The above photograph was taken during the SAA official side event and carried by The Japan Times on the front page of its September 29 edition, although the accompanying story was not about the SAA event itself.
To the left of Prime Minister Abe is AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina and to his right are SAA Chairperson Ruth K. Oniang’o and myself.
The Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA) was established by my late father Ryoichi Sasakawa, the founder and the first chairman of The Nippon Foundation, together with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Nobel Laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug in response to the devastating famine in Ethiopia in 1984. Their bottom line was to “teach people in Africa how to fish rather than give them fish.”
I accompanied the trio in 1985 on their six-day whirlwind trip to the Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia and Ghana. We met with their presidents individually and agreed to launch a project to train people how to increase food production.
It was soon after the United States launched a failed attempt to assassinate Colonel Muammar Gaddafi[ of Libya in April 1986 in a pinpoint bombing raid. Ever since, the SAA has been one of the organizations in the world to continue to be engaged in agricultural training for three decades in Africa.
I participated in an opening plenary session of TICAD7, an official side event organized by the SAA and a dinner hosted by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on August 28, and energetically held talks with the following African leaders on the next two days:
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
President Yoweri Museveni, Republic of Uganda
President Azali Assoumani, Union of the Comoros
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Republic of Ghana
Mr. Ibrahim Salim Bagus, Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism of Republic of Malawi
President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Republic of Mali
President Julius Maada Bio, Republic of Sierra Leone
President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, Burkina Faso
Mr. Adriano Afonso Maleiane, Minister of Economy and Finance of the Republic of Mozambique
Joaquim Alberto Chissano, former President of the Republic of Mozambique
Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB)
The TICAD7 official side event hosted by the SAA was marked by lively discussion under the theme of “Sasakawa in Africa – Building on the past, looking to the future.” I sincerely thanked Prime Minister Abe and President Akinwumi Adesina of the African Development Bank (AfDB) for giving keynote speeches at this symposium.
In his address, Prime Minister Abe announced Japan’s intent to help double Africa’s rice production to 56 million tons by the year 2030. “Japanese technology can play a key role in innovation, which is a key to agriculture,” he told the delegates.
The prime minister added that he was pleased the SAA signed a memorandum with the governmental Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) earlier in the day to cooperate to achieve this goal.
“We’ve always believed in the agriculture potential of Africa,” I responded, adding: “We are paying more attention to income-generating activities. We want to help shift the mindset of smallholder farmers from producing-to-eat to producing-to-sell. We are hopeful that Africa’s youth can take agriculture to a new era, and that they can see a career path in agriculture.”
On the gravity of the food crisis on the continent, I totally agreed with President Akinwumi Adesina of the African Development Bank when he said in his keynote address: “In spite of all the gains made in agriculture, we are not winning the global war against hunger. We must all arise collectively and end global hunger. To do that, we must end hunger in Africa. Hunger diminishes our humanity.”
According to the 2019 report of U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the number of hungry people globally stood at a disconcerting 821 million, of which Africa accounts for 31 percent at 251 million people.
Recalling my later father for his tireless efforts in tackling hunger, Mr. Adesina said of the SAA: “Passion, dedication and commitment to the development of agriculture and the pursuit of food security in our world has been the hallmark of your work.”
My speech at the TICAD7 Official Side Event in Yokohama on August 28, 2019, can been seen HERE.