The Japanese Ambassador to Liberia, His Excellency Naoto Nikai, paid a courtesy call on President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at her Foreign Ministry office in Monrovia on Thursday, December 13th, after signing a joint US$33.5 million agreement aimed at providing increased energy to Liberians as well as improving Liberia's food sovereignty.
Ambassador Naoto was accompanied to the Office of the President by Foreign Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan. The two, on behalf of their respective countries, had earlier signed two separate bilateral agreements for Japan's support to Liberia's agriculture and energy sectors.
Under the agreements, US$8.5 million will support Japan's Food Assistance Program in Liberia; and US$25 million is targeted at financing the rehabilitation and expansion of Monrovia's power infrastructure under the Power Assistance Program. It will be jointly implemented by the Liberia Electricity Corporation and the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
According to an Executive Mansion release, Ambassador Nikai stated that his government was pleased to be responding to President Sirleaf's request to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, made during her visit to Tokyo in October. He emphasized that food security is vital for the recovery of Liberia and that Japan is ready to support interventions that will make rice available and more affordable in Liberia.
Ambassador Nikai informed President Sirleaf that Japan remains committed to the reconstruction of Somalia Drive, which links Bushrod Island with the commercial district of Paynesville. He also
reminded her about Liberia's participation in the Fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD V), scheduled for June 2013 in Yokohama, Japan.
Responding, President Sirleaf thanked the Japanese Ambassador for the timely and effective response to her discussion with Prime Minister Noda during her recent visit to Tokyo. She said that with the rising price of grain across the world, support to agriculture and food aid is important for Liberia's stability. "Energy supply to the people is one of the major goals of the government that needs support from our friends and partners," President Sirleaf told the Japanese envoy.
President Sirleaf observed that Liberia's partnership with Japan is fast progressing, and she hoped that there will be practical actions after the signing of the two agreements. She assured the Ambassador that her government will work with him in preparation for TICAD-V, and promised to do everything possible for a successful meeting in Yokohama in 2013. Concerning a Trade Fair that should precede TICAD-V, the Liberian leader assured Ambassador Nikai that with the timely availability of information, Liberia's participation is guaranteed.
President Sirleaf also briefed Ambassador Nikai about the activities of the UN High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Framework, where she serves as one of three co-Chairs, and mentioned an upcoming meeting of the Panel in Monrovia in February 2013. She requested Ambassador Nikai to convey her government's appreciation to Prime Minister Noda for Japan's continuous support to the rebuilding of the country's damaged infrastructure.
Ambassador Nikai's visit to President Sirleaf was witnessed by senior government officials, among them, Foreign Minister Ngafuan; Acting Lands, Mines and Energy Minister Sam Russ; and the Deputy Foreign Minister for International Cooperation, Sando Wayne.