Rule of law will boost Africa-Japan trade


United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned a Tokyo International Conference on Development (Ticad) thematic session on trade, investment enhancement on the continent may fail to meet Ticad objectives unless the tenets of rule of law, human and property rights were adhered to.

Report by Itai Masuku in Yokohama Japan

He warned that corruption and inequitable distribution of benefits of economic development would stymy efforts to bring Africa into the bracket of the next frontier of investment and economic growth.

In particular he singled out opaque mining deals, rampant across the continent as the basis of conflicts within African countries, as threatening peace and stability necessary to support economic prosperity.

Ban made his comments while visiting various Japanese companies who have shown interest in Zimbabwe’s mining industry, but have been obstructed by lack of transparency over mining concessions in the country.

Informed sources said some of the businessmen had interest in exploiting potential gas reserves in Zimbabwe, among other extractions.

Like many Western countries such as the US, Canada, Europe, and Australia, Japanese companies have high tech methods such as satellite mapping, a wealth of information on Zimbabwe’s mineralisation.

The government has admitted that it knows less about its mineral wealth than do several industrialised countries.

While acknowledging Africa’s endowment in mineral and other resources, Ban pointed out the irony that the continent was still plagued by poverty and unemployment, leading to much political instability.

“This is the role that Africa’s leaders must play, (that of ensuring peace and stability for economic growth,” the UN chief said.

It is the consensus of the Ticad V meeting that while peace and stability are bedrocks for economic development, there is now need to accelerate peace-building initiatives across the continent. But to prevent instability, the wealth of African countries must be shared equitably, lest this lead to conflict.

World Bank president Jim Yong Kim also stressed the need for political stability and security on the African continent for the realisation of growth targets.

He believed Africa could achieve better than the 5,3% growth the developing world has been experiencing. He projected Africa’s growth alone this year at 5,11%.
Jim said Africa’s growth rate compared far much better than Europe’s negative 0,2% growth. Jim said while a slowdown in the growth rate of China, the world’s second largest economy and single biggest market could affect Africa’s economic growth rate, this would be counterbalanced by what he termed a pleasant surprise in the growth of the US economy, the world’s largest.

Although Ban bemoaned corruption and lack of transparency in the general business environment in Africa, he commended Tanzania as one country which had taken positive steps towards creating a transparent and enabling environment for business and investment.

African business leaders, represented by Kenya and Ghana, where Japanese firms have successfully opened business that created value addition, threw their weight behind good governance in order to foster a conducive business environment in Africa.