How training, volunteer programmes have helped deepen Kenya-Japan ties


Graduands during a past graduation ceremony at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT). FILE PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NMG

In any diplomat’s career, certain events stand out as highlights in which it is an honour and a privilege to participate. One such event is when your country marks a significant anniversary in its relationship with your host nation.

It is a great pleasure as the 20th Ambassador of Japan to Kenya to note that this year, 2023, marks the 60th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between Kenya and Japan.

The results of the 60 years of cooperation are visible in various areas. Infrastructure development projects like the Mombasa Port Development Project, the Dongo Kundu Special Economic Zone, the Ngong Road Expansion Project, the construction of the Olkaria Geothermal Power Stations and the Mwea Irrigation Development Project have played a significant role in enhancing development, the standard of living and employment opportunities for Kenyans.

In addition, Japan has played a key role in the establishment and capacity building of important institutions such as JKUAT, KEMRI and KEFRI.

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It is notable that, as a result of Japan’s support, Kenya now provides training to counterparts from other African countries in some of these areas.

Japan attaches great importance to human resource development. Japan has received Kenyan experts for training in Japan, 15,061 JICA trainees since 1963.

In addition, about 350 Kenyans received the Japanese Government MEXT Scholarship programme to study in Japan.

Some outstanding individuals have contributed to promoting our friendship. Kenya’s renowned Nobel Peace Prize winner, the late Prof. Wangari Maathai made numerous visits to Japan to promote cooperation at the grassroots level on environmental issues and promoted the Japanese spirit of “Mottainai” (a Japanese word that describes 3R: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) in the international community.

Since 1964, Japan has dispatched 1,757 Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers who live and work among Kenyan local communities.

I cannot overstate the role they have played in fostering goodwill at the grassroots level, and some of them have even come back to do business in Kenya.

There are numerous other individuals from Japan and Kenya whose stories bring our two peoples closer together. I wish to express my appreciation and pay tribute to all of them.

The Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 6) in 2016 was a historic milestone in Kenya-Japan relations as it was the first time the summit meeting was held outside Japan in Nairobi.

The participation of a large number of Japanese executives at TICAD 6 gave a boost to raising interest in investing and doing business in Kenya.

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As a result, the number of Japanese companies doing business in Kenya doubled in the last five years to more than 100 at present.

At TICAD 8 in August 2022, Prime Minister Kishida Fumio reiterated Japan's commitment to continue as “a partner growing together with Africa” and pledged $30 billion in public and private funding over the next three years.

I am in no doubt that, in view of the importance of the relations between our two countries, our cooperation and friendship will continue to flourish in the years to come.

The writer is the Japanese Ambassador to Kenya.