Japan aims to establish a permanent business framework with several African countries, including Egypt, the Japanese ambassador in Cairo Masaki Noke said, noting that the idea of establishing Japan-Africa Business Council was proposed by the Japanese side during the past few months.
“The council initially consists of only Japanese ministers and representatives from the private sector. The council will be a Japanese high-level intensive framework to exchange the ideas of boosting the cooperation with Africa,” the ambassador added.
Daily News Egypt interviewed Noke on the sidelines of an event the embassy held on 21 August to know more about the 7th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD7) to be held from 28 to 30 August 2019, transcript of which is below, lightly edited for clarity:
We read about your recent meeting with Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities Khaled Al-Anani, what was it about?
We are still working on the grand opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum set to be at end of 2020. We are also happy to continue working with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities after the opening of the museum.
We are now discussing the aspects of maintenance and management of the museum.
Last time I met the Antiquities Minister, I was accompanied by Japanese experts who are working on various aspects of Egyptian civilization, so I introduced them to the minister to discuss the possibilities of future cooperation with them.
We are also interested in cultural exchange with Egyptian civilisation with other civilisations that existed during the era of Tutankhamun.
Who are the Egyptian ministers participating in the TICAD7?
For my understanding, Minister of Investment and International Cooperation, Sahar Nasr; Minister of Education, Tarek Shawkey; Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Khaled Abdel Ghaffar; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sameh Shoukry, and Minister of Trade and Industry, Amr Nassar, will likely attend the TICAD7.
Basic and university education are key areas of cooperation, while industry, trade, and investments are also very important in our cooperation portfolio.
Do you have specific plan for boosting Egypt-Japan trade exchange in the next period?
It depends on the private sector activities, so the government can’t set the target. What we can do, is to encourage the business environment for more cooperation between the private sector companies.
As Minister Nasr always mentions, we have been working together very closely after the Japanese delegation’s visit to Egypt in March.
I had lots of bilateral meetings with Minister Nasr to follow up on the visit. I also met with the Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, Minister of Finance Mohamed Moeit, Minister of Trade and Industry Amr Nassar.
We aim at boosting our joint cooperation in terms of business and investment.
[Egypt and Japan signed several memorandums of understanding (MoUs) when an 80-representative Japanese business mission to Egypt on 10-12 March. Over the visit, the delegation met with the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, where he affirmed that Egypt looks forward to promoting economic and commercial relations with Japan via promising investment opportunities in the Egyptian market in various sectors. Al-Sisi reassured that Egypt is keen on direct interaction with Japanese businesspersons to review Egypt’s capabilities, including trained labour and the free trade agreements inked with Arab, African, and European countries, according to media reports.]
As a trade partner, Egypt is already a good export destination, but the size of trade exchange is still modest, roughly JPY 100bn which is less than $1bn.
Can you please elaborate on Japan-Africa Business Council?
A few months ago, the idea of establishing a permanent framework to boost the business cooperation with Africa was proposed by the Japanese side.
Japan aims to set more actions toward Africa. The council initially consists of only Japanese different ministers and representatives from the private sector.
The council will be a Japanese high-level intensive framework to exchange cooperation ideas with Africa. The Japanese Foreign Affairs Ministry is very familiar with Africa, but other ministries like education, culture, sports, science and technology are not very familiar with Africa.
Together we can exchange the views and encourage the ministries to be more active in Africa.
When will this council be activated?
We would like to have a permanent committee between Egypt, Japan, and several African countries, but the timing of its activation has not been decided yet.
Are there any new commitments from the Japanese government toward Africa?
All the commitments are unpredictable now. We have to wait until 30 August. However, there have been many discussions and dialogues with African countries and among the organisers of the TICAD7.
Upon the discussions, we will agree on specific targets on the fields of economy, society, peace, and stability. I think that developing the human resources, technology, and innovation will have a prominent role in achieving these aforementioned targets.
There are some subjects will be considered as main keys of TICAD7 including building capacities of the industrial human resources; supporting high-quality infrastructure; promoting industrial diversity, health, and medicines; natural disaster prevention, and empowerment of women and youth.
Japan supports African countries in the medical field. It will be important to build sustainable health care systems in African countries taking into account Africa’s unique challenges in this sector.
We have tripartite programmes with African countries through Egypt. Through the cooperation of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Egyptian Agency for Partnership for Development that is affiliated to the Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Egypt has received more than 3,500 trainees from more than 50 African countries in areas such as agriculture and health.
There is also the Egyptian-Japanese University of Science and Technology (E-JUST), which accepts students from Africa. TICAD7 will be an opportunity to develop this tripartite partnership through Egypt.
How do you assess Egypt’s regional role, mainly in Africa?
Japan appreciates Egypt’s leading role in Africa and the concrete actions taken by Egypt in the area of peace and security, through the establishment of the African Union Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development (AU PCRD) and the Aswan Forum for Sustainable Peace and Development.
Japan greatly benefits from these political and economic initiatives for Egypt toward African countries which promote greater peace and stability, and greater integration in Africa.
Egypt is a pivotal country and a major player in both the Middle East and Africa, especially the Middle East and North Africa region is facing serious difficulties, mainly in Libya, Sudan, and other neighbouring countries of Egypt, so stability is the biggest challenge. Egypt, led by President Al-Sisi, addresses two priorities, economy and security, in order to maintain stability in the country.
There is something special in our relationship with Egypt. I was always impressed by the pioneering role of Egypt before being appointed as the Japanese ambassador to Egypt last year.
Thirty years ago, the Egyptian Opera House was one of Japan’s largest cultural grant projects, and today there is the Grand Egyptian Museum, in order to enrich cultural heritage and support economic development.
I hope that we can continue to face challenges, not only for Egypt but in Africa and the Middle East through Egypt.
Japan is developing capacities of the Egyptian youth and transfer its technology to Egypt. Japan is very interested in boosting this kind of cooperation with Africa. We aim to convince more Japanese companies to come to Egypt.