Ahead of the upcoming Tokyo International Conference of African Development (Ticad) which will be held in Yokohama, Japan, in 2019, Japanese ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary, Okamura Yoshifumi was in the country to solicit ideas may help in preparations for the upcoming conference so that it addresses relevant areas. Our reporter JACOB NANKHONYA caught up with the Japanese envoy and had this conversation.
Why are you in the country?
Japan is hosting Ticad next year and we need more ideas and input for the Ticad. This is the same reason I also visited the offices of African Union (AU) here in Lilongwe.
What is Japan’s opinion of Malawi in this context?
We consider Malawi to be a country of peace and stability but still struggling with poverty and Japan is always ready to help with it to get out of poverty. However, we encourage developing countries like Malawi to come up with solutions to their problems and we just come in to support where there is need. We encourage the people to work for their better future.
Malawi like many African countries is endowed with natural resources yet not doing well economically, where do you think we are not getting it right?
The main problem in African development is that key elements are missing. Elements such as well-organised infrastructure and human resources to sustain economic development. While some African countries have unstable political structure which also negatively affect economic development. Japan is quite ready to help address those areas under the principal of ownership and partnership. We really need African countries to start thinking seriously on how to get rid of those obstacles from the path of development. I am talking about this from a Japanese point of view. You know, most Asian countries are in strong economic growth and development and are becoming steady and strong on the world market. So Japan is witnessing the Asian countries to development and we are proud that our [Japanese] business persons are helping those Asian countries develop.
Are there areas you think Japan would like to work with Malawi as a way of helping it to develop?
As for Malawi I think that the people love peace yet they remain poor, I think that this part of Africa needs to think about promoting agriculture where people can generate revenue enough to take care of their needs such as education and food for a better future. I think that Malawi is a good model in the area of peace and stability and also the poverty reduction through farming and we are very much ready to help Malawi.
Malawi like the rest of the world is facing rapid population growth which is posing a threat to agriculture-related businesses, do you think that there is a way Japan may come in to address this area?
I think that Malawian farmers are good farmers at the same time agriculture should be strengthened with good technology transfer, other farming methods and also postharvest treatment topped with value addition to those farm produce. If Malawi prepares well, the population growth can be good source of human resource for national production. There is good future for Malawi but also good leadership is needed to overcome those problems possible solutions and yes, Japan is ready to help in those areas.
What should third world countries like Malawi expect from the upcoming Ticad conference?
Ticad is a multinational conference where a country should not expect to find all solutions to its problems but rather where experiences are going to be shared. Malawi should think about its future and develop solutions which Japan is more than willing to help. Those things which Malawi can’t resolve by itself but in a regional context it can get assistance.
Are you satisfied with outcome of Ticad since its conception?
You know Ticad is not a magical wand which, by a movement makes things happen. We really expect Malawi not to sit and wait for the money or project brought to them but it needs to think about its future and try for themselves the solutions they can. This is the spirit of self-help and ownership Japan is advocating for even for its people.