Call to leverage Japan engagement
The Private Sector Foundation of Lesotho (PSFL) has recommended the formation of a task force comprising members of Lesotho’s delegation to the recent sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) Summit in order to follow up on its deliberations.
Launched by the Japanese government in 1993 to promote African development, peace and security through multilateral cooperation and partnerships, the TICAD conference was held for the first time on African soil in Nairobi, Kenya on 27 and 28 August.
Representatives of the 54 African states, 52 other partnering countries, 74 international and regional organisations as well as representatives of the private sector and civil society from Japan and Africa were in attendance.
PSFL Chief Executive Officer Thabo Qhesi, who was part the delegation, said in an interview with the Lesotho Times this week there were many mutually-beneficial opportunities for collaboration between Japan and Lesotho but unfortunately there was very little by way of follow up.
Mr Qhesi said collaboration with Japan was possible on the levels of government, private sector and civil society. He however said the collaboration was only visible “at a minimal level” in government and private sector.
“In terms of collaboration, Lesotho only features on education and food aid where JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) provides development assistance. That is a small portion given that there are so many areas where JICA can extend support,” Mr Qhesi.
He said Lesotho needed to expand its areas of focus beyond just the education and agriculture sectors.
“There were so many sectors at the Japan Pavilion and the few Lesotho representatives couldn’t absorb all the valuable information that was presented,” Mr Qhesi said.
The Summit identified four pillars as the basis for addressing Africa’s emerging development challenges, namely the decline in global commodity prices, the ebola disease outbreak, radicalisation, terrorism and armed conflict as well as climate change.
Mr Qhesi observed that most Japanese businesses were already partnering with their African counterparts in South Africa, Kenya, and Ghana among other countries.
He however said it appeared some felt that Lesotho’s small population and therefore small market could be an obstacle to business.
The PSFL boss therefore recommended for the formation of a task force to address such concerns and follow up on the summit’s deliberations.
“The Lesotho delegation should form a task force to be chaired by the Ministry of Development Planning to follow up on TICAD VI. It should meet every fortnight.”
For its part, Mr Qhesi said, the PSFL would engage the Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO) office in South Africa in its quest to expose the local business community to opportunities with Japanese companies.
He also called for closer cooperation between relevant government ministries and the private sector.
“The line ministries especially Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Small Business Development, Ministry of Development Planning and Business Associations should take the opportunity to learn from the public-private dialogue in Kenya. The successful hosting of TICAD VI was due to cohesion between the Kenyan government and the Kenya Private Sector Alliance.”
“Since the TICAD initiative has demonstrated its willingness to assist African countries to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the PSFL shall engage Ministry of Development Planning and UNDP to come up with a pragmatic approach which will assist businesses of Lesotho in mainstreaming SDGs initiatives in their programmes.”
Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili led the government delegation which included Trade and Industry Minister Joshua Setipa, Development Planning Minister Mokoto Hloaele and Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) Chief Executive Officer Kelebone Leisanyane among others.
In his remarks to update the nation on the trip this week, Dr Mosisili said one of the highlights of the summit was the US$30 billion funding pledge by Japan for African development.
“We therefore expect the Ministry of Development Planning to take the lead in following up on the funding in order to assist relevant ministries to access it,” he said.