By Alhaji Haruna Sani
The Embassy of Japan in Sierra Leone has on Thursday, March 3rd, showcased its support through bilateral and multilateral projects worth over USSD 69M in Sierra Leone.
The event, which objective was to highlight Japan’s Economic Cooperation in Sierra Leone, was organized at the Conference Hall of Radisson Blu, Mammy Yoko Hotel, Aberdeen in Freetown.
Over the years, Sierra Leone has significantly benefited from economic and technical cooperation mainly in the form of technical assistance from the Government of Japan.
The Government of Japan supports the government and people of Sierra Leone through UN agencies, Japan International Cooperation Agency, and other partners in Sierra Leone mainly from 2019 to 2022.
Speaking during the event, Japan’s Ambassador to Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone, H.E. Mochizuki Hisanobu expresses his desire for being part of the event which was going to introduce the projects which the Government of Japan and international organizations have partnered to implement in Sierra Leone between 2019 and 2022.
He said for the past three years, Japan has implemented many projects through International Organizations, mainly UN Agencies in Sierra Leone.
He registered his disappointment over the COVID-19 pandemic which started in 2019, noting that because of the pandemic they have not had enough opportunity to promote the projects in Sierra Leone.
He assured the gathering that the UN agencies will explain the respective projects the Japanese Government is supporting and the impact of those projects on Sierra Leoneans.
He noted that those projects were implemented across several policy domains and are expected to complement national policies of Sierra Leone that seek to make meaningful progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, maintaining that some of the projects have helped to increase access to health services since the COVID-19 pandemic started.
In the areas of agriculture and food security, the ambassador said some of the projects have helped to build the capacity of smallholder farmers and introduced initiatives to reduce the impact COVID-19 had on food security in vulnerable households.
He further explained that to effectively prevent the spread of the pandemic across borders, some of the projects have helped strengthen health systems in several points of entry in Sierra Leone, maintaining that there were also projects in other sectors like energy, education, infrastructure, women empowerment, child protection, gender-based services, and partnership with the private sector.
Those projects, he said are a reflection of the extraordinary alliance and deep friendship between Japan and Sierra Leone, adding that the amount of the projects is around 70 million US Dollar, equivalent to 7.8 billion Japanese yen.
“Most of our projects are geared towards promoting the concept of human security. As we have continuously advocated for through TICAD, Japan will continue to focus international dialogue on Africa through mobilizing the necessary support to implement projects towards promoting sustainable development, he assured.”
Ambassador Mochizuki acknowledges Japanese staffs that have used their expertise to ensure a successful completion of those projects.
He concluded by commending all the organizations who partnered with Japan on their projects and expresses hope to continue building on those partnerships.
In his keynote address, Dr. Francis Kai-Kai, Minister of Planning and Economic Development highlighted the Government of Japan’s work in Sierra Leone, commending their Economic and Development Cooperation in the country.
He said Japan’s Bilateral and Multilateral Economic and Development Cooperation 2019-2022 had distinguished itself, especially in the domains of Human Capital Development, Diversifying the Economy and Energy clusters of the Medium-Term National Development Plan (MTNDP) 2019-2023.
He informed the gathering that Japanese aid has always come in handy in support of the (MTNDP) 2019-2023, adding that “we are proud to note that the Government of Japan mainly through its International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has been providing project support and non-project grants to Sierra Leone, aligning this support to the country’s development agenda”.
The Minister pointed out that Sierra Leone certainly appreciates the long-standing relationship with Japan and was looking forward to strengthening it further in the upcoming Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) scheduled to hold in the Republic of Tunisia from the 27th-28th August, 2022.
“It is our hope that TICAD8 which is co-hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank and the African Union Commission would further strengthen the cooperation between Japan and Africa, with Sierra Leone in particular.”
UN Resident Coordinator to Sierra Leone, Babatunde Ahonsi in his keynote address said as a multi-lateral organization, the United Nations and its member states have unbounded potential to work together towards peace and development around the globe.
“In 2015, member states unanimously adopted Agenda 2030, a universal ‘call to action’ to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. Both Sierra Leone and Japan were among the 193 countries that committed to Agenda 2030 and the 17 Sustainable development goals that day, he intimated”.
The Resident Coordinator further stated that since making that pledge, both countries have demonstrated their ongoing commitment to SDG realization. He said Sierra Leone has adopted the Medium-Term National Development Plan which is rooted in the SDGs, and regularly evaluates its progress toward the goals through a Voluntary National Review. He added that the country went through its third review last year that involved consultations with a wide range of stakeholders.
“Sierra Leone also demonstrates its commitment to Leave No One Behind through initiatives such as the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Bill now under discussion, the Free Quality Education Programme, and efforts towards ensuring universal human rights”.
The UN Resident Coordinator said Japan has demonstrated its commitment to the SDGs not only through domestic efforts, but also through development cooperation programmes with a range of countries, including Sierra Leone. He noted that Japan’s range of programmes represent the true spirit of SDG 17 -Partnerships for the goals.
“Today’s presentations will highlight how Japan’s support has made possible UN work in critical areas including, but not limited to, Crisis Response, School Feeding, COVID-19 Response, Youth Empowerment, and Social Cohesion within communities, Dr. Ahonsi noted.”
“In closing, let me express gratitude of behalf of the entire UN Country Team for the support of Japan towards economic and social development programmes in the country and personally welcome H.E. Ambassador Mochizuki to his new role as Ambassador of Japan to Sierra Leone. I very much look forward to working with you. The UN is honoured to partner with Japan to realize sustainable development objectives in Sierra Leone and welcome the occasion of telling more about work and the impact it is having on the lives of people in Sierra Leone.”
The event was climaxed by a 7minutes presentation of Japan-funded projects by Plan Parenthood Association of Sierra Leone, (PPASL), International Organization for Migration (IOM), FAO, UNFPA, UNICEF, WFP, UNIDO, UNOPS and UNDP, all showcasing Japan’s supported projects and their impacts on Sierra Leonean.