to quality. Theirs is a manufacturing philosophy that holds each individual worker in high esteem. Our hunch is that the time has come to make the best of Japan’s capabilities, Japanese companies’ capabilities, for the advancement of Africa, where you seek nothing but quality in your socio-economic development. We must not let a good opportunity slip away.”President Buhari was delighted that Japan had kept faith with TICAD with demonstrable commitment towards the realisation of its objectives since its inception, especially given the fact that it already implements some other initiatives like the Yokohama Action Plan 2013-2017, the official Development Aid and investments from Japan to Africa, as well as  the joint engagement: “African Development towards the 21st Century: the Tokyo Agenda for Action,” a landmark action Plan aimed at achieving key deliverables.

Buhari emphasised the imperative of a viable partnership like TICAD, in view of the challenges Africa is facing, saying: “Today, many countries in Africa including the oil-producing ones are wisely seeking to diversify their economies away from mono-cropping.” He believes that a partnership of this nature with Japan will help efforts in transforming African economies. He listed areas ripe for cooperation to include Industries, agriculture, Information Technology, Science and Technology, etc., which he said will be of great benefits to Africa and to investors from Japan.

TICAD VI provided Buhari the opportunity to publicly praise the government of Japan for its assistance to Nigeria in recent times particularly in the effort to defeat Boko Haram where Japanese assistance has been helpful as well as fighting diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis for which Japan has recently donated $800million as part of the $1.3billion made available to the Nigerian Health Sector by the Global Fund. “The Japanese assistance through the United Nations Children’s Fund in the rehabilitation of the victims of Boko Haram has been very heart warming,” Buhari told the TICAD VI summit.

He was also desperate to lure more Japanese private sector players to invest in Nigeria by telling them that one his most important priorities was to create the 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. We believe government has a particular responsibility to create right and attractive environment for businesses and economic activities to thrive,” he assured.

The summit ended with the adoption of a three-year plan titled the Nairobi Declaration that seeks to promote structural economic transformation, resilient healthcare systems and social stability for shared prosperity. Prime Minister Abe told Buhari and the other African leaders that his country would commit $30 billion in public and private support for infrastructure development, education and healthcare expansion in the continent in the next three years. Nigeria can hope for a piece of the pie.