New Japan plan to boost human resource development

The 5th Tokyo International Conference on African Development, or TICAD, held in Yokohama last weekend, produced a five-year action plan that includes new initiatives to promote African higher education and science and technology development.

Attended by 51 African leaders and their Japanese counterparts, the TICAD conference, from 1-3 June, had the theme “Hand in Hand with a More Dynamic Africa”, and marked the 20th anniversary of the TICAD process. It produced a “Yokohama Declaration” and action plan for 2013-17.

“Japan wants to provide support centring on human resource development and the independence of African counties. The goal is a win-win relationship,” Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, was quoted by Japan Times as saying.

Referring to the rivalry between Japan and China for influence in Africa, Abe stressed that Tokyo’s support had been acclaimed because it focused on the direct development of local people.

According to World News Australia, Abe told the gathering that Japan would invite 1,000 African students to study at universities and gain experience as interns in Japanese countries.

Also, Tokyo would work to find more jobs for 30,000 people in Africa. Japan would give US$14 billion in aid to African countries over the next five years, with about half of the money targeted at infrastructure development, said Abe, adding later:

“Japan will also construct hubs for human resource development at 10 locations in the field in Africa, including in Ethiopia and Senegal. We will send experts in vocational training to these hubs.”

Working group

A conference working group on "Robust and Sustainable Economy” called for:
  • • Expanding links and partnerships with Japanese and other universities, support for the Pan-African University and for regional centres of excellence, and promoting open technology.
  • • Reinvigorating the Japan-Africa science and technology ministerial framework.
  • • Supporting improvements in the quality of education at all levels, particularly in science, maths and technology.
In line with the working group recommendations, the "Yokohama Declaration" called for a focus on hard, human and knowledge infrastructure.

“We will support human infrastructure through vocational and technical training to develop skills required for employment by the private sector,” the declaration says. “We will also support capacity development in the public sector for better policy implementation conducive to a more business-friendly environment.

“Understanding that knowledge infrastructure enables innovation and boosts productivity, we will increase support to centres of excellence, and prioritise science and technology.”

And further on it adds: “We will also focus on increasing access to education, and improving the quality of education at all levels.”

The action plan also details processes of achieving sustainable development through creating employment for young people and developing human resources, and diversifying economies by promoting science-based industrial development.

The Japanese government and Africa will hold regular meetings to monitor and follow up on the plans.

Japan International Cooperation Agency, JICA – the world's largest bilateral cooperation agency – is one of the major implementing entities of the “Yokohama Declaration” and action plan. It said it would contribute to TICAD V including through financial support totaling US$6.5 billion.

Among other things this would be used to strengthen human resources by training 30,000 Africans for industrial development and improving the learning environment for 20 million African children through mathematics and science education and school management.

To enhance the cooperation between Japan and Africa in science and technology, the establishment of a Japan-Africa Academic Network – JAAN – is under way. It is focusing on promoting the academic activities of Japanese universities in Africa and facilitating them to contribute to Africa’s development through cooperation in higher education, science and technology.

Magdi Tawfik Abdelhamid, a researcher at Cairo's National Research Centre who obtained his PhD from the Japan-based Gifu University, welcomed Africa-Japan initiatives and suggested that conferences and workshops be held to encourage staff exchange and joint research between African and Japanese.