The President, John Dramani Mahama, made the call yesterday in an intervention at a High Level Plenary Session on Private Sector Development at the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) in Nairobi, Kenya.
It was one of three such plenary meetings for Heads of State and Governments at the TICAD Summit.
President Mahama acknowledged that Japan had been generous to Africa, and noted that its ODA rose from $758 million in 2000 to about $10 billion in 2014, which was very significant and a demonstration of true friendship.
However, he said, when that amount was shared among 54 countries, it would not amount to much.
“To make a significant impact, we believe that not only are there attractive areas for investment, but these also will provide significant returns, certainly higher returns than in the developed world,” he said, adding that “Africa wants to move away from aid to trade”.
The President noted that four Asian countries–Malaysia, Thailand, India and Singapore–received $220 billion in investment from Japan, and said “while we understand that much more will have to go in preparing projects for investment in Africa, we believe that it will be worth our while”.
He acknowledged that the responsibilities did not lie on Japan alone, and stressed the need for Africa to set its house in order.
He suggested a number of measures that African countries could take to enhance their benefits from the cooperation with Japan.
Among other things, he suggested the negotiation of bilateral agreements to create the appropriate legal framework for the promotion and investment, avoidance of double taxation and to ensure predictability, clarity and transparency of business transactions, and taking measures to reduce the cost of doing business in Africa which would include restructuring the public sector and improving their working methods to ensure greater efficiency.
Africa should also ensure the collection and dissemination of accurate and timely statistics and data, as well as local laws to investors to expedite investment decisions and processes.
He also suggested equity participation in investments to spread risk; acquisition of land and other local assets in joint ventures to encourage foreign investors; investing in the training of the youth to make them employable by industry; encouraging public-private partnerships for capital intensive projects and to share cost and spread risks.
President Mahama said “we need the private sector and we are ready to introduce them to the viable opportunities in our countries”.
He said the private sector, academia and civil society should be constantly involved in processes in the development dialogue because they helped to shape economic policies through the consultative process.
That collaboration, he said, could result in exchange of ideas that would end in refining the private sector’s development, as well as formulating policies that would help diversify the economies and promote industrialisation.
The President said Africa had the potential to be the world’s next dynamic growth sector.
“We have the world’s youngest growing population and some of the fastest growing economies, therefore, we are a dynamic market with huge business opportunities for those who are willing and prepared to engage with us to unleash these potentials.”
From Jim Macauley, Nairobi, Kenya