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Japan outstretching to Africa Ė unraveling TICAD
By Titus Boye-Thompson, Strategic Media & Development Communications Unit
Jun 5, 2013, 17:02
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The Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) is a major vehicle for accentuating Japaís development aspirations for Africa.Held every four years, this conference, co-sponsored by the UNDP, UNOSAA and the World Bank have become a strategic framework for directing Japanís aid and economic development partnership to Africa. The fifth TICAD¬† conference to which Sierra Leone was represented by the President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma and his wife has just ended in Yokohama. An analysis of the objectives and aspirations of the fourth conference would offer a proper background of this event and also accord a balanced view of the significance of such gathering to Sierra Leone.

 

The conference supporters including the UN Office of the Special Adviser on Africa are agreed on the fact that Sub-Saharan Africa has made substantial progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) but yet still face serious challenges in areas of health and education. There is also the evidence of slow rates of growth in these areas and in some countries reverse trends have been experienced. The setbacks of the global economic and financial crises also hit hard on these countries due to reduced aid flows and adverse trading conditions and outcomes. The result has been very serious co9ncern that unless increased aid and a greater commitment and political will is exercised by African leaders, some countries will miss the targets set by the MDGs. It is to address these challenges and to secure a fast track route on progress for the implementation of the Yokohama plan of Action that the major stakeholders including African Ministers met at Arusha, Tanzania in May 2nd¬†to 5th¬†2008. At that meeting, major commitments were made especially by the Government of Japan, and these include specifically a doubling of Japanís Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) to Africa by 2012.

 

It is significant to note that most major economic powers including Japan, sees Africa as a continent of hope and the next major arena for development and trade activities. In the event, support to the continent to augment its standing as a major trade and development partner is driven by international communiquťs and donor round conferences of the type that secures sustainable growth for the continent. In essence, the ďYokohama DeclarationĒ outlines principles for advancing African development among TICAD stakeholders as well as the ďYokohama Action PlanĒ and the TICAD IV Follow-Up Mechanism, laying out a road map for action-oriented initiatives centred around four major pillars, namely accelerating growth, achieving the MDGs, consolidating peace, and addressing environmental and climate change issues.TICD IV was attended by representatives from 51 African countries including 41 Heads of State and Government and more than 5,000 participants.

 

As a result of improving relations between Japan and its major partners in Africa, investments through Public Private Partnerships (PPP) are yielding important joint ventures. The Japanese Government pledged in the meantime to increase or otherwise double its direct investment to Africa by 2012 by boosting economic growth and by proactively disseminating investment related information on Africa, strengthening measures to support Japanese trade with Africa. In a period of around a year between JanuaRy 2009 and March 2010, 15 trade missions were fielded with directed support from the Japanese Government to Africa.

 

In 2009, the Government of Japan initiated support for the promotion of the Bottom of Pyramid (BoP) concept, a sustainable business model targeting the poorer segments of society that will contribute to the social and development agenda. In the event, development of support mechanisms for BoP by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) have since been leveraged. It is also significant to¬† note that in order to fully sustain BoP, a business value chain approach that recognizes and incorporate those at the bottom as a market, consumers and producers is essential. In this context, the ďOne village, one productĒ (OVOP) approach is being pursued by JICA and JETRO and the ďOne village Industrial ClusterĒ (OVIC) approach by UNIDO.

 

The significance of this conference to Sierra Leone is massive. It was critical for resident Koroma to be engaged on such podiums that would augur well for the economic advancement of Sierra Leone. It is through such engagements that the rankings for Sierra Leone as a destination for development assistance and international investment funds can be improved.¬† President Koroma would do well to speak forcefully for Sierra Leone as a country ready for business and open to international investors. In terms of sustaining the growth potential, President Koromaís presence at such august gathering should =shed some light on the need to I prove infrastructure such as energy, a-water resources and roads, to strengthen Sierra Leoneís road and transportation networks, increase productivity in agriculture and establishing an economic ca=value chain for agriculture. Japan is well known for being an engineering giant but one with very limited agricultural base. There may be synergies for offsetting carbon credits with Sierra Leone receiving an environmental dividend for its vast forest reserves and natural environments.

 

There are also very good signs that Sierra Leone may stand o benefit from increased trade and aid flows from Japan. The improved scores experienced in the World Bank ďDoing BusinessĒ indices would augur well for this countryís chances of improving relations with Japan. Strides on good governance and the promotion of democracy are also signal indices that would propel Sierra Leone to increased advantage over other African countries. The significance of these achievements cannot be underscored and in terms of their being translated to economic benefits can only attest to the Presidentís vision for prosperity. That¬† these issues need to be raised in a pragmatic and cohesive way is paramount and the inclusion of the Presidential Adviser, Hon I B Kargbo, a seasoned communicator and experienced media person is indicative of the reasoned decision to make effective communications of the Presidentís achievements in order to propel his persona on such an august International stage a serious consideration.

 

In the event, TICAD V promises increased commitment by Japan in its relationship with Africa by the promotion of trade, investment and tourism.Identifying effective roles for the private sector through Public-Private Partnerships including exploring new frontiers in BoP and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).Sierra Leoneís participation at such a conference is beneficial and in the event, offers this country the opportunity to show the world how serious it is for growth and development.


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