Kenya made history in the year 2016 when the sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development – TICADVI – was held in Nairobi.
This was the first TICAD Summit held on the African continent in its 23 years history.
It attracted some 30 African Heads of State and Government, 70 Chief Executives of Japanese companies and over 11,000 participants, making it the highest number of participants ever in a TICAD summit.
It is not surprising that this landmark conference was held in Nairobi as Japan shares a special relationship with Kenya.
Japan and Kenya established diplomatic relations in 1963, immediately after Kenya gained independence.
In the past 56 years of close Japan-Kenya collaboration, the two countries have enjoyed warm and cordial relations and during this period much has been achieved.
The relations between Japan, not just with Kenya, but with Africa as a whole moved to a higher level in the early 1990s. With the end of the Cold War, the developed countries' interest in providing development assistance to Africa began to decline.
It was under these challenging circumstances that Japan was steadfast in its commitment to continue supporting economic growth in Africa – and this in turn gave birth to the first TICAD conference that was held in Tokyo 1993.
From the very beginning the main objective of TICAD was to support political and economic reform in Africa and focus the attention of the international community on the continent.
The conference ended with the "Tokyo Declaration on African Development", a guideline and vision which emphasized what has now become the twin principles of TICAD: “African ownership and International Partnership”.
This week we have the TICAD7 conference that will be held in Yokohama, Japan. Given TICAD’s history, we can be assured that this will yet again present major opportunities for Africa’s social and economic advancement.
The relation between Japan and Kenya is a perfect example of the kind of collaboration that Japan seeks to create in its interactions with other African nations.
A case in point is the “Big-4 Agenda” initiated by President Uhuru Kenyatta, which gives priority to the four pillars which are food security, affordable housing, universal health care, and manufacturing.
Japan is committed in helping Kenya achieve these objectives, as they coincide with the priorities already being addressed or under consideration for country assistance policy by the government of Japan.
On food security, Japan has been active through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in promoting innovation and development in agriculture.
The Mwea Irrigation Development Project is the cornerstone of our joint efforts to help Kenya maximize rice production using the latest and most innovative rice-growing technology from Japan.
At the moment, 70 per cent of the rice produced in Kenya comes from Mwea.
In regards to universal health coverage, Japan and Kenya have a long history of cooperation in the healthcare sector, focusing on human resource development at various levels.
Most recently Japan provides Kenya with a policy loan to support efforts by the health sector aimed at achieving UHC.
In manufacturing, for many years, Japan has contributed in the development of infrastructure, which is crucial in creating an enabling environment for the industrial sector.
The development of the Mombasa Special Economic Zone (SEZ) is a perfect example. The development of the SEZ, led by the Kenyan government in conjunction with Japan, is expected to create 27,000 jobs.
Driven by high-quality infrastructure, the SEZ together with the Port of Mombasa and several planned industrial clusters will advance the future economic development of Kenya.
Japan has a long and fruitful history with the Olkaria Geothermal Power Plant which spans close to 40 years and includes the most recently completed Olkaria V and the refurbishment of the older units.
Currently, about 50 per cent of the geothermal power produced in Kenya is generated at the Olkaria Power Plant.
Japan is committed to working closely with Kenya to develop the power sector that is, not only critical to social and economic development, but also clean to protect the environment and assures the health of the nation for generations to come.
There is much more to look forward to, from this historic Japan-Kenya collaboration. I am personally dedicated to promoting this collaboration with all my strength and ability.
The writer is the Japanese Ambassador to Kenya