The Star (Nairobi)

25 August 2014

Kenya: ABE Initiative Helps Develop Industries

The Embassy of Japan and the Japan International Cooperation Agency, JICA, will today send off the 55 Kenyan youth who are going to study and work in Japan under the African Business Education Initiative for Youth, that is, the ABE Initiative.

ABE Initiative is a four-year plan that provides 1,000 African youth with opportunities to study at Japanese Universities and work as interns at Japanese enterprises. It was launched during the Fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD V) held in Yokohama, Japan in June, 2013. During TICAD V, which was co-chaired by H.E. Mr. Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan and H.E. Mr. Hailemariam Desalegn, Prime Minister of Ethiopia and Chairperson of the African Union, and attended by 39 heads of states from Africa, the importance of capacity building for business and industry in Africa was mutually confirmed. The ABE Initiative was launched by Prime Minister Abe as a result of such recognition during TICAD V.

The ABE Initiative accepts African youth who fall within the following 3 categories: persons from the private sector, government officials and educators in higher education and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions. Beneficiaries of this initiative will pursue a Master's Degree at universities in Japan for two and a half years and then work as interns for six months. Through the ABE Initiative, we expect that the beneficiaries will develop effective skills which will contribute to the development of business and industries in Africa.

During his tour in Africa this January, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a speech on Japan's Diplomacy towards Africa at the Headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa. In his speech, he identified one of the axes of Japan's diplomacy towards Africa as young people, because it is them who will shoulder the responsibility for the future of Africa. He also explained the mindset with which Japanese companies work with Africa, a mindset which has been instilled in the Japanese people through the ages, that is, to 'value each individual'. Through the ABE Initiative, we expect that the beneficiaries will understand this mindset, the contexts of Japanese society and systems of Japanese enterprises while they work in Japanese enterprises. We hope that they will then cultivate strong human networks between Japan and Africa in the future by utilizing the skills and understanding gained during their time in Japan.

This year, which is the first year of the ABE Initiative, 4 pilot countries have been chosen to conduct the selection of the ABE Initiative including Kenya. Following a highly competitive selection, 150 students have been selected as ABE Initiative beneficiaries. Of these, Kenya has 55 places. This is the largest number among the pilot countries. They are leaving for Japan in September.

Since the ABE initiative is highly competitive, there are many people who were not shortlisted during the selection process. We came across hundreds of bright Kenyan youth who have the high potential to contribute to the development of business and industries in Kenya; however, due to the limited number of places available, we regretted to select only 55 youth. I therefore would like to encourage those who were not able to make it this year as well as those who have just learnt about and are interested in the ABE Initiative to apply for the ABE Initiative 2015. The applications for the 2015 program have recently opened.

There is a Kenyan Proverb that says 'Natuone ndipo twambe, kusikia si kuona (Seeing is believing)'. I have briefly mentioned what the beneficiaries of the ABE Initiative will expect in Japan. However, I would like as many Kenyan youth as possible to actually experience life, universities and enterprises in Japan. They will truly understand Japan and its "mindset" which Prime Minister Abe mentioned during his speech. We look forward to applications from many Kenyan youth in the coming years.

Africa is the continent with the hopes of the world through its rich natural resources and high economic growth while youth are key for the bright future in this continent. Today, more and more Japanese companies show their interest in engaging in business in Africa. Currently, there are 31 Japanese companies which have their country/regional offices in Nairobi. More and more Japanese companies are coming to Nairobi to search for business opportunities.

The private sector is a vital engine of economic growth. As the Japanese Ambassador to Kenya, I strongly hope that the ABE initiative will truly contribute to the development of business and industries in Kenya through capacity development of youth. I also hope that the ABE Initiative beneficiaries will further strengthen the economic ties between Japan and Kenya in the near future.

HE Tatsushi Terada is the Ambassador of Japan to the Republic of Kenya.

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