, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 1 – My interview with Hideo Eguchi is set for 12 o’clock and I have been allowed twenty five minutes only. Which is why I am at the JICA lobby at around 11:30am, to get a feel of ‘things’ while trying to shorten my too long questionnaire.
The Deputy of Head of Mission, Koji Jitsukawa, welcoming us to Eguchi’s office, is impressed that I and my camera person make it on time, a true reflection of how the Japanese like their activities – timely.
“Welcome to Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Nairobi office,” Eguchi says and I vaguely hope he offers us Japanese tea so that I can write about it in the introduction part of my story. He, however, does not.
According to the Chief Representative, JICA is a governmental organisation mandated to implement Japan’s Official Development Assistance to support developing countries in social and economic projects.
Its work in Kenya centers on five priority areas which include economic infrastructure, agriculture, environment, human resource development and health. This it is undertaking by partnering with the government and related shareholders.
This forms part of our agenda as discussed below:
Kenya exports coffee, tea and flowers among other products to Japan. What can we do as an economy to increase the amount of goods we export to Japan?
For a long time, Kenya has exported goods to Japan and it therefore understands that Japan requires high standards of products. As far as those standards are concerned, Kenya has room for improvement. This will ultimately contribute towards an increase in the amount of exports it sends to Japan. It can also diversify its variety of products to tap into more markets in Japan.
A few weeks ago, more than a hundred delegates came to Nairobi for a networking business forum. Why did Japan choose Kenya for such a delegation and not elsewhere on the continent?
Japan recognises Kenya’s entrepreneurial abilities. This is why the delegates came to Nairobi. We see many opportunities here, which can benefit our two countries. This is why we chose to venture here. The country is also well connected to the rest of the region which means that an idea started here can quickly expand to the rest of the region.
How do you rate Kenya as a development partner? How important is Kenya to Japan?
Kenya is of great importance to Japan as a trade partner. For starters, its people have a great entrepreneurial spirit. Second, Kenya’s economy is a giant in the region which makes it suitable as a trading partner, not forgetting that it is a gateway to the rest of the region.
Japan has been interacting with Kenya’s health sector following its recent investment of Sh3.2 billion into the sector. In your opinion, was devolving the health sector a good idea?
Devolving the health sector and other sectors in the country was definitely a good idea. This is because medical services have finally been taken to people at grassroots level. Healthcare is also finally more accessible to the people than it was before devolution took place. More so, county governments now have an opportunity to address the specific health challenges faced by their citizens as these are quite not similar across the country.
Kenya as a tourist destination hardly receives any tourists from Japan. Are there Japanese tourists?
There are definitely some Japanese who tour around the world. In the last five years especially, more and more Japan nationals have been streaming into Kenya to enjoy the country.
Tokyo’s drainage system is both efficient and functional. On the other hand, Nairobi’s drainage system is not as good as witnessed by floods that wreaked havoc earlier this year. What can our government learn about drainage from Japan?
It all comes down to priorities and ensuring that any work done is done well. For the case of drainage system, if it is prioritised and done well, then Kenya would not be battling with such an issue.
Green energy is one of the biggest sources of energy in Japan. What measures has it taken to do this? And can it be emulated in Kenya?
Japan is using green energy for two reasons, to fight global warming and manage its waste. Japan therefore ensures that it uses all the wastes it generates to process green energy. As a result, Japan, unlike most of the developed countries is not having big global warming challenges.
Kenya on the other hand has already tapped into many forms of energy such as wind, geothermal and hydro among others. This is proof that it can be able to do more in its energy sector by taking all its waste and using it to process green energy.
Is this considerable success on fighting global warming the reason why Japan has made Kenya’s environment a key priority?
Yes. Kenya is one of the few countries that are still enjoying great weather and global warming is not yet a big challenge as it is elsewhere. But deforestation is quickly putting Kenya’s environment at risk, hence our fight against this.
Every country has its own challenges. What challenges is Japan currently grappling with?
Japan’s major challenge has been the rate at which its economy is growing as it has been slow. This has reflected negatively on many sectors of the economy. The government has however started different initiatives such as foreign investments to revive the economy to its former glory.
What is your message to Kenya?
Kenya is a great country with great people and I want to take this opportunity and say that Japan is glad to be working with Kenya. We also hope to do much more, not just trade as this is just the beginning.