November 10, 2020
At the seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 7) in August 2019, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe launched the African Business Education Initiative for Youth (ABE Initiative) 3.0, which will see Japan invite 3,000 young eligible African students to study in Japanese universities and undertake internships in Japanese companies by the year 2026.
The program aims at human resource development in both private and public sectors in order to cultivate a strong human network between Japan and Africa. ABE initiative in other words could be described as program that empowers African youth like myself with knowledge, skills, life and internship experiences, and a chance to learn from diversity in order to create participants that can form the back born of Africa in the future.
Travelling to Japan was one long journey, being my first time travelling out of Africa to Asia, this got me worried but the joy and excitement of studying abroad, meeting a diverse community, experiencing and learning the Japanese culture kept the worry away. Travelling for over 16 hours was tiring but the warm welcome by the amazingly kind and warm JICA staff at Osaka airport made me feel at home. This was a beginning of a beautiful journey for me.
Through the ABE initiative scholarship program, I obtained the opportunity to come to Japan to pursue a master's degree in Information Systems at Kobe Institute of Computing where I am experiencing the Japanese academic environment. Currently I have stayed and studied in japan for a year and I have been able to take part in the knowledge and culture exchange opportunity through engaging in different Japanese cultural activities. The people in Japan are so kind, helpful and so welcoming to foreigners. They are so eager to learn about different cultures as they share their own culture. This is one important point in my life as I learn how to be modest in life like the Japanese people live their lives.
I am currently enrolled at the Graduate school of information technology in Kobe Institute of Computing, from my school I have come across a diverse pool of students ranging from Japanese to all nationalities across the world. This helps me learn from diversity, understand and listen to people's different perspectives. Pursuing a master's degree in Information Systems has enabled me interface with so many technologies that I can deploy in my home country, the added advantage is the use of Information and Communications Technology for solving social issues in developing countries. I am able to explore and creatively think of various possible solutions for different social issues using Tankyu Practice which is a methodology for finding solutions to social issues taught by the President of my university, President Sumitani Sensei and I believe it is an effective way for problem solving. These issues range from various sectors and solutions include e-agriculture, e-learning, e-medicine, e-governance, e-empowerement, fintech and all fields that contribute to the promotion of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations. Through this practice, I have enhanced creativity thinking and widened my viewpoints.
To increase awareness among Africans regarding the efficiency of Japanese technologies and systems of companies, participants engage in two types of internships at Japanese companies, summer internship and the internship after graduation. As a participant, I have had the opportunity to participate in summer internship at a Japanese company, Tsuji Plastics. Tsuji plastics is a company dealing with utilization of renewable energies, solar energy to be specific and plastic recycling. Its business is in alignment with sustainable development goal 7: affordable and clean energy, and 13: climate action. In the solar business division, Tsuji plastics develops solar active road studs for road safety at night, solar charger and solar irrigation pumps. The solar charger provides clean and safe power for non-electrified areas. The uniqueness of the solar charger is that it does not require battery replacement; it has eight charging ports that work simultaneously and has a life cycle of over 10 years. This is a much-needed lighting solution for Uganda especially the rural areas as the electricity penetration in rural Uganda is currently at 18%. With the solar irrigation water pumps, they have a hybrid irrigation water system that can be used for water supply during day and the same system can be used for providing lighting energy at night. With the current unreliable rainfall pattern in the country, which is constraining agriculture carried out by approximately 77% of the Ugandan population; this irrigation technology is a solution to this problem. It looks into helping with addressing the issue of food and water shortage problems.
At Tsuji Plastics, I assisted in planning of a business and marketing strategy for Uganda and helped facilitate networking and understanding of business practice in Uganda. This is one of the objectives of the internship. I was able to learn about the business culture in Japan. It was an astonishing experience for me to get to compare the Ugandan work environment to the Japanese work environment.
To date, over 1600 students have graduated from Japanese universities under the ABE initiative. The students have come up with various innovative technological solutions for developing countries and have implemented them. Through the same program, several graduates have been able to secure job opportunities in Japan and act as navigators between Japanese companies and their home countries hence creating and developing the relationship between Japan and their home countries.
Outside school life, I have had the opportunity to engage and experience Japanese culture like the tea Ceremony, kimono wearing and the famous Japanese Karate. I have also had the opportunity to share the famous Ugandan Rolex and Ugandan mandazi.
One year down the road of my scholarship and I have already learned and experienced so many amazing things, I can't wait to see what the remaining time has ahead for me and I am ready to see the change I bring to Uganda through the empowerment of ABE initiative.