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Yohei Sasakawa
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Sasakawa Africa Association Marks Year of Change, Renewal and Revitalization in 2019: Annual Report [2020年11月11日(Wed)]


“When the next history of the Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA) comes to be written in 30 years’ time, the year 2019 will be seen as a year of change, renewal and, perhaps, revitalization,” said SAA Chair Ruth Oniang’o in the organization’s 2019 annual report released earlier this fall. 

Above all, SAA’s involvement in the seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VII) held in August 2019 in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, was “particularly significant,” the report said, referring to a symposium which brought together government officials, agricultural experts, entrepreneurs and young farmers from both Africa and Japan for a series of engaging discussions focusing on youth unemployment in African countries. It also explored ways in which Africa and Japan can continue working together to improve agricultural opportunities available to young people.  

At an official side event of TICAD VII it organized, SAA signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which will have major significance for smallholder farming and, indeed, Japan’s involvement in African agriculture in the future. “We truly look forward to this collaboration,“ the chair said. 

Honoring the symposium, the then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe paid special tribute to SAA’s “30 long years of continued devotion and engagement” in supporting smallholder farmers in Africa.

He commended the role that Japanese technology can play in innovation, as part of efforts to develop agricultural practices and develop human resources, committing the Japanese government, together with JICA, to assisting in doubling rice production in Africa by 2030, the report said. 

“The year 2019 saw, too, a consolidation of our SAA outreach with the incorporation of SAFE (Sasakawa Africa Fund for Extension Education) into the SAA structure, significantly increasing the number of African countries in which SAA is involved,” Chair Oniang’o said, noting: “So, with a strengthened organization, and after a productive year, we look forward to the new decade with confidence.” 

The primary focus of SAA is improving the livelihood of smallholder farmers’ in the field, whilst the SAFE program is committed to delivering human resource development programs, in partnership with agricultural colleges and universities in Africa, according to the annual report.

SAA was established in 1986 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Nobel Laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug, and my late father, Ryoichi Sasakawa of The Nippon Foundation, in the wake of the devastating famine that ravaged the Horn of Africa in 1984/85. 

For over 30 years, SAA has worked in 15 countries across the continent with the firm support of The Nippon Foundation. Currently, SAA operates, and has country offices in Ethiopia, Nigeria, Mali and Uganda, which are known as focus countries, with a SAFE program also operating in seven additional countries. So far, SAA has offered higher education courses for more than 6,500 mid-career extension agents in 26 universities in Africa.

For well over three decades since the formation of SAA, The Nippon Foundation has been its principal donor, providing over 300 million dollars in support of its programs−an unprecedented figure from a donor to a non-governmental organization on a continuous basis, the report said.

“I wish, on behalf of the Board and the whole SAA fraternity, to thank The Nippon Foundation and Mr. Yohei Sasakawa, and all our partners, for their unfailing support and for standing by us,” Chair Oniang’o said. 

The Nippon Foundation and SAA have always believed in the agricultural potential of Africa and placed importance on advancing agricultural skills among smallholder farmers, who comprise about 70% of the population in Africa.

Nowadays, we have also focused on capacity building of extension agents to help shift the mindset of the smallholder farmers from producing for "eating" to producing for "selling". Agriculture must be seen as an attractive career option full of business opportunities. I sincerely hope that the younger generation in Africa will take agriculture on to a new era.

SAA’s annual report 2019 can been seen HERE.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 16:26 | TOWARD HUMAN SECURITY | URL | comment(0)
The Nippon Foundation Donates $2 Million for Education of Refugee Children at Cox’s Bazar [2019年12月20日(Fri)]

At a press conference in Dhaka on December 11, 2019, I announce that The Nippon Foundation will donate $2 million to BRAC to scale up its education programs for children of Myanmar refugees in the Cox’s Bazar camp.

The Nippon Foundation has announced it will donate $2 million to BRAC, a non-governmental organization based in Bangladesh, to scale up its education programs at the Cox’s Bazar refugee camp for children of Muslim refugees from Rakhine State in the neighboring Myanmar.

I made the announcement at a press conference at the BRAC center in the capital Dhaka on December 11 during a visit to Bangladesh, along with BRAC Executive Director Asif Saleh.

The money will be used to build 50 two-story prefabricated movable steel structures to be used as learning centers for 8,000 displaced refugee children aged 4 to 14 years from Myanmar, who are taking refuge in Ukhya and Teknaf sub-districts of the Cox's Bazar camp.

Besides, 100 pre-primary learning centers will also be built for the host community’s 3,000 children of 5 to 6 years of age. To select the location of the centers, engagement with parents and the broader local community will be prioritized in a bid to ensure their consent.

I told the press conference that I visited the Cox’s Bazar camp as Special Envoy of the Government of Japan for National Reconciliation in Myanmar and Chairman of The Nippon Foundation early this year to personally witness the reality on the ground, adding: “When I was there, I found the situation was much more serious than I thought.”  

“I have seen the refugee camp from the Myanmar side and Bangladesh side as well. And as a result, I actually saw, with my own eyes, how difficult the situation is. And under such a difficult situation, the Bangladeshi government is trying to provide humanitarian aid” to the refugees, I said.

BRAC’s Executive Director Saleh said that "55 percent of the people who came from Myanmar are children. So, we are focusing on their education."

Explaining further, I said: "The objective of our initiative is to create education opportunities for the children of Muslim refugees so that they can also learn alongside the host community’s children.” I sincerely hope that the displaced children will be able to continue learning when they return to their homeland.

The Bangladeshi government was quite reluctant to approve construction of buildings at the Cox’s Bazar camp by international organizations and western countries for fear of making the refugee situation there permanent.

But it did go along with our project, which envisages constructing movable steel structures designed for temporary use by refugees and taking care of children of the host community, which has been significantly impacted by the exodus of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Myanmar.

With BRAC Executive Director Asif Saleh (right).

An image of one of the two-story prefabricated movable steel structures to be used as learning centers for 8,000 refugee children from Myanmar.

Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 17:07 | TOWARD HUMAN SECURITY | URL | comment(0)
I Joined TICAD7 With PM Abe, More Than 40 African Leaders – 2 Sasakawa Africa Association to Help Double Rice Production By 2030 [2019年09月18日(Wed)]


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.

Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:00 | TOWARD HUMAN SECURITY | URL | comment(0)
I Joined TICAD7 With PM Abe, More Than 40 African Leaders – 1 [2019年09月12日(Thu)]


Speaking at the TICAD7 Plenary Session in Yokohama on August 28, 2019 

The Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development, known as TICAD7, was held in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, from August 28 to 30 2019.

Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe returned home on the evening of August 27 from Biarritz, France, where he attended the Group of Seven Summit.  On the following day, he delivered a keynote address at the opening session of TICAD7 and then closing remarks on the final day of the conference. He also met with 42 leaders of African nations and heads of four international organizations and spoke at the official side event organized by the Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA), perfectly implementing his minute-by-minute schedule during the three days in Yokohama.

Without flattering the prime minister, his physical strength and mental power are now totally different from the time ofthe first Abe Cabinet (September 2006 to August 2007). The international trust in and evaluation of the prime minister are extremely high, although the Japanese media do not give much coverage tohis reputation overseas. According to recent opinion polls, Japanese people cited his diplomatic initiatives as a policy they support most regardless of what the media report.

Following the G20 summit in Osaka on June 29-30 and TICAD7 in Yokohama on August 28-30, there will be the Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan from September 20 to November 2 and the most important ceremony of the Reiwa era: to formally proclaim Emperor Naruhito’s ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne. Set forOctober 22, this will take place in front of numerous foreign heads of state and government.

When Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi passed away while in office in May 2000, the media took up the issue of the health of the prime minister, but since then they have stayed quiet on the matter.

Prime Minister Abe works harder than anyone else in Japan and is said to stand out among world leaders in terms of the hours he puts in.The late Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki used to play golf almost every weekend at Narashino Country Club, but there was no particular media criticism of him.For a prime minister, who needs to make big decisions, physical and mental stability are crucial.

Turning now to the first-day plenary session of the TICAD7, there was a three-minutetime limit to speeches by African heads of state, with the microphone automatically turned off after three minutes. In their home countries, perhaps, these leaders can speak with almost no limit. It was a pity they were only allowed three minutes to speak after coming all the way to Japan, but given that there were as many as 20 speakers per session, some sort of rule was inevitable. At United Nations conferences, speeches are limited to three to five minutes.

On that day, there were many heads of state who could not finish their speeches in three minutes, with many forced to end in halfway. The moderator kept having to apologize and blamed it on the sound system.

As a private citizen, I was given a chance to make the same three-minute speech, sandwiched between presidents of African nations, thanks mostly to the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s thoughtfulness and the international recognition of the SAA’s years of support for poor farmers in Africa.

TICAD was held every five years from 1993 until its fifth session in 2013 in Yokohama. Since then, it has occurred every three years, with the first edition on the African continent taking place in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2016.

The seventh conference was co-hosted by the Japanese government, the United Nations, the World Bank, the U.N. Development Program and the African Union Commission.

My speech at the plenary session of TICAD7 on August 28, 2019 can been seen HERE.

Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 19:41 | TOWARD HUMAN SECURITY | URL | comment(0)