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Kenya, Japan ties can only grow stronger

Toshitsugu Uesawa

Back in 1983, I was a young diplomat serving at the Japanese embassy in Nairobi. The highlight of my time in Nairobi, all those years back, came when Crown Prince Akihito visited Kenya, and I had the honour to receive the emperor.

More than 30 years have passed since then. I am now an old ‘mzee’ — a grandfather of two grandchildren, and a seasoned diplomat. My daughter who was a young child back in 1983, already had a family of her own before I was appointed to Kenya again, in May 2016, this time to serve as the ambassador.

Tomorrow, December 23, will mark Emperor Akihito’s 84th birthday. The Japanese Imperial family is the oldest continuous and unbroken line of succession in the world and we are proud to have such a rich history spanning 2,677 years. Akihito is serving as the 125th Emperor.

As it is now close to the end of the year, I suppose it is only natural that I look back on the past months and consider the highlights. Undoubtedly, the greatest of all the highlights occurred not this year, but about 18 months ago when Kenya hosted the sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (Ticad VI) in Nairobi.

It was a historic event, as the Ticad event was being held in Africa for the first time. Previously it had always been held in Japan, every five years. I feel I must once again elaborate on what makes Ticad so unique.

Basically, the conference is a diplomacy platform between Japan and Africa. Within its framework, African nations have always been at the forefront in fostering international discussion on Africa’s development.

In fact, it is the approach and the ideas guiding Ticad which gave rise to the philosophical foundation of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) which is the first comprehensive development plan created by Africans.

Furthermore, Japan was the first country to make an outreach to the African nations by inviting African Heads of States to the G-7 Summit in order to promote dialogue on African development.

As such, and most significantly, Ticad is not a platform where money is dispersed in exploiting African countries. Rather it is an inclusive platform, where international discussions on Africa’s development and on the future of Africa, are led by the African nations themselves with pride and dignity.

More than 11,000 participants from 54 nations, including 35 heads of state, alongside officials and technocrats from international institutions and private sectors participated in Ticad VI. Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attended the conference, making it his first trip to Kenya.

I would in particular like to express my deep appreciation – both personally and on behalf of the Government of Japan—to President Uhuru Kenyatta for his exemplary leadership in making Ticad VI such a success.

Now, following his recent re-election, I hope and believe that Kenya will move forward as a united nation, under President Uhuru’s leadership. I also had one personal highlights during this year. This was my successful effort to climb Mount Kenya to the summit. It was a wonderful experience­—both physically exhausting and spiritually uplifting.

And I hope that it had the intended effect of demonstrating not just to my own countrymen, but to people all over the world, the great beauty of Kenyan landscapes as well as of other Kenyan tourist attractions. I should also add that it is a source of pride to all of us in Japan that the Summer Olympic games return to Tokyo in 2020, having first been held there in 1964.

Any such major global athletic event is a reminder of the very fruitful Japan-Kenya cooperation in the field of athletics. Some of Kenya’s greatest marathon runners, who have brought glory to their country, are athletes who trained in high schools and universities in Japan.

But possibly of more immediate significance to Kenyans, and especially those who live in Nairobi, is that we shall soon be completing the expansion of Ngong Road. This is an infrastructure project which will go a long way toward addressing the problem of traffic jams brought about by the rapid urbanisation of Nairobi’s peri-urban areas.

Elsewhere, investors both local and international will benefit from the immense economic opportunities which will follow upon the completion of the Mombasa coastal area development, including the Mombasa Dongo Kundu Special Economic Zone Project.

Thousands of new jobs will be created through such far-reaching infrastructure projects. In all our efforts at enhancing Kenya’s economic development, Japan aims at the creation of a win-win relationship with Kenya, based on mutual respect and trust. The writer is the Japan Ambassador to Kenya

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