Message from Dr. KITAOKA Shinichi, former President of JICA
March 16, 2022
Two years have passed since Covid-19 began spreading around the world. Now that vaccinations against the disease have progressed in many countries and regulations for containing its spread are gradually being relaxed, pre-pandemic everyday life is gradually coming back. However, compared to the rest of the world, COVID-19 vaccinations in Africa lag behind; in fact, its 2-dose vaccination rate remains around 10%. This is a great concern not only for Africa but also for the entire world given how closely inter-connected it has become through cross-border flows of people, goods, and money. We cannot ensure the health and safety of the world until all countries and regions, including Africa, are healthy and safe.
The year 2022 should be the time when the world overcomes the COVID-19 crisis and embarks on the post COVID-19 era. Going forward, we need to accelerate our efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the target year of 2030. At this historical turning point, the 8th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 8) that is scheduled to take place this August represents an extremely important opportunity for Africa, Japan, and the international community to work together to overcome the challenges Africa faces and to rebuild societies in a way that is more secure.
Deepening partnership between Japan and Africa
The partnership between Japan and Africa began in the 1960s, a time when Japan started experiencing rapid economic growth following reconstruction from WWII. Shortly after winning independence, 22 African countries participated in the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. Among them, Zambia celebrated its independence on the day of the closing ceremony; members of its national team looked full of pride as they marched into the Olympic stadium with their new national flag. Since then, the partnership between Japan and Africa has steadily deepened.
In 1993, shortly after the end of the Cold War and during a period when the international community was suffering from "Aid Fatigue," Japan exercised strong leadership in launching TICAD and calling for African ownership and international partnership as the core principles of development across the continent. Since then, TICAD has been held regularly with the strong support of African countries. About 30 years after its inception, the 8th edition of TICAD will be held later this year in Tunisia.
Characteristics of JICA's Cooperation in Africa - "People-Focused," "Respecting Ownership," "Utilizing the Japanese Experience"
Looking back on JICA's cooperation in Africa over the last 50 years, we can identify three major characteristics. The first is "people-focused" cooperation. Guided by the notion of "human security," JICA has promoted cooperation so that each individual can live with dignity and have opportunities to realize his/her own potential. We also believe that it is critical for people to tightly connect with each other and build mutual trust.
The second is "Supporting Ownership." JICA's basic policy is to encourage African countries and their people to make their own efforts with a respect to their ownership of the development process. This is why we describe our engagement as "cooperation" rather than "aid" or "assistance."
The third characteristic of JICA's cooperation is "Utilizing the Japanese Experience." In the late 19th century, although Japan was lagging behind in industrialization at the time of the Meiji Restoration in 1868, Japan succeeded in building a free, democratic, peaceful, and prosperous nation under the rule of law without losing its own traditions and identity. JICA's cooperation is largely underpinned by Japan's development experience, namely the belief that the lessons of Japanese modernization can be of great help to many African countries seeking their own development policies and strategies while keeping their own cultures and traditions.
For example, through our flagship "School for All" initiative, we have been promoting school management practices based on the strong support of communities as well as a participatory, democratic process. "School for All" contributes not only to expanding educational opportunities and improving the quality of learning, but also to improving children's nutrition by providing them with school meals as well as to the greening of communities. This approach mirrors Japan's experience with improving the education level and health of children in a democratic and participatory manner. The "School for All" initiative can be described as a model of cooperation that fosters the "freedom" of children to open up their futures themselves through community ownership and trust in society. This initiative has been expanded to about 70,000 schools in nine sub-Saharan African countries.
The Africa Kaizen Initiative is another example of how we make effective use of Japan's experience in our development cooperation. "Kaizen" is a management philosophy of continuous improvement that supported Japan's economic growth in the 1960s and ‘70s. JICA's cooperation helped transfer Kaizen to Africa. Now, Kaizen has expanded to a large part of the continent and has even grown into an African initiative under the bold leadership of the African Union Development Agency-New Partnership for Africa's Development (AUDA-NEPAD). This demonstrates how the African people have effectively adapted a key part of Japan's development experience to their own contexts and are taking ownership in disseminating and further developing it.
Towards TICAD8 - "Build forward better towards a resilient, inclusive, and prosperous Africa"
In advance of TICAD8, we will further refine our cooperation to meet Africa's emerging needs in the post Covid-19 era, while keeping the essential characteristics and advantages of our traditions.
For example, in the health sector, JICA will promote a comprehensive approach with digital technology across the continent. "JICA's Initiative for Global Health and Medicine" aims to build a robust and inclusive health care system in Africa, based on the three pillars of "prevention," "precaution," and "treatment."
We will also contribute to building a resilient African economy by fostering young and innovative African entrepreneurs and promoting economic integration in line with what the African Union and its member states have already initiated in this regard. Meanwhile, ex-participants of the ABE (Africa Business Education) Initiative will serve as a bridge between Japanese companies and African markets and partners.
Furthermore, JICA will accelerate our efforts to share Japan's development experience with young African leaders who will shape the continent's bright future through two educational programs. The "JICA Development Studies Program" provides young African leaders with opportunities to learn about Japan's unique modernization experience in addition to their respective fields of study in collaboration with Japanese universities. The "JICA Chair" (JICA Program for Japanese Studies), on the other hand, aims to promote learning of Japan's development experience within Africa by partnering with African educational institutions.
We will also help tackle other development challenges African countries are sure to encounter as they emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, such as mainstreaming digital technology, dealing with climate change, creating decent jobs, assuring peace and stability in the Sahel, etc.
Under the slogan of "Build forward better toward a resilient, inclusive and prosperous Africa," we will bolster Africa's own efforts to realize more fruitful collaboration with various partners.
"First of all, the foundation of nation-building is to develop human resources." This is a quote from Prime Minister Ohira's speech at the 1979 UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) General Assembly. He was underscoring the fact that "human resource development" was the most important factor in Japan's development process. Similarly, this "people-focused" policy has been at the core of JICA's cooperation for many years.
It is the African people, not anyone else, who are in charge of building up and driving sustainable development in their nations. Investments in the people of Africa will be an important foundation for African business development and for the continent to acquire foreign private investment, including from Japan. JICA will maintain and develop this "people-focused" policy in the post Covid-19 era and will work to foster the capacity of the African people to lead their own socio-economic development in the coming decades. We firmly believe that our cooperation will both connect Japanese and African people as friends who share the same values and contribute decisively to the sustainable development of both Africa and Japan in the wake of the pandemic.
Japan International Cooperation Agency