Name: Fumio Shimizu
Position: Japanese Ambassador to the African Union.
Ambassador Fumio Shimizu has been engaged in different diplomatic missions posted to different countries. He was posted in France, Afghanistan, and Algeria. Currently, he works in Ethiopia as the first Ambassador of Japan to the African Union. His task is seeing to the strengthening of Japan-and-Africa relations. In addition, he is also charged with the task of seeing to the transfer of science and technological knowhow to Africa.
The Ethiopian Herald had a time of while with Ambassador Fumio Shimizu.
The Ethiopian Herald: What is Japan’s plan towards Africa and how did TICAD emerge?
Ambassador Fumio Shimizu: TICAD was birthed in 1993 out of the lofty ideal of ownership and partnership. It stemmed from Japanese homegrown experience after the end of the Second World War. After the war, Japan had nothing except human resources. We realized by developing our human resources, we can shift the gear of our economy from light industries to heavy ones.
Japan could not develop the economy by itself. We needed the partnership from the international community. The first state visit to Japan after the Second World War was that of Emperor Haile Selassie’s in 1956. With the international support, Japan built highways and other infrastructures by the help of international community including Ethiopia. So, this is partnership. That is why ownership and partnership are important.
When we look at the situation in Africa, we notice the continent has more than fifty countries which are rich in resources with more than 1.2 billion population. Recently, the average economic growth in Africa is more than five percent. Which means Africa is a continent of hope and opportunities. But still we see several problems in the continent like poverty and conflict. We also see lack of social, economic and energy infrastructures. So, still there are several challenges in the continent.
But when we look at the current Japan, this year, new emperor has succeeded to the throne and a new era has ensued with the name of “Reiwa” which means beautiful harmony.
Japan is beset by a lot of challenges. Among the challenges, the serious issue is aging. The country has turned into an aging society. With this facet of aging society, the Japanese population is decreasing. Due to this, the scale of Japanese market is also decreasing. This is a most serious issue in Japan.
In addition, there are international negative phenomena against free trade and movement on the sea. Having said so, TICAD aims at supporting African countries recognize and use opportunities to tackle their problems. Japanese take the opportunities and challenges to TICAD to find win-win solutions.
Herald: Does Japanese aid for African countries differ from that of other countries?
Ambassador Fumio: I think so; TICAD is based upon Japanese experiences. After the end of the Second World War, developing human resource was a must for japan to develop the economy. In addition, Japan cooperated with other Asian countries to train their personals for business, industry, and agriculture, so as to achieve mutual prosperity. Why not we do something with Africa?
We have been working to support human resource development in Africa. And also, we are working to transfer our technologies. With such human resource development, we hope that the African people, countries, and industries could develop themselves.
By win-win approach we can create capable companies in Africa through TICAD.
Herald: How do you get TICAD’s role in its effort to build capacities of Africa countries in terms of education, road construction, telecommunication, economic and development endeavor?
Ambassador Fumio: First, education is very much important and basis for the development of one’s country. Japan has provided education opportunities to more than 20 million African student since 2013.We have trained more than 26,000 mathematics and science teachers since 2016.
In addition, 2 million African people have got access to basic health service since 2010, while 11 million African people have got access to safe water due to Japanese support.
In terms of business industry, japan has trained more than 38,000 personals for business and industry since 2013.
Japan has established human resource development centers for business and industry in eleven countries including Ethiopia.
Now, the African Union has a plan (AFCFTA) to tie African countries via trade. To have a good trade relation, infrastructure like roads, railways, and others has to be facilitated. So, we think that transportation is a basis for job connecting countries and strengthen relations between countries. In this regard, we focus on quality when it comes to infrastructures. We care about quality. We come up with a long-lasting construction works. One may think of the money it costs at the beginning but quality infrastructure will be less expensive in a long run.
Japan would like to support quality infrastructure in Africa to bring a sustainable economic growth, together with job creation and technical transfer.
Herald: Through its TICAD’s program, Japan is engaging in Peace and Security of Africa, how far is it successful?
Ambassador Fumio: Japan’s economy was developed in a peaceful condition. We have never experienced war. There were some conflicts in the region surrounding Japan. But Japan has never experienced war after the Second World War. So, we knew that peace is important for one country’s economic development.
Japan is not doing military cooperation but we are supporting African’s efforts
Africa is a continent of hope and opportunities
regarding peace. In addition, Japan is supporting several PKO Centers in Africa including in Ethiopia. Also, to avoid conflict, solid administrative and judicial system is very essential. Due to this, japan is supporting Africa’s democratic institutions.
Currently, the number of international conflicts is decreasing in Africa.
Japan supports Africa to tackle instability and security problem issues.
Herald: What are the achievements of TICAD in Africa’s development?
Ambassador Fumio: As I mentioned above, regarding the peace and security issues, the number of internal conflicts in the continent is decreasing. In terms of economic development, the average rate of economic growth in sub- Saharan Africa from 2001 to 2017 is 5.1 percent. The international average is 3.8 percent. So, the African rate of economic growth is higher than the international average.
Through TICAD process, Japan has been supporting key areas. One is industrialization in Africa. For example Kaizan initiative is to support the industries in Africa. It aims at improving productivity and quality control. It is the bottom-up approach typically from Japan. We are rolling the ball of Kaizan in 8 countries including Ethiopia. In 2011, Ethiopia has established Ethiopia Kaizen Institute and more than 630 companies have started implementing kaizan activities. Due to this, the average rate of the productivity has increased. This is one of the very good achievements of TICAD.
Japan has established human resource development and technology transfer in different African countries including Ethiopia. In addition, Japanese companies are investing and creating job opportunities for African people.
We support several major corridors in Africa. We are supporting regional infrastructures. We are supporting economic corridors such as East Africa and Northern Corridor, Nacala Coridor and Ring of Growth in West Africa where Japan is supporting development of roads, trains and ports among others. Finally, agriculture should not be forgotten. Japanese people eat rice every day. We have a knowhow on the production of rice.
We have African rice development initiative in several African countries including Ethiopia. In addition, we are introducing market-oriented agriculture to Africa.
Herald: There are similar initiatives like Belt and Road, Bandung conference. What makes TICAD different from others?
Ambassador Fumio: TICAD is binomial and oldest forum regarding African development. It started in 1993 when many partners had a tendency of aid fatigue. Japan took initiative to support African development since then. Supporting African ownership with international partnership is Japanese first point. The second point is that TICAD is an open and inclusive forum for African countries, japan, and other international partners.
Adding to that, the private sector and civil society take part in TICAD’s meetings. Inclusiveness is the uniqueness of TICAD.
Herald: Japan has strong relationships with Egypt, Kenya and South Africa. How about Ethiopia in relation with TICAD?
Ambassador Fumio: Japan has strong relationships with many countries in the world. With regard to Ethiopia, we can say Japan and Ethiopia have a long and friendly bilateral relationship.
Now, Ethiopia is reforming the economy and playing a key role in promoting peace and stability in the region.
We think that Ethiopia’s peace and stability are very important for the region and the continent as well. Having this in mind, we have a lot of discussion in the framework of TICAD and others. Japan and Ethiopia have a lot of cooperation agreements. Japan is supporting Ethiopia to produce rice. In addition, Kaizen initiative is also one of such cooperation.
In terms of infrastructure, Japan has supported road constructions. For example, the road from Addis Ababa to Debre Markos was supported by Japan including the Abay Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the country. In addition, Japan supports Addis Ababa Roads Authority to strengthen its capability to maintain roads.
In terms of education, Japan has provided classrooms and equipment for 23,000 children in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s State. In addition to this, japan has provided clean water for more than 750,000 Ethiopians. We have trained 4000 experts of water management for Ethiopia. With this support, Ethiopia has established Ethiopian Water Technology Institute. Such kind of cooperation has been there between Ethiopia and Japan.
Herald: Having the opportunity to host AU summit, what is Ethiopia’s benefit from TICAD by far as compared to the advantage of other African countries?
Ambassador Fumio: Ethiopia has a long history in keeping its independence. Ethiopia is a key country for peace and stability of the region and the continent. That is why the AU is settled in the country. In addition, ECA, IGAD and other many international organizations are in the country.
Ethiopia will come to TICAD conference to discuss about regional and continental issues, as well as to have bilateral meetings with Japan.
So, there are many opportunities for the country in terms of job creation and tourism.
Herald: What can you tell me about the upcoming TICAD 7 conference and what topics are supposed to be raised?
Ambassador Fumio: The seventh TICAD summit meeting has an overarching theme which is “Advancing Africa’s development through people, technology and innovation”. Under this theme the first agenda is accelerating economic transformation and improving business environment through innovation and private sector engagement.
In this context, not only political leaders, but businessmen from Japan and Africa will exchange experiences and cross pollinate ideas.
The second agenda is ensuring the furtherance of a resilient society. In this context, we are going to discuss how to achieve universal health coverage. How to tackle infectious diseases such as Ebola Virus and others will also be tabled for discussion. Also, we will discuss about how to tackle climate-change-brought challenges and natural disasters.
The third agenda is strengthening peace and stability. Certainly, we will talk about how to support African initiative for its peace and stability. These will be the agenda of the seventh TICAD summit meeting.
The Ethiopian Herald Sunday August 25, 2019
BY AMBO MEKASA