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What TICAD needs to do to further Africa’s development goals

COMMENTARY
By Adhere Cavince | August 2nd 2016
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD-V) in Yokohama, Japan June 2013. (Photo: Courtesy/UN)

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe will jointly welcome delegates to the sixth edition of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) which will be held on August 27-28, 2016 in Nairobi. Kenya will be the first African country to host the forum which is dedicated to finding sustainable solutions to Africa’s development aspirations.

Conceived by Japan in 1993 as a way of mobilising resources to give impetus to an Africa-led development construct, TICAD has made several strides in its set objectives. In reaction to its apparent success, and to the benefit of Africa, a number of leading economies including China and India have come up with similar initiatives.

Delegates at TICAD VI will be keen to capture the progress and map a more formidable way forward. It is undeniable that Japan has extended generous support to Africa in many sectors. But perhaps one of the most outstanding and long lasting contribution has been registered in the education sector.

Kenya in particular has had enviable tidings with the people of Japan. In 1981, a bilateral synergy between Kenya and Japan brought forth Jomo Kenyatta College of Agriculture and Technology. Known today as Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), the institution has transformed into regional centre of excellence in research and innovation.

JKUAT’s innovative knack would be exemplified when it supplied and installed digital learning devices in 63 primary schools to operationalize the government’s maiden digital literacy programme in Kenyan primary schools.

Another significant Japanese footprint in Africa’s higher education sector is the actualisation of the Pan African University (PAU). An ambitious undertaking by the African Union to foster integration through higher education, PAU is already bearing fruits.

The PAU Institute for Basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation (PAUSTI) which is supported by Japan and domiciled at JKUAT is emerging as a veritable centre. In November 2014, it graduated 54 pioneer next generation of African scientists in key fields such as molecular biology and biotechnology, civil engineering, electrical engineering and mathematics. Currently, 68 students drawn from 19 countries are undertaking their masters and doctorate studies at PAUSTI.

Even more enterprising is the partnership between the Governments of Japan and Egypt in the birthing of Egypt-Japan University of Science and Technology (E-JUST). Founded in 2009 and modelled on Japanese academic concept, this research oriented and graduate focused institution currently runs eight engineering programmes with five patents to its name.

Finally, the recently launched African Business Education (ABE) initiative for the youth is not only timely but will produce a critical mass of experts with global worldview but still uniquely suited to solve Africa’s challenges. Currently, 100 Kenyans are among the 156 participants getting academic and professional induction in a number of Japanese universities.

While this track record is laudable, much work remains undone. Africa is still held back by a plethora of socio-economic and political shortcomings.

The continent is heaving under the brunt of climate change. The UN Food Programme estimates that a total of 33 million people in 11 countries are currently facing hunger due to failed harvests in southern Africa.

A 2016 report by the Africa Progress Panel indicates that 621 million Africans currently live without access to electricity while 600,000 die annually from household air pollution because they use biomass to cook.

In addition, terror outfits like Boko Haram and Al Shabaab are spreading with zeal to paralyse economies by destroying property and putting people’s lives on the edge. The recent announcement by the government of Japan to spend $120 million on counter-terrorism in Africa is therefore welcome news.   

During TICAD VI, it will behove the hosts: Japan, African Union Commission, United Nations, World Bank and the delegates to set new standards and codify new commitments that will lead to better living conditions for Africa’s 1.2 billion residents.

The Writer is graduate student of International Studies at the University of Nairobi.

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @Cavinceworld

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