BENEDICT TEMBO, Lusaka
ZAMBIA’S development partnership with Japan has traversed decades; Japan has been implementing socio-economic projects through the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which set up base in Lusaka in 1970 as a representative office when the first Japanese volunteers were dispatched to Zambia.
Subsequently, it officially became JICA Zambia Office through signing exchange of notes by both governments in 1987.
In 2008, JICA assumed the responsibility for Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) loans, which were previously administered by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC).
Since then, technical cooperation, grant aid and ODA loans have been implemented under one umbrella, JICA.
As of the end of Japanese Fiscal Year 2017 (March 2018), the number of grant aid projects accounted for 105 of ODA.
A total of 57.885 billion Yen has been disbursed to Zambia to date, with 63,696 million Yen under technical cooperation, grant aid totaling 82,439 million Yen and 46,475 Yen under ODA loans concluded.
Currently, JICA’s support to Zambia is primarily focused on vitalisation of economic activities, improvement and enhancement of basic economic infrastructure, and improvement of social infrastructure.
In the agriculture and livestock sector, one of its most prominent achievements in JICA’s 30 years of cooperation in this sector is the establishment of the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Zambia (UNZA).
“JICA has also assisted small- scale irrigation development. Small weirs introduced in villages have been built and maintained by communities with local materials,” Japanese ambassador to Zambia Hidenobu Sobashima said.
“Agricultural extension systems and crop diversification have also been supported to increase productivity and income of small scale farmers. JICA has also been promoting rice cultivation by reinforcing extension and research capacities,” Mr Sobashima said.
JICA’s approach utilises both the knowledge transfer by experts and grassroots-level support by JICA volunteers to farmers.
In the education sector, JICA focuses on improvement of quality of education especially in science and mathematics.
“In collaboration with Ministry of General Education, JICA introduced ‘Lesson Study’, a way of peer teacher learning at school, which Japan originally invented and now is widely implemented all over the world.
“Since its introduction in 2005, the Lesson Study has been rolled out to 3,121 schools, thus 14,035 teachers have been involved, and 1,640,000 students have benefited from it as of 2015,”Mr Sobashima says.
In the health sector, JICA’s co-operation with the Ministry of Health dates back to 1978, with the first project planned and implemented at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH), which included construction of the neonatal ward, and provision of medical equipment as well as specialised staff training, which enabled the Zambian government to provide the first surgical operations services to new-born babies with complications.
“Additionally, JICA constructed the children’s ward, which has now turned into a children’s hospital. The first UTH Viral and T.B. laboratory was also constructed and set up by JICA in 1990 and became the national referral lab for HIV/AIDS/TB viral load detection,” he says.
Other examples of landmark cooperation are the upgrading of Chilenje and Matero clinics into mini hospitals, while Kanyama, Chipata, and Chawama are under construction, thus bringing health services as close to the people as possible and decongesting UTH, which is a national referral hospital.
Other infrastructure projects by JICA include main roads in Lusaka such as Great East Road, Tokyo Way (Ring Road), Lusaka City Inner Ring Road and the Kafue Road Bridge.
“JICA also constructed Chirundu Bridge, which connects the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, where the first One-Stop Border Post (OSBP) in Africa was also established by the support of JICA,” Mr Sobashima says.
In the water sector, JICA started to provide rural water supply cooperation from 1985 in Southern Province.
Since then, more than 2,400 boreholes have been constructed with JICA’s cooperation and benefited about two million people with water supply.
In addition, urban water supply projects such as rehabilitation of Lusaka water supply and Ndola water supply have contributed to improved access to clean water.
Japan has also been involved in private sector development through a series of assistance for investment promotion such as the Study on Master Plan of Lusaka South Multi-Facility Economic Zone (MFEZ) 2007 – 2009, “Zambia Investment Promotion Project – Triangle of Hope 2009 – 2012 and “Project of Industry Strategy Formulation for Engineering Product 2011 – 2013, which has greatly contributed to building the current business environment.
Zambia has also adopted the KAIZEN, a concept derived from the Japanese word which means continuous improvement, which was introduced to Zambia in 2009 through the KAIZEN Institute of Zambia Limited (KiZ), established under the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry in 2013.
Japan and Zambia established diplomatic relations on October 24, 1964. Japan established its embassy in Lusaka on 1 September 1965 with Mr. Toshio Urabe as its first ambassador to Zambia.
Zambia opened its embassy in Tokyo on August 27, 1975.
The bilateral relations, however, date back to Zambia’s pre-independence days when the athletes who had represented Northern Rhodesia in the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games proudly marched with the Zambian flag at the closing ceremony on October 24.
High level visits
Four serving Zambian Heads of State have been to Japan, starting with President Kenneth Kaunda, who visited that country in September 1980, February 1989 and November 1990.
Although no Japanese prime ministers have ever visited Zambia, the Emperor and Empress as the Crown Prince and Princess were then, came here in March 1983.
In December 1999, their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Takamado visited the country, and so did their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Akishino in June 2014.
Through the Tokyo International Conference for Africa (TICAD) inaugurated in 1993, Japan has created another platform for interaction with Zambia and other African countries.
TICAD VI was held in Nairobi, Kenya, in August 2016 where Japan announced initiatives such as economic diversification and industrialisation.
Japan has to date sent 1,303 experts in various fields to Zambia, trained 2,594 Zambians in Japan, and trained 939 in third party countries. Japan has also dispatched 1,532 junior and senior volunteers.
BENEDICT TEMBO, Lusaka