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POLICY

Interview with H.E. Ms. Tabu Irina, Ambassador of the Republic of Kenya to Japan

By Staff Writer
October 21, 2022
The Eighth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD8), the two-day international meeting between Japan and African nations, was held on the 27th and 28th of August 2022 in Tunisia. The leaders adopted the TUNIS Declaration, which will promote start-ups, accessible health care, and action towards climate change, against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

Launched in 1993, TICAD has initiated numerous joint projects between Japan and African nations, with significant private investments to consolidate the diplomatic and bilateral ties. One exemplary success story is represented by Kenya, where TICAD6 took place in 2016. “TICAD6 held in Nairobi was a momentous occasion for Kenya and Japan”, says H.E. Amb. Tabu Irina. By connecting past outcomes and future hopes, one can envisage the significance of the event.

The ambassador of Kenya to Japan, seated at a table
H.E. Ms. Tabu Irina, Ambassador of the Republic of Kenya to Japan

TICAD8 as the engine of “build back better”

Africa has been deeply impacted by these two disastrous crises – COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. Taking the example of Kenya, Ambassador Irina, who has held her current position since 2021, explains that COVID-19 not only brought human losses and adverse effects on economy, the pandemic also put colossal pressures on health facility capacities. Similarly, the war in Ukraine has affected Kenya’s food security following the disruption of food production and agricultural distribution chains, mirroring the energy crisis which has led to skyrocketing fuel costs.

In this regard, Kenya looks forward to the implementation of the TUNIS declaration, adopted by the TICAD8 attendees. Ambassador Irina noted that “Kenya welcomes and is in full support of the TUNIS declaration which addresses a wide range of prevailing global challenges”. She added “These challenges have made it clear that no single country can resolve them on its own. Collective action is necessary for lasting and sustainable solutions. The TUNIS Declaration proposes solutions in the face of the current global situation. These solutions resonate well with the African continent because our countries not only have similar challenges but are more or less on a similar scale in terms of development”.

Equally, she also highlighted that the progress on Sustainable Development Goals had recently stalled owing to these challenges. According to the ambassador, “With greater international solidarity as recently displayed during TICAD 8, we will build back better, build back stronger and regain the momentum on achieving the SDGs.”

The issue of the Sustainable Goals was raised during the TICAD8 as a matter that requires further collaboration and efforts from both the public and private sectors. The achievements realized through the last TICAD prove that the collaboration between African nations and Japan is strong enough to taking further challenge. Following TICAD6 held in Nairobi. Ambassador Irina highlighted the subsequent tangible outcomes evidenced by “increased cooperation and collaboration between the two Governments and their respective private sectors.” Further, “The number of Japanese companies in Kenya and Africa has seen a steep increase from 440 in 2016 to 563 in 2019, which is after TICAD6. Many projects, that were implemented as the outcomes of the event, include infrastructure projects, energy production in particular the geo-thermal sector, human resource development and health care projects.” Among these, she emphasized Universal Health Coverage (UHC) projects. In this regard, she explained that “Takeda Pharmaceutical Company concluded an MOU and has started a project in the healthcare sector in Kenya to establish Nairobi as a Center of Excellence for oncology in Sub-Saharan Africa. TAKEDA has been working with several partners to enhance local cancer management capacity to increase access to treatment, and address access barriers for other chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.”

This cooperation between Kenya and Japan in the health sector is still growing. Ambassador Irina highlighted that “Within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, Japan was among the first countries to support Kenya in response to the pandemic and has continued to support Kenya’s Universal Health Coverage and Human Capital Development.” Japan’s support included the donation of 50.000 test kits, and extended grants for purchase of medical equipment and supplies to the counties. The ambassador lauded Japan’s commitment and dedication to support Kenya’s UHC journey.
The Japanese Foreign Minister standing with the Kenyan Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs,  Raychelle OMAMO at TICAD8 in Tunisia
Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa HAYASHI (left) standing with the Kenyan Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Raychelle OMAMO at TICAD8 in Tunisia

60 years of diplomatic ties and friendship

Next year, Kenya and Japan will mark the 60 years anniversary of its diplomatic relations. Ambassador Irina noted that “The relations between Kenya and Japan are cordial and are characterized by shared common values, a belief in a rules-based multilateral system, democratic principles and good governance.” Moreover, despite the distance the two countries, Kenya and Japan have shared cultures and values such as a hardworking, skilled and efficient workforce, immense respect for the elderly, pursuit of peace and harmony. and. “The convergence of cultures lays a solid foundation of cooperation and collaboration based on a common understanding. In the face of crisis, the relations between Japan and Kenya have grown stronger” she emphasized. “I just wish to highlight that the aspect of culture is essential. Through culture, you can promote relations between the two countries and its peoples. We therefore look forward to strengthening our relations for the mutual benefit of all.
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