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Egyptian-Japanese missed opportunities

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CAIRO – 6 August 2019: Lots of missed opportunities need to be reconsidered for further cooperation between Egypt and Japan in the near future. The two countries still have a lot of potential for joint coordination in several aspects.

Taking a closer look on Japan would make you re-think of it as more than just a technologically sophisticated country, and for Egypt, as more than a North African developing, and economically growing country.

Egypt, which is currently the head of the African Union, is looking for more discussions and solutions to several national and African issues, including the countries’ economic reform and growth as a priority.

Other issues including enhancing peace and security, countering terrorism, developing health, education and infrastructure are among the challenges that need a second look in Africa. That is in addition to poverty, forced displacement and illegal immigration.

What could Africa as a nation with all its particularchallenges and prioritiesbenefit from cooperating with Japan?

The policy of the “closed door” was forced in Japan for hundreds of years. Per this policy, very few things could have the opportunity to enter or leave the country. This affected the country’s trade, culture and military and led to the transformation of the country.

Many things happened during wars and conflicts, especially World War II,forwhich the country officially apologized. Years after all of this, Japan has become more than just atechnologically-advanced country;it is a country which is still seeking to learn, and communicate.

“Japan is an isolated country.It is far from Africa. It needs nearly a day of traveling so we can reach each other,” President of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Shinichi Kitaoka said during a meeting that included ten journalists from different African countries, reviewing the Japanese-African relations and the aspects of ongoing cooperation.

During the meeting,Kitaoka said that Japan supports other countries to grow and be independent through providing ODA loans. “Loan is something to support being independent. Countries need to know how to utilize these loans and give themback after several years,” Kitaoka explained.

“We made mistakes in World War II, invaded other Asian countries, so we wanted to give back to these countries, and this is what we did during the past years. However, as the Asian countries have developed, we think that Africa has to be the main focus of Japan at the meantime,” Kitaoka added.

TICAD, as a start

In 1993, Japan and Africa started holding Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD). TICAD was held for the first time in Tokyo on October 5 and 6, 1993, aiming to enhance dialogue between African-Japanese leaders, promote Africa’s development, peace and security, strengthen relations between the countries, and establish strong partnerships between Tokyo and Africa.

The international conference which has been held regularly since then is not just led by Japan, despite being a Japanese initiative. Several international partners shared the organization of TICAD, which is co-sponsored by the United Nations, along with the Japanese government. The partners include the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the African Union Commission (AUC) and the World Bank.

On August 28, TICAD7 is expected to be held inthe presence of all African leaders, including Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. Many things were announced to be discussed.

During meeting with JICA and Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) officials in Tokyo in July, Business Today knew several details about the awaited conference including the side eventsbeing held for the first time with an Egyptian start up participation among other African startups invited to the conference.

Under the theme “Africa and Yokohama, Sharing Passion for the Future,” several issues are going to be discussed during the conference. Technology and innovation wereannounced to be part ofall discussions this year.

But, as discussions have been ongoing between Africa and Japan extensively since 1993, what else could be done, so no opportunities would be missed, especially between Egypt and Japan?

Startups

Egypt is a rising market for startups. According to start-up platform MAGNiTT’s 2018 Mena Venture Investment Report, Egypt is the fastest growing startup ecosystem and the second largest after the UAE.

Egypt’s share of the total number of seed funding agreements grew by 7 percent y-o-y to $196.5 million, representing 22 percent of all MENA closes in 2018. “Egypt is seeing a second wave of entrepreneurs and investors that are more mature and experienced. The population is also starting to embrace technology for everyday activities,” Algebra Ventures Managing Partner ZiadMokhtar said.

Accordingly, Egypt’s entrepreneurs could not just see golden opportunities during TICAD7, but also for what a city like Kobe could offer to them.

Kobe is a Japanese city promoting itself as the young people and innovators’ first choice. During a presentation for Kobe officials at the city administrative headquarters, they focused on the city’s goal to become an environment where entrepreneurs can grow easily and create their new business.

The start-up visa for foreigners is among the very special things offered by Kobe city. Meeting with the city officials, they explained that they can offer a startup visa that allows foreign entrepreneurs to stay in Japan for one year maximum.

After getting the approval of the city officials, entrepreneurs will be able to start their business in Japan and enjoy a subsidy provided by the government “covering half of rent and communication cost, 2million ($1.8K) Yen personnel expenses for hi-tech engineersand a maximum of13 million ($120K) subsidies for 3years.”

However, after the first year of operating in Japan, startups need to meet the city’s demands to continue operating for further periods. The city’s criteriainclude the business has “a maximum of two fulltime staff or a capital exceeding 5million Yen”.

This Japanese city is offering a start-up visa for entrepreneurs even if they do not have an existing business at their own countries. The officials affirmed to Business Today that no legal consequences will be imposed onthe startups or the founders if they fail to meet the demands. They added that the Japanese perspective towards startups is different than the African one, and they believe that startups will have a fair chance in Japan to succeed and continue.

Age, health and society

The challenges in Japan and Egypt are severely different. Egypt deals with the high and rapidly growing population as a problem which is equally dangerous to terrorism, according to President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s earlier statements. Japan is suffering from the rising number of elderly people and the reluctance of young people to marry and have children. According to statistics reviewed during a presentation at the National Hospital Organization, Nagasaki Medical Center, Japan in the future willsuffer population reduction.

Japan’s Ministry of Health is currently working to promote increasing the population, according to doctorAtsumasa Komori from Nagasaki Medical Center. “The increasing numberof elderly people in Japan is our biggest problem,” he said.

Enhancing communications between Japanese and African nations and increasing the cultural exchanging channels could offera solution for both countries.

“Egypt’s steadily growing population should be used as a privilege,”JICA’s Middle East division Director Masataka TAKESHITA said during an interview with Business Today at JICA’s headquarters’ in Tokyo. He assured that the country’s population is one of the positive sides that should be exploited in the best ways.

He pointed out that Egypt still needs to work on creating more job opportunitiesamid the government’s economic reforms.

Japan has many successful experiments on human development especially in Asia, according to Shigeru Ushio, director-general for African Affairs department and assistant minister offoreign affairs.

Egypt and Japan had a lot of meetings and discussions ahead of TICAD7, set to be held on August 28 in Yokohoma city, according to Ushio, who affirmed that both parties held a number of senior officials’ meetings.

He added that Japan has huge commitments with Egypt. “The Egyptian government always sends high level seniors to Japan to follow up on updates of our agreements and discussions and we respect their views and leadership,” Ushio added.

He pointed out during a limited press conference held in the attendance of the African media representatives that Egypt and Japan held a lot of discussions, especially regarding human development aspects where Japan has a number of successful experiences in cooperation with other countries.

“We believe development is the key to do anything, as we have done this with many countries, especially in Asia, and believe that the time has come to do it with Africa now,” Ushio stated

With Further discussions among officials in both countries, maybe Japan and Egypt can reach a solution for them both.

Agriculture

“I am interested in Delta. If there is a chance to conduct research and see what we can do in this area, we are certainly interested in it,” Yasuhiro Tsujimoto, a member of the Crop, Livestock, and Environment division at Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Science (JIRACAS) told Business Today during a presentation at JIRACAS headquarters in Tsukuba.

Tsujimoto was reviewing his pilot project implemented in Madagascar since 2001. He said that the final results of his project, which aims at improving rice production in Africa, cannot be officially announced yet. He added, however, that if JIRACAS found that any of its research results are suitable with Egypt’s agriculture conditions and climate, it will definitely share it.

He also explained that his project, entitled “FY VARY project”, aims at the improvement of rice yield production under law fertilizer input and poor soil fertility environment in SSA. It was mainly conducted as a pilot experiment in Madagascar, and is scheduled to continue until 2022.

Answering Business Today’s question about JIRACAS’ researches in North African countries, and especially Egypt, in order to raise the production rate and quality, Yasuhiro said the institute is not currently conducting research in North Africa, especially with the existence of a nearby universities and institutes interested in conducting researches on Egypt’s climate and agriculture conditions.

“We are not conducting current research in North Africa, as other universes are doing research. We are focusing more on doing what no one else has done before, especially in other African countries,” Yasuhiro said.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) published a research on rice production in Africa titled, “Rice production in Africa, current situation and issues”. The study states that, “With the exception of a few countries that have attained self-sufficiency in rice production, rice demand exceeds production and large quantities of rice are imported to meet demand at a huge cost in hard currency.”

According to a FAO study, Africa consumes a total of 11.6 million tons of milled rice per year, of which 3.3 million tons (33.6 percent) areimported.

Egypt, in particular, has imposed restrictions on planting rice since the beginning of 2018 due to fears of water shortage. The government has decided to reduce the area of rice cultivation from 1 million feddans to 724,000feddans. Furthermore, planting rice was prohibited in certain governorates, including Aswan, Luxor, Qena, Sohag, Assiut, Minya, BeniSuef, Fayoum, New Valley, Giza, Cairo, Qaliubiya, Menoufia, MarsaMatrouh, North Sinai, South Sinai and Red Sea.

According to reports, Nigeria was named the largest producer of rice in Africa, replacing Egypt which was known of being on top of Africa’s production in this regard.

In March 2019, Egypt’s government has announced raising the allowed area of rice cultivation, to be once again 1 million feddans, in order to reduce the import expenses for rice.

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Education

Egypt and Japan already have a “successful implemented experience” regarding educational cooperation, according to JICA’s Egypt Office Chief Representative, Yoshifumi Omura, during an interview with Business Today.

Nearly 100 schools are to be opened during the several coming years. Some 35 schools have already opened their doors and received Egyptian students for the academic year 2018/2019. Five more schools are expected to open during the next year.

The 100 schools will be based on “Tokkatsu”. As identified by Japanese Asakawa elementary school principal, Ms. Hiromi Shimizu, Tokkatsu is a kind of student activity which builds the students’ characters to make them more independent and positive. She said that studies have been conducted on students’ behavior before and after applying the Tokkatsu activities, and showed significant transformation in students’ behaviors. Students turn into more engaging and open individuals who are willing to participate in discussions without fear.

Many Egyptian teachers came to Japan to take the Tokkatsu training, according to Shimizu. She added that she met and trained some of them, and even became friends with them.

“We understand that we have an education system different from the one in Egypt, or any other country; however, Tokkatsu is not just about learning, it is also about building personalities,” Shimizu said.
By the end of the academic year, teachers will have to fill a form to check if all of the Tokkatsu goals have been achieved during the year. This is the only aspect through which they can check if Tokkatsu was successful or not.

“Tokkatsu can be applied anywhere around the world. Eventually, Tokkatsu is about changing people’s mind sets to be more motivated to participate in the society even more,” Shimizu said.

“Of course we expected to face some difficulties and problems in the beginning because the whole idea is new. But, so far, I can say that the experience is pretty much successful, despite everything that happened during setting up the process last year,” JICA’s Egypt Office Chief Representative, Yoshifumi Omura, said.

Japan is not a countrywithso many natural sources; however, they managed to create different sources to strengthen their economy. JICA’s Kitaoka reviewed during the meeting with the Africanjournalists that Japan focused after World War II on reforming the country’s economy. Several years later, Japan, a country which survived two atomic bombings, turned from an invading country during the war to a supporting country for its neighbors.

 

Credit: Aya Samir/ Egypt Today

Economy

Egypt urges World Bank, IMF to support regional integrity in Africa

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CAIRO – 18 October 2019: Minister of Investment and International Cooperation Sahar Nasr called on the World Bank and IMF to boost their support to Egypt in achieving regional integrity and intra-trade in Africa, a press release on Friday read.

Addressing the Intergovernmental Group of 24 on International Monetary Affairs and Development in Washington, Nasr called on the WB and International Monetary Fund to expand investments in the region.

The minister said that Egypt’s vision to face the slowdown in global economic growth and trade tensions is to achieve more economic integration and continue to take the path of reform to make our economies more competitive and attractive for investment, to achieve the aspirations of the world countries in growth and development.

Nasr explained that the Egyptian government has implemented a comprehensive economic and social reform program to promote sustainable growth, alleviate poverty, create good jobs, enable the private sector to promote growth, and provide opportunities for all sectors of society to participate in the economy, especially women and young entrepreneurs.

The Minister added that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, as the chairman of the African Union, has set the achievement of regional economic integration as a top priority.

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Nasr also discussed Wednesday with the World Bank the provision of $500 million for the pollution control and solid waste management project in Egypt.

Nasr added in a statement that Egypt is also discussing with the World Bank raising the level of partnership to support the health and education sectors in Egypt.

For his part, World Bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa Farid Belhadj affirmed that Egypt is a very important country for the bank’s fields of work.

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“Therefore the World Bank is keen to contribute effectively to the efforts exerted to achieve development in Egypt, especially in the field of infrastructure, in light of the economic and legislative reform that contributed to improving the investment climate in Egypt,”Belhadj explained.

Egypt Today

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African Development Bank and partners launch pilot Cities Diagnostics tool in five cities

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The tool includes key environmental and urban sustainability indicators as well as disaster risk and vulnerability, and urban footprint growth.

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, October 7, 2019 – “The urban opportunities far outweigh the challenges,” said Prof. Davis G. Mwamfupe, the Mayor of Dodoma, Tanzania, during his message to the Cities Leadership workshop, launching the City Diagnostics for five pilot cities in Africa, held on the 25th and 26th September 2019 in Abidjan.

Five cities were chosen for the pilot phase of the Cities Diagnostics for 2019 -2020: Antananarivo (Madagascar), Bizerte (Tunisia), Conakry (Republic of Guinea), Dodoma (Tanzania) and Libreville (Gabon) and were represented by their respective authorities.

The African Development Bank, the Urban and Municipal Development Fund (UMDF) and the Korea Africa-Economic Cooperation (KOAFEC) organized the workshop to review the cities diagnostic methodologies with city managers and international urban development experts. Amadou Oumarou, Director of the Bank’s Infrastructure and Urban Development Department said, “The new City Diagnostics tool of the Bank will enable city managers and development partners to have a clear understanding of the situation in all the various sub-sectors of the city and allow us to prioritise our work”.

The diagnostic tool includes key environmental and urban sustainability indicators; two baseline studies covering disaster risk and vulnerability, and urban footprint growth. It also includes a public opinion survey covering accessibility and quality of municipal services for water, sanitation, electricity. Drainage, solid waste management, and other measures of quality of life in cities are also included. The tool can measure and assess inclusiveness and resilience parameters, strategies, municipal resource mobilization, investments, and public accounts administration.

The Mayor of Bizerte, Dr. Ben Amara Kamel stressed the challenge of limited municipal budget resources for capital infrastructure and services investments as well the difficulty of recruiting qualified municipal staff to cities, especially given Bizerte’s ambitious projects such as 100% clean energy by 2030. Participants from Conakry and Libreville also mentioned problems of city governance, the low level of municipal tax collection, poor sanitation, and solid waste management.

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The five pilot cities exchanged experiences at a panel headed by Ellis Juan, Senior Advisor to the Bank’s UMDF and former head of the Inter-American Development Bank emerging and sustainable cities program (ESC) . Juan highlighted some of the key lessons learned in Latin America which included the following:

  • An integrated approach to city planning and management yields greater impact;
  • Climate change should be integrated into city planning and management;
  • Making cities for the people, or people-oriented cities;
  • Order in the fiscal accounts, increased digitalization of city management and strong governance and transparency make for a credible partner;
  • Efficient management of solid waste, sewerage and drainage systems, and water resources will preserve cities’ environmental assets for future generations while improving quality of life;
  • Integrating mobility into urban planning and investing in quality public transportation services will drive productivity and create citizen-friendly cities;

The City Diagnostics program is fully funded by the UMDF, which supports African cities and municipalities to improve their resilience and manage urban growth and development better through planning, governance, and efficient public services as well as improving the quality of life in urban environments in Africa.

African Development Bank Group (AfDB)

 

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Switzerland’s Head of Economic Cooperation, Development at SECO to visit Cairo

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Raymund Furrer

CAIRO,7 October 2019: To celebrate 40 years of Swiss-Egyptian development cooperation, Ambassador Raymund Furrer, Head of Economic Cooperation and Development at the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), will visit Cairo from 7-11 October to meet with Egyptian officials, visit the sites of Swiss development projects in Egypt, and discuss continued cooperation in the future.

Ambassador Furrer will inform key government stakeholders about the strategic priorities of SECO as well as the opportunities and challenges of the SECO portfolio in Egypt.

Alongside his meetings with top officials, he will also visit El Sewedy Technical Academy, where a project co-financed by Switzerland and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is being implemented to enhance employability and job market access of young women and men in Egypt. Ambassador Furrer will moreover attend a high-level panel discussion on trends, perspectives and solutions related to urban inequalities in Egypt, to be held at the premises of the Swiss Embassy.

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“We can achieve positive and tangible results together with the Government of Egypt and our project partners that make a difference to the lives of many ordinary Egyptians,” said Ambassador Furrer.

Forty years ago, in 1979, Switzerland and Egypt concluded a partnership to stimulate economic cooperation and investments, and bring support to the most vulnerable people among the Egyptian population. Projects at the time focused on infrastructure. Today, Switzerland’s development projects in Egypt have expanded greatly to include diverse activities in the fields of democratic processes and human rights, inclusive sustainable economic growth and employment, and migration and protection. Switzerland supports Egypt’s comprehensive reform agenda as set out in its 2030 Egypt Vision.

Ambassador Furrer will also address the guests of the Swiss National Day reception at the residence of Swiss Ambassador to Egypt Paul Garnier on October 9 around the landmark 40-year celebration of Swiss-Egyptian development cooperation. Throughout this 40-year timeframe some 700 million Swiss francs have been invested in more than 200 projects across Egypt to boost infrastructure, develop the private sector, and empower civil society, among other initiatives. Some of the highlights of Switzerland’s development programme successes in Egypt include provision of reliable radiology services that have benefitted 1.8 million patients and provision of support to three microfinance institutions with 450,000 clients and an outstanding portfolio of 110 million Swiss francs.

Ambassador Furrer has been Head of SECO’s Economic Cooperation and Development division since 1 October 2015. He is also Delegate of the Swiss Federal Council for Trade Agreements. SECO’s focus areas for Egypt for the 2017-2020 period include infrastructure financing, private sector investments, trade promotion and macro-economic support. The last bilateral official visit of Ambassador Furrer to Cairo was in May 2018.

Egypt Today

 

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