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Nigeria-Japan relations optimistic on trade, economic advancement despite Covid-19 

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Despite negative perceptions by some analysts that global trade may be reduced by a third as result of the recession caused by the effects of Covid-19, some nations are optimistic of trade, economic growth advancements. The Nigeria-Japan relations are strong on this with workings in the pipe.

Apparently, there are deliberate efforts aimed at foreclosing on any hope of delivering the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

Over the years, relations between Nigeria and Japan, the third largest economy in the world, have been largely economic and trade-driven.

Underpinned by this understanding, in 2019, the Embassy of Nigeria in Japan designed and implemented a programme of activities to further strengthen economic and trade relations between both countries.

While Nigeria celebrates it’s 60th anniversary, this year also marks the 60th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Nigeria and Japan. For this reason, 2020 is a significant year to both countries.

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The Embassy is on the affirmative that despite current challenges, there is good news and reasons to celebrate in the season.

Nigeria benefits through the exportation of different products to Japan, particularly, agricultural and petroleum products. The volume of importation of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) from Nigeria to Japan has been on the increase.

In the same vein, since April 2019, prior to the pandemic, there has been significant increase in the applications for Business and Tourism Visas to Nigeria and “after the successes of the events in 2019, we were recording steady improvements in trade and economic relations between both countries prior to the outbreak of Covid-19,” the Chargé d’Affaires, Embassy of Japan, Tope Adeleye Elias-Fatile said.

According to Mr. Elias-Fatile, in a statement celebrating Nigeria’s independence, in the beginning of 2020, there were efforts made to actively engage relevant agencies of government in Japan whose mandates are related to trade and economic activities. 

Although there were lined-up trade, economic and other events and activities for the year, implementation could not be actualised on any of them due to effects of the pandemic.

“We commenced preparations for the Second Edition of the Annual Seminar for Japanese Companies and Captains of Industry on the economic and trade environment in Nigeria and strategic policies to attract foreign businesses into the Country. 

“It was scheduled for March 26, 2020 and strategically planned to build on the successes recorded at the maiden edition of the Seminar in March, 2019 where over 200 Japanese Companies and Captains of Industries, Members of the DIET (National Assembly), host Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other top Japanese officials from government and the business sectors participated. 

“We commenced preparations for a Trade Mission from Japan to Nigeria, which was scheduled for October. However, these and other trade and economic-related events scheduled for the year were postponed because of Covid-19,” Elias-Fatile explained. 

Both countries also commenced preparations for the 9th Session of Nigeria-Japan Special Partnership Forum (NJSPF) scheduled for June in Tokyo; but it was postponed. The NJSPF is a framework for regular consultations on matters of mutual interest between the two countries. 

The forum was upgraded to the level of a bi-national cooperation at the 6th Session held on August 22nd and 23rd, 2013, in Abuja. 

He informed that after the maiden edition of the Seminar for Japanese Companies and Captains of Industry, the Business Networking Session for Japanese Businessmen and their Nigerian counterparts on the sidelines of the 7th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VII) in Yokohama as well as other trade-related activities organised by the Embassy last year, the Japanese business community developed renewed interest in Nigeria. 

Also, the applications for Visas to Nigeria increased significantly afterwards. 

“Although we have not been able to build substantially on the gains we garnered in 2019, the Embassy is undeterred. We believe that Nigeria and Japan will overcome Covid-19 and come out of this challenging period stronger. 

“As soon as the situation begins to normalise, we shall take steps to pursue Nigerian-Japan relations with vigour and resolute determination, through robust engagements in economic and trade activities.” 
 
Indicators of improved trade and economic relations between Nigeria and Japan include the increase in the number of Japanese companies in Nigeria from 32 in 2017 to 43 today. 

These companies are engaged in different sectors of the economy, including power generation, transmission and distribution, agriculture, machinery, automobile, manufacturing, engineering, electronics, infrastructure, food and seasoning, medical and healthcare, and others. Some of them manufacture products locally in their own plants in Nigeria.

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Another indicator, according to Elias-Fatile, is the increase in the volume of trade and economic activities between both countries. 

“Recent statistics issued by competent government agencies from both countries attest to this positive trajectory. 

“The Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) acknowledges that today, Japan is No.5 foreign investor in Nigeria. Japan is among the top 10 investors in services in Nigeria, among the top 10 investors in solid minerals, the No.5 investor in oil refining and No.5 investor in real estate. 

“Similarly, Japan is among Nigeria’s top 20 import partners and Nigeria’s top 20 export partners. Japan is one of the 20 countries identified by the Commission as strategically important to Nigeria for investment promotion,” Elias-Fatile said. 

It may be recalled that the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) 2020 report reads that “lost decade” looms for countries to foreclosing on any hope of delivering the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, it certain steps are not taken. 

Elias-Fatile, however, believes that initiatives to encourage and support new ideas to expand the scope of trade and economic activities between countries can bolster the networks of trade and economic activities between relevant actors and stakeholders.

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