On April 4, Sasakawa USA held the first of its “Views of Japan” event series at the Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C. to explore perceptions on Japan in other regions around the world. This inaugural event, “Japan and Africa: Regional Views and U.S.-Japan Cooperation,” focused on Japan’s engagement in Africa and how the country is perceived on the continent. It also explored the potential for greater U.S.-Japan cooperation in Africa through a panel of experts from the United States, Japan, and parts of Africa.
For this event, the CEO of Sasakawa USA, Ambassador James Zumwalt, moderated a lively panel discussion with The Honorable Linda Thomas-Greenfield, former U.S. Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs at the Department of State; The Honorable Takashi Kitahara, former Ambassador of Japan to Senegal; Dr. J. Peter Pham, Vice President for Research and Regional Initiatives and Director of the Africa Center, the Atlantic Council; Dr. Ruth K. Oniang’o, Editor-in-Chief, African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development (AJFAND) in Nairobi, Kenya / Chairperson, Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA) and Sasakawa Africa Association for Extension (SAFE); and His Excellency Carlos Dos Santos, Ambassador of the Republic of Mozambique to the United States. An audience question and answer session closed the event.
During the moderated panel, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield discussed the challenges facing African countries such as its rising youth demographic, slowdown in economic growth, and enduring conflict and terrorism. She emphasized that the United States and Japan have been working together to tackle these issues, but success centers on a broader international response.
Japan hoped TICAD would serve as an open and inclusive forum involving not just heads-of-states, but also international organizations and business representatives.
In order to facilitate greater communication and to build stronger relationships in Africa, Japan established the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in 1993 to provide a forum for high-level dialogue between leaders and development partners. Ambassador Kitahara, who examined the pillars of Japan’s engagement in Africa, noted that, as Africa “is a frontier where companies and countries are competing very hard,” Japan hoped TICAD would serve as an open and inclusive forum involving not just heads-of-states, but also international organizations and business representatives. Dr. Pham echoed TICAD’s effectiveness as an open forum with a very high attendance record, and that the United States could draw positive lessons from it. He also cited Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)’s partnership with Morocco to provide sanitary water in western Africa as a good model of working with a local partner to help other countries in the region. As one of his recommendations to both the United States and Japan, Dr. Pham addressed the need for development partners to remove the artificial line between sub-Saharan and North Africa and engage with the continent as a whole.
As the first speaker to share Africa’s perspective, Dr. Oniang’o described her work with Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA) to help address the needs of families and children on the continent. For her part, she has been pleased with the way Japan engages with countries in Africa as equal partners, and encouraged both the United States and Japan to tap into the expertise of African nationals who have studied in either country. Speaking on behalf of the Republic of Mozambique, Ambassador Dos Santos noted that Japanese efforts to consult African leaders on their initiatives is unique. He believes that many African countries have an overall positive impression of TICAD because their inclusion in the conversation has allowed them to build the Africa they want. Ambassador Dos Santos also highlighted Japan’s security cooperation as well as shared values and principles as factors making Japan a significant partner in promoting regional stability and growth. In addition, both Dr. Oniang’o and Ambassador Dos Santos expressed appreciation for Japan’s technological assistance.
The event contributed to a greater understanding of the security, economic, and geopolitical significance of Africa to both the United States and Japan. Overall, the speakers agreed that countries in Africa have positive views of Japan’s approach as well as contributions to the region, and saw benefits in facilitating greater U.S. cooperation with Japan.
Photos by Joy Asico (www.asicophoto.com)