On May 27, 2024, JICA co-hosted with UNDP and Sophia University this year’s second "AFRI-CONVERSE", a public seminar related to TICAD development issues, at Sophia University.

This time, in conjunction with Africa Day (May 25 every year) established by the African Union (AU) and Africa Weeks at Sophia University (around Africa Day every year), the seminar was held under the theme of 'YOUTH AS A DRIVING FORCE FOR CHANGE: CALL TO ACT WITH AFRICA’, in line with the TICAD Ministerial Meeting in August this year and TICAD 9 in August next year. Leaders of youth-led activities took the stage to discuss the possibilities of Africa-related initiatives to be undertaken by the young generation, who will be responsible for the future, in preparation for TICAD 9.

The importance of the role played by young people in both Japan and Africa was also highlighted at the event, where a Model Africa Union (AU) ‘s launching was declared by a representative of the student organization that organizes the event.

Mr. Shusei Ohno from the Model AU Organizing Committee

The event opened with a video message from Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Regional Director on Africa Department, celebrating the launch of a Model AU, an initiative to strengthen youth engagement, and emphasizing the important role that young people in Africa and Japan play in fostering camaraderie and mutual understanding toward a common goal. She expressed her hope that young people in Africa and Japan will foster mutual understanding through making effort toward achieving common goal, and emphasized the important role that young leaders will play in making TICAD more meaningful.

Next, Mr. Hideki Makihara, a member of the House of Representatives and Chairperson of the Research Commission on International Cooperation of the TICAD Project Team at the Liberal Democratic Party, took the podium online and reflected on his involvement with Africa over the past 20 years. Mr. Makihara noted that Africa has been growing rapidly, and with that growth, the relationship between Japan and Africa has changed from donner-recipient to equal partnership. He also expressed his hope and encouragement that young people in Japan and Africa will work together to create the future of both countries through initiatives such as the Model AU.

Video Message from Ms. Eziakonwa

At the beginning of the panel discussion, two Sophia University students who visited Africa for the first time on a study tour introduced their experiences through their stay in Africa. Ms. Mai Saito shared her two-week experience in Zimbabwe, where her focus was on women's empowerment in the agricultural sector. She said that before her trip to Zimbabwe, she was worried about whether she would be accepted there, but after her trip, she was able to actively experience the local culture, including Mbira (a Zimbabwean musical instrument) and dance, and feel the warmth of the people. Mr. Kazuki Oki also traveled to Cote d'Ivoire and was surprised at the level of economic and infrastructure development and the positive attitude of the local people. He also emphasized the existence of a wide variety of cultures and ethnic groups across the African continent, which is often lumped together as "Africa". He also mentioned that he is currently on an internship with an international NGO related to African education.

The panel discussion that followed was moderated by Mr. Hiroshi Yokoyama, CEO of Accel Africa, which focuses on community building and training programs for young people related to Africa.

While working for JICA, Ms. Yuki Yasumiba co-founded Africa Asia Youth Nest (AAYN) with her colleagues, which aims to advocate for policies related to Africa. AAYN is working to expand opportunities for co-creation between young people in Japan and Africa, compile a youth action plan for TICAD 9 to be held in August next year, and make policy recommendations. Ms. Yasumiba said that through these activities, she learned about the perspectives of African people, which helped her broaden her perspective on the world and the future. She also said that working for JICA, an environment closer to Africa, has been a good stimulation for the activities of AAYN, and that she hopes to continue such activities in the future. In closing, Ms. Yasumiba asked the audience to get involved in Africa and help to build up youth-led initiatives.

Mr. Kithinji Kinyua, a researcher at the Institute of Asian, African and Middle Eastern Studies at Sophia University, then spoke about the work he does in his classes at the university. Mr. Kinyua said that his classes aim to dispel prejudice against Africa and provide a forum for constructive discussions based on data and facts, and that his life and university experience in Japan have provided him with opportunities to gain new perspectives and to reflect on himself. He also expressed his enthusiasm to continue his activities while embracing diversity and change, and stressed the importance of learning about the actual situation correctly and continuously in order to dispel prejudice and preconceptions about Africa.

Ms. Hanajienifuaifuonaia Saito, a student at the University of Tokyo, mentioned that their organization, African Youth Meetup Japan, is working to connect young people with African roots living in Japan. While prejudice against people of African and Black descent still persists, she hopes that the children with African roots will be able to meet and express themselves. she noted that the organization provides a place for children with African roots to gather and express themselves. She also explained that her stay in Nigeria, where she has roots, provided her with an opportunity to deepen her self-understanding, which led to her desire to create opportunities for people with similar mixed roots to become more aware of their own culture and identity. She also emphasized the importance of listening to the stories of people of mixed-roots without preconceptions, as there is a need to build a more inclusive community for the future of Africa and Japan.

(from the left: Ms. Hanajienifuaifuonaia Saito, Mr. Hiroshi Yokoyama, Ms. Mai Saito, Mr. Kazuki Oki, Ms. Yuki Yasumiba and Mr. Kithinji Kinyua)

In his closing remarks, Mr. Shuhei Ueno, Deputy Director General of JICA's Africa Division, expressed his hopes for the expansion of co-creation between Japanese and African youth, based on his own experiences in Africa, and then read a congratulatory message from Ms. Prudence Ngwenya, Director of the Women, Gender and Youth Directorate of the African Union Commission, on her behalf. In her message, Ms. Ngwenya touched on the importance of youth as a driving force for socioeconomic transformation in achieving Agenda 2030, and expressed her hope that the mock AU would serve as a platform to promote cooperation among youth, leading to the future of Africa and Japan that TICAD is aiming for.

Mr. Shuhei Ueno

At AFRI CONVERSE 2024 #2, young leaders shared their experiences and learnings from their time in Africa, emphasizing the importance of dismantling biases and misconceptions, attentively listening to firsthand narratives, and directly engaging with the regions as crucial steps for strengthening Africa-Japan relations and building a better future together.

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