In preparation of the August 28 - 30 Ticad 7 in Yokohama, Japan | 27 July 2019
African journalists get greater insight into Japan’s relations, cooperation with Africa
Japan’s cooperation with various African countries including Seychelles, the different initiatives the Japanese government has come up with to support development on the African continent in different sectors will be showcased during a three-day conference on Africa to be held at the end of August in the city of Yokohama.
As it prepares to host the 7thTokyo International Conference on African Development (Ticad 7) from August 28 to 30, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) have each hosted at the beginning of July a group of journalists from a number of African countries to discover firsthand and to learn more about and better understand the various Japanese initiatives to boost development and economic growth throughout the African continent. These are through cooperation in business partnerships, technology transfer, capacity-building, to name but a few.
The journalists from Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Egypt, Mozambique and Seychelles were able to appreciate the Asian country’s economic, environmental and technological developments and visited several institutions and agencies working to deliver and provide the assistance and support to Africa on behalf of the Japanese government.
Initiated by the Japanese government in 1993, the conference has been held every five years until the Ticad V in 2013 and every three years since the Ticad VI in August 2016 which was for the first time held in Africa, in Nairobi, Kenya.
The city of Yokohama has hosted Ticads IV and V in 2008 and 2013 respectively and it is gearing up to welcome Ticad 7.
Aim and objective of Ticad
The aim and objective of such a conference spearheaded by the Japanese government, co-sponsored by the United Nations, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank and the African Union Commission (AUC), is to support and promote development, peace and security on the African continent as well as encourage international partnership initiatives to further boost development throughout Africa.
Ticad was initiated at a time when African countries were looking for partnerships, skills development, technology transfer and support to boost their human capacity for them to take ownership of their respective development rather than just continue to advocate for international aid handouts.
Over the past 20 years, the Ticad has evolved into a major global, open and multilateral forum for mobilising and sustaining international support for Africa’s development under the principles of African “ownership” and international “partnership”.
The Nairobi Declaration adopted during the Ticad VI also emphasised that structural economic transformation through diversification and industrialisation, resilient health systems, social and political stability were key to tackling challenges that the African continent is facing. To help address these, the Japanese government committed then to invest in the future of Africa by supporting quality infrastructure, building resilient health systems and consolidating peace and stability.
The Japanese International Cooperation Agency (Jica), the organisation responsible to deliver and administer Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) in developing countries, has been taking various actions and demonstrating steady results for the future of Africa with a view to also achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Ticad is contributing in facilitating and promoting high-level policy dialogue between African leaders and Africa’s development partners on issues pertaining to economic growth, trade and investment, sustainable development, human security, peace and stability. The Ticad process also actively promotes South-South and triangular cooperation, in addition to traditional cooperation.
The theme for Ticad 7 is ‘Advancing Africa’s Development through People, Technology and Innovation’, a theme which the experts say matches Japan's strengths in human resource development as well as science, technology and innovation. Under this theme, Japan wants to strongly boost Africa’s development in all sectors and this through its continued support to promote economic transformation so as to improve the quality of life as well as to promote social stability in countries on the African continent.
Through this theme, Japan is also hoping that there will be a growing interest in the numerous potentials for economic development for Africa and Ticad 7 both domestically and internationally.
Welcoming the African journalists
The group of journalists invited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was welcomed at the start of their visit for a briefing at the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs at Kasumigaseki in Chiyoda by Shingo Taguchi, deputy director for the ministry’s International Press Division.
Takahashi Atsushi also from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who was to be our guide and interpreter all throughout the eight-day visit was also present during the briefing on the programme that had been painstakingly put together for us. This was followed soon after by a warm, friendly and informal interaction with a group of Japanese journalists including from the Sankei Shimbun and the NHK World-Japan. An informal interaction was also organised between the various foreign affairs officers of the Africa Division and the visiting journalists from the country they represent. Yukie Mochizuki represents Seychelles and she was eager to hear from me many things about Seychelles from the multiracial population, the food we eat, our language and much more.
Importance of Japan’s relations and cooperation with Africa highlighted
In order to ensure the journalists learn everything about Ticad and the importance of Japan’s relation and cooperation with Africa, a series of presentations by key personalities working within the African Affairs Division was organised. Visits to different institutions and supporting agencies were also on the programme.
The first such presentation was by Mariko Kaneko, director from the African Affairs Bureau and Country Assistance Planning Division III. She talked lengthily about the ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy’ which seeks to improve “connectivity” between the Pacific and the Indian oceans. She stressed Japan’s willingness to cooperate with any country that supports this idea.
For his part Shigeru Ushio, director general of the African Affairs Department and secretary general for the Ticad 7 highlighted the importance of Japan’s relations and cooperation with the different countries of the continent.
“Since the first Ticad in 1993, and based on each African country’s self-help effort, the African region has become a most promising one and it is often referred to as “the largest frontier of the 21st century” and the rapidly growing Africa is viewed as a partner for Japan.
But Mr Ushio noted that there are countries which are yet to establish a stable and democratic form of governance and those whose development are being slowed by war, insecurity, diseases, climate change impacts or poverty.
“We therefore need to continue with our effort to find solutions to these issues,” Mr Ushio stressed.
He went on to highlight the theme of Ticad 7 which is ‘Advancing Africa’s Development through People, Technology and Innovation’ and in relation to that the three main areas of focus that have been identified and these are: economy, society as well as peace and stability.
Being engaged in African diplomacy for many years, Mr Ushio said the Ticad has established its position as a pioneer of international meetings in African development as well as an inclusive forum open to representatives of any country willing to talk.
He further went on to stress that promoting further business relations with Africa as well as contributing in the sustainable development of the continent through private sector investment are necessary in order to make Africa and its potential known in Japan.
“We are therefore focusing more on activities related to business development aspects than in previous Ticad meetings,” said Mr Ushio.
Visits to supporting institutions and agencies
▪ The Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica)
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) is an agency of the Japanese government that coordinates and delivers Official Development Assistance (ODA) for the government. It is also responsible to lead economic and social growth in developing countries, and to promote international cooperation.
The visiting journalists were received at the agency’s head office at the Nibancho Center Building by Shuei Ueno, Jica’s senior deputy director for an overview of Jica’s initiatives in Africa where it has offices in 30 countries.
Mr Ueno also highlighted the agency’s three areas of focus on the African continent and these are promoting: structural economic transformation, resilient health systems and social stability.
He also talked about the Kaizen Initiative being carried out in partnership with Nepad in countries like Ethiopia, Ghana, Egypt, Tunisia, Cameroun to name a few. Kaizen is a Japanese word which means “improvement”. It is a management philosophy and know-how that brings about continuous improvement of quality and productivity through human-oriented approaches and teamwork.
During the meeting the six journalists also met the Jica officers responsible for their respective countries to get more details on the various ongoing projects in their countries.
Watanabe Kohei and Ikeda Shunichiro, who are responsible for Seychelles and eight other countries, elaborated the different areas of cooperation in Seychelles which are in the fisheries sector mainly facilities required for development of fishing activities like port and ice-making plants. Renewable energy is also a sector which has received Japanese know-how in the formulation of a master plan to develop a micro grid while the area of disaster prevention has also benefited from Japanese expertise.
Seychelles has also benefitted from a wide range of training in various fields namely health, education, agriculture, governance, business and entrepreneurship to name but some. According to documents provided by the two officers, in 2016 eight Seychellois followed training in Japan, five in 2017 and last year there were three, two of whom are yet to complete their courses under the Africa Business Education (ABE) Initiative.
▪ ABE Initiative students at International University of Japan (IUJ)
The ABE Initiative is another flagship programme of the Ticad announced by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during Ticad V in 2013 in Yokohama. It aims at providing study opportunities for young African women and men to study business and entrepreneurship development at Master's level in Japanese universities as international students and to experience internships at Japanese enterprises in order to effectively develop their skills, competencies and knowledge in various fields before going back to contribute in the development of industries in their respective countries.
The group of African journalists also had the opportunity to meet a group of ABE Initiative students at one of the universities and this was at the International University of Japan (IUJ) in Niigata Prefecture.
After a warm welcome by the president of the IUJ Professor Hiroyuki Itami, the visitors learned that the university has been receiving students under the ABE Initiative through Jica the year following the announcement of the programme.
“It started slowly both with the number of candidates and countries sending them but these have continued to increase from the second batch but fluctuated over the years,” Mr Itami explained.
From 13 candidates from five countries in the first batch in 2014, the second batch in 2015 comprised 39 candidates from 17 countries while last year’s intake comprised only 19 candidates from 17 countries.
So far fewer than 10 Seychellois have studied under the programme and two are currently pursuing their studies in different universities.
During an informal interaction with the group of African students currently studying at the IUJ, some of the journalists were lucky to meet students from their respective countries. It was an opportunity for the students to share their achievements and challenges.
▪Jica’s Human Security –‘The World’s Happiness and Sorrow’ Exhibition
The organisers did not miss to include a visit to the Jica Global Plaza. Some half an hour drive from the Jica head office, the exhibition hall and its adjoining facilities like library, restaurant, conference rooms have all been designed to offer the real life experience and knowledge as well as the possibility for people who want to know more about Japan’s international cooperation to experience the way of life of other nations in all its aspects including food. The ‘Human Security’ - The World’s Happiness and Sorrow’ Exhibition focuses on protecting people from threats and ensuring they can improve their lives and are able to live on their own. It also highlights and showcases Japan’s cooperation with developing countries with a particular focus on the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the different initiatives put in place in different parts of the world particularly on the African continent in relations to the different SDGs. The group of journalists was particularly impressed by the different actions namely in relation to education, health, sanitation, water purification...
Our guide for the visit, Murakami Sushi, a young man of a vibrant personality dressed in African style attire explained that over 40,000 people visit the exhibitions hosted at the plaza each year.
“It is a good way for our people as well as visitors to better understand Japan’s international cooperation and support to other countries and it is also a way to encourage citizens’ interest in international cooperation,” he explained.
▪ National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID)
During a short visit to the National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID) situated in Shinjuku, the group of journalists were welcomed by the director, Tatsuhiro Isogai, and they were also presented to a group of Japanese doctors who had been previously dispatched to several African countries as well as a few doctors from Africa currently undergoing training at the NIID. Established in 1947 right after World War II at a time when infectious diseases were rampant, its role is to carry out surveillance, control of diseases as well as research and collect data on different diseases and share information through a national network for infectious diseases.
The journalists heard presentations by doctors from various African countries studying there through Jica.
They also learned of the various Japanese initiatives to control diseases, carry out research in different diseases in its continued effort to improve health in different African countries.
In total 37 Japanese researchers were dispatched to several African countries last year where they provided technical assistance and training of local technicians on the ground.
Meanwhile the number of medical technicians from African countries who have been trained at the NIID last year amounted to 23.
▪ National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies or GRIPS
A reputed international policy institution aimed at contributing to the advancement of democratic governance around the world, GRIPS provides interdisciplinary education for future leaders in the public sector and conduct research on contemporary policy issues to produce new solutions. It offers eight Master’s programmes and seven Doctoral programmes that can be taken entirely in English.
When they visited the institution situated in Minato Ward, Tokyo, the group of African journalists were received by Professor Kenichi Ono who delivered a presentation on the role of GRIPS, the training it offers, its role in the development of the African continent through training and building the capacity of its human resource as well as Japan’s policies on Africa and the world.
Founded in 1997, the graduate institute is made up of academics and distinguished practitioners with expertise in public sector policy formulation and management and Professor Ono highlighted the institution’s working relationship with other Ticad supporting agencies.
▪Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO)
The Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO) established by Japan Export Trade Research Organisation became an independent administrative institution in 2003 to strengthen Japanese exports. JETRO supports exports of Japanese agricultural, forestry, fishery and other food products. It also supports overseas businesses of Japanese companies and it contributes to the activities and trade policies of Japanese companies through surveys and research. When the journalists visited its headquarters in Ark Mori Building, 6F 12-32, Akasaka, they were welcomed by a team of senior managers.
They then followed a detailed presentation by its director responsible for Middle East and Africa Divisions, Kotaro Kodama, and they were briefed on JETRO’s activities in Africa by both the latter as well as Makoto Matsumura, senior director for global strategy Africa planning department. JETRO has eight supporting offices scattered on the African continent. Seeking to boost and expand business in Africa, JETRO is also organising the Japan Africa business forum & expo as an official side event to take place during the forthcoming TICAD 7 to provide a wider range of business opportunities.
▪ Chiyoda Corporation
Entering the Chiyoda Corporation headquarters in Minato Mirai Grand Central Tower in the city of Yokohoma, the group of journalists were impressed by not only the size of everything from the office space but also the team of senior officials who had spared time to welcome us. Chiyoda is a 71-year-old Japanese engineering company which specialises in oil and gas midstream for gas processing and LNG, downstream refinery and petrochemicals facilities design and construction, as well as pharmaceuticals.
Chiyoda Corporation officials gave a detailed presentation on their operations, business portfolio, major ongoing projects in various parts of the world, its experience and challenges as well as what it is doing in Africa. On the continent its interests are mainly in LNG projects in Nigeria, Mozambique, Senegal as well as an oil and gas Master Plan for Africa.
The eager group of visitors also learned that the Chiyoda Corporation has also provided training in gas related sectors to over 130 engineers from Mozambique since 2014 while eight technicians in petroleum and water related sectors were sent to the corporation last year. Additionally two Mozambican students followed an internship programme at Chiyoda’s head office under the ABE initiative.