Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor
Something good is happening between Nigeria and Japan on one hand and Japan and the African continent on the other. The good news is that of all African nations, the Asian leading nation has paid special attention to Nigeria and it is always willing to defend its action. Indeed, more than ever before, Tokyo is pouring in more support in the form of financial, material and human capital development into Nigeria all in a bid to shore up Nigeria’s well being and give its citizens a new lease of life.
One of such assistance manifested last Wednesday in Abuja when the Japanese Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Sadanobu KUSAOKE, officially sent off 29 young Nigerian graduates to Tokyo to participate in its “African Business Education (ABE) Initiative for Youth” programme. The 29 lucky Nigerians are to undergo Master’s degrees and internship under the Japanese Government Official Development Assistance.
The initiative offers opportunities for young and eligible African youths to study at master’s courses in Japanese universities as international students and also experience internships at Japanese enterprises in order to develop effective skills and knowledge in various fields, with the aim of contributing to the development of industries in Africa.
Nigeria benefitted from the programme more than other African countries. Upon their return to Nigeria, the participants are expected to contribute to the development of Nigeria in collaboration with the Japanese private sector.
This came barely two months after the President of Japanese International Cooperation Agency, JICA, Shinichi Kitaoka, had visited Nigeria and inaugurated a number of strategic development projects in part of the country and promised to offer more assistance to the country in the years ahead.
From its inception in Nigeria in 1893, the Japanese International Cooperation Agency is said to have committed projects and assistance worth N600 billion to Nigerian communities particularly in the areas of health, education, water and power supply so as to boost the living standards of the natives.
As the JICA chief puts it, “Nigeria is key to a stable Africa and development and our general interest is to have a stable and prosperous Nigeria. We will, therefore be supporting the stability and growth of Nigeria in all possible ways.”
Beyond the physical facilities, which the Asian nation has built to advance medicare and education in Nigeria, it is also routinely giving significant financial assistance to towards the rehabilitation of Internally-displaced persons in the Northeastern part of Nigeria. The latest of such projects were unveiled by the Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima, on Tuesday. The $3 million (about N10 billion) projects are meant to help IDPs in
Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states on livelihood support and social cohesion, de-radicalisation, counter-terrorism and migration. Shettima was deeply touched by the humanitarian gesture of the Japanese government and he could not hide his feelings of joy, describing it as timely.
“What is more pleasing about the Japanese intervention this time around, is the cheering fact that this support is being extended not only to Bono State but also to our very hospitable sister States of Adamawa and Yobe who have had their fair share of the unfortunateBoko Haram crisis,” the governor said.
Beyond Nigeria, Japan is taking a holistic look at changing the way African works and serves its people so as to reduce the challenges facing the continents. To achieve this aim, Japan is hosting an international conference to brainstorm on the way forward for Africa. The Japanese government is taking the pains to move the 6th Tokyo International Conference on African Development, TICAD, which it normally hosts at home, to Nairobi, the Kenyan Capital, for the first time since the inception of the conference.
This history-making conference, according to the Deputy Head of Japan’s Mission in Nigeria-MASAYA OTSUKA, is to elevate the relationship between Japan and African into a new phase. The conference taking place this weekend in Nairobi, seeks among other things to examine and provide answers to the decline of commodity prices, the vulnerability of Africa’s health systems and the rise of extremism, terrorist attacks and violent conflicts on the continent. In seeking to overcome the challenges staring the continent on the face, TICAD attempt to push for structural reforms through diversification and industrialisation of the continent, promote resilient health care systems and promote social stability.
“The TICAD process has always been built on two principles: African ownership and international partnership. TICAD will support Africa’s own development initiatives, including Agenda 2063, which was adopted by the African Union in 2015,” the Deputy Head of Mission explained at a media parley in Abuja, with the heads of Japanese Export Trade Organisation, JETRO, in Nigeria, Mr. Taku Miyazaki, and the head of Japanese International Cooperation Agency, JICA, in Nigeria, Mr. Hirotaka Nakamura, in attendance.
Apparently to underscore its importance, Miyazaki of JETRO, announced that no fewer than 100 companies from Japan had already indicated interest to attend the TICAD in Nairobi. President Muhammadu Buhari is among the 50 African heads of states already invited to the meeting taking place between August 27-28, 2016. He said that a side event had been planned as part of the conference to provide avenue for the private sector companies to meet and discuss business relating to Africa and its businessmen.
“We cannot solve Nigeria’s problems but we can do something to improve the economic situation by bringing our companies to invest and contribute to the economy. We want to ensure the Nigerian economy is strengthened,” the JETRO head said.
Indeed, Nigeria has over the years emerged as a beautiful bride to the Japanese government, which has been steadily playing the role of a bridegroom to the country. How long the honey moon will last and where the journey is progressing to, remain to be seen in the years ahead. Will successive Tokyo leaders follow the footprints of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe or not?