By ISRAEL LAR

As part of his engagements at the just concluded Tokyo International Conference on African Development in Yakohoma Japan, Plateau State Governor Rt. Hon. Simon Bako Lalong has opened discussions on a financing initiative that can see his state accessing funding of up to $300million dollars from AFRIJAPAN to finance projects that will have direct impact on the citizens particularly those in rural areas.

This was contained in a press statement mailed to THE NIGERIA STANDARD from Japan by the Director of Press and Public Affairs to the Governor, Makut Macham.

Lalong who attended one of the side events of the conference, “Grassroots Initiative Fostering Tangible Change in Livelihoods in West Africa”, held talks with Mrs. Rose Oyedele of AFRIJAPAN who spoke on the mandate of the organisation in assisting countries and states to source funds for improving the livelihoods of rural dwellers. Oyedele assured the Governor that Plateau State qualifies for such funding.

Gov. Lalong was delighted on the window of opportunity and assured that his administration would swing into action immediately towards meeting all the requirements to facilitate the funding of many critical projects especially the “Legacy Projects” spread across all parts of the state.

He was happy to learn that the funds which are given under a 3 years moratorium with repayment period of 15 years in the first instance, can eventually translate to grant subject to satisfactory application and utilization.

The Governor was part of a delegation from the Nigerian Governor’s Forum attending the Japan-Africa Business EXPO and Fair in Yakohoma, Japan as part of this year’s Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 7).

Gov. Lalong in company of the Chairman of the Nigerian Governor’s Forum Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State and his counterparts from Niger, Sani Bello and Samuel Ortom of Benue State also attended among other events the Seminar/Symposium of the Japan-Africa Business Forum, organised by Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO).

Gov. Lalong took particular interest on theme of the forum which centred on investment promotion, business matching/networking between Nigerian and Japanese companies and other trade facilitation initiatives.

At the plenary session dedicated to the Public-Private Business Dialogue between the public and private sectors from Japan and Africa, Gov. Lalong used the opportunity to market the investment potentials of Plateau State in the areas of agriculture, tourism, solid minerals, innovation and skills development, energy as well as transportation.

The Governor met with various participants and companies during the Coalition for Africa Rice Development (CARD) high level meeting where he extracted some commitments towards boosting the rice production capacity of Plateau State as part of the national rice development programme.

He also had a one-on-one engagement with investors in Food Value Chain where he discussed the value addition programme of the state in potatoes, vegetables, livestock and diary production among other agricultural products.

His presentation elicited interest among Japanese and African companies who have capacity for large scale food value chain activity that Plateau urgently yearns for.

During the Japanese Companies for Africa event, the Governor was captivated by the presence of many exhibitors that support Small and Medium Enterprises development in Africa.

He therefore used the opportunity to talk about the work of the Plateau Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency PLASMIDA which is providing training and empowerment opportunities for thousands of youths in the state and creating jobs.

He expressed willingness to partner with the investors to build on the achievements of young innovators in Plateau State such as Jerry Mallo, a citizen of the state who is a national icon for innovation, business development and entrepreneurship with many patents and fabrications to his name.

Gov. Lalong also got firm commitment from some interested investors who are willing to visit Plateau State in the shortest time possible to move the initial engagements at Yakohoma forward.

He was accompanied to the event by a member of the Plateau State Economic Team, Prof. Ekoja Benjamin Ekoja, Mr. Haggai Gutap, DG PLASMIDA and the Managing Director of the Plateau Investment and Property Development Company, Mr. Chrysogonus Yilzak.

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