The success of the maiden edition of the African Seminar and Cultural Performance in 2017 was a big confidence booster for all of us at the African Association of Miyagi (AFAM). That huge event, which became the talk of the town for a long time afterwards, gave us inspiration and motivation for the 2018 event.
Drawing from the experience of 2017, we already knew the right strings to pull for all the resources needed for another successful outing in 2018. That sponsorship drive was spearheaded by our able President, Dr. Isaac Asiedu and his efforts with the backing of AFAM executives and members led to fruitful collaborations with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Miyagi Coop, Miyagi International Association (MIA), Sendai Tourism, Convention and International Association(SenTIA), Tohoku University and a host of others.
This time around, the event was held at the exquisite Hitachi Systems Hall, Asahigaoka, Sendai due to the unavailability of an event space at the Sendai International Centre. Nevertheless, the event was a huge success. We sincerely appreciate all hands that were on deck for the great outcome of the event.
In this report, we give an overview, from conception to execution of the event and feedback and suggestions from both organizers and participants.
Ahead of the 7th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 7) which is billed to hold in Yokohama, Japan in 2019, AFAM thought it was wise to set the tone through her 2018 Seminar as a pre-event. It is worthy of note that TICAD 6, which was held in Nairobi, Kenya in 2016, came up with three key areas for Japan’s cooperation agenda with Africa: (1) Promotion of economic structural changes through economic diversification and industrialization, (2) Promotion of a resilient health system for high quality of life, and (3) Promotion of social stabilization for shared prosperity.
In view of this, AFAM adopted the theme “Africa-Japan Partnership for the Achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”. As agreed by the United Nations, the realization of the SDGs are very crucial in ensuring that no one is left behind as far as development is concerned. Capitalizing on the mutual interest between Africa and Japan, AFAM sought to highlight issues surrounding the SDGs as they concern the two parties in order to stir up healthy debates that will promote cooperation in achieving the goals.
April 4, 2018
AFAM Executives met to discuss, among other matters, the 2018 African Seminar.
The President briefed the executives about the source of funding for the event and the possibility of collaborating with certain organizations which are interested in Africa. He pointed out that the 2018 Seminar was expected to focus on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and we were all expected to kick off active preparations by June.
The General Secretary mentioned she would really prefer a more participatory approach to the program going forward. The President supported the motion by saying we could have one main speaker while both Japanese and Africans would be engaged for the panel discussions.
The Deputy General Secretary brought up the issue of language barrier which was a big challenge in the 2017 event. He suggested that interpreters should be made available for every part of the event.
The Organizing Secretary said that JICA could help provide interpreters so that we could have mixed English-Japanese panelists.
The Deputy Organizing Secretary talked about having discussions about a win-win business and economic partnership between Africa and Japan rather than the old narrative of developing Africa which was mainly one-sided. He was advised by the General Secretary to develop his thoughts as it would make a great discussion point.
May 9, 2018
An AFAM Executive Meeting was held and the President gave a brief on the progress made towards seeking sponsorship for the seminar in September. It was agreed upon to get three main speakers; one ambassador from one of our African embassies, one from JICA and one student among AFAM members.
The theme was confirmed to be about the SDGs and we needed to consolidate related topics around that. It was decided that the ambassador spoke on SDGs and their roles in Africa’s development, while the JICA speaker spoke on the Japanese government’s activities in Africa geared towards the achievement of SDGs and the AFAM student spoke on the role of Universities (where the youths are) in the achievement of the SDGs.
It was decided that Six (6) embassies be invited to set up booths showcasing what their governments are doing to achieve SDGs.
The venue and the date were confirmed to be the Hitachi Systems Hall, Asahigaoka and 16th September, 2018 respectively with the start time fixed at 9am. It was decided that each speaker had 20 minutes for their presentations. The General Secretary was mandated with the task of preparing invitation letters for the embassies.
May 20, 2018
An executive meeting was held on May 20, 2018 to decide on the final theme for the seminar and outline of the program. After deliberations by all in attendance, the theme was decided as AFRICA-JAPAN PARTNERSHIP FOR THE ACHIEVEMENT OF THE SDGs.
It was agreed that the morning session would be the seminar followed by SDGs quiz and cultural performances in the afternoon.
The General Secretary was tasked to draft invitation letters to be sent to resource persons and the embassies to ask for their participation.
The president announced that a group would come from Hokkaido to sing about the SDGs. Some NGOs were also expected to set up booths during the seminar.
June 24, 2018
An AFAM General Meeting was held at the Tohoku University International House Sanjo 2 for the final update on the seminar.
The date, time and venue were confirmed as well as the speakers.
Three speakers were confirmed as follows:
The Kenyan Ambassador to Japan to speak on Africa’s Roles in the SDGs; a speaker from JICA to speak on the roles of the Japanese Government in the SDGs and AFAM student representative to speak on the role of Universities (Youth) in the achievement of the SDGs.
It was also confirmed that the Dean of the African Diplomatic Corp was invited as the special guest speaker.
Booths were allocated to the Embassies of Eritrea, Malawi and Kenya and also to MELON, KANEDAI Co. Ltd., the Japanese Consumers’ Co-operative Union (JCCU), Maris Art, JICA and AFAM.
On the day of the African Seminar and Cultural Performance, the programs started at 10.00 with the Director General of JICA giving an Opening Speech and setting the tone for TICAD 2019 which will hold in Japan after six years of the maiden edition.
The MC introduced the various booths available during the event for people to visit and get information on the various countries and organizations the booths represent.
Mr. Estifanos Afewerki, Eritrea’s Ambassador to Japan and the Dean of the African Diplomatic Corps (ADC) was up next to talk about the rich history and culture of Eritrean. He emphasized the omni-directional foreign policy of Japan. He pointed out that Africa has a lot to offer Japan pointing out that the 2019 TICAD7 which will hold in Yokohama will also be focused on the SDGs.
The Kenyan Ambassador, Mr Solomon K. Maina, came on to talk in-depth about the evolution that led to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are 17 goals with 169 targets that are expected to be achieved in the year 2030 towards ‘the world we want’. He made it known that Africa’s economy has a direct bearing on the achievement of the SDGs. It is cheering to know that Africa’s GDP has constantly been on the rise. He talked about how the African Free Trade Area is creating one African Market. The ultimate focus is to transform Africa through integration. He concluded by talking about Kenya’s strides in achieving the SDGs.
Talking from a student’s perspective, Ms Jemima Kibira took the stage to talk about the SDGs. She emphasized the fact that Africa has the youngest population and that all young people of the world should personalize the SDGs since the future belongs to the young. She encouraged all students to ensure that their researches are geared towards the SDGs. She showed the giant strides of some young Africans towards achieving the SDGs.
The JICA Senior Director, Africa Department, Mr Kei Yoshizawa came up to talk about the ideas from the perspective of Japanese. He talked about the impact of ABE (The African Business Education) and the KAIZEN Initiatives in promoting the SDGs in Africa. The initiatives have raised agricultural productivity in certain areas in Kenya and Tanzania. He also talked about Universal Health Coverage and Initiative for Food and Nutrition Security in Africa. He stressed that no single country can achieve the ambitious SDGs, as such, partnership is very crucial.
At lunch time, as we enjoyed Jollof Rice and Chicken, Yago Noriko and Masami Nonogaki of JICA Hokkaido sang very nice songs about the SDGs with guitar and African drum accompaniments. At the same time, people went around to see the various booths. A slide show chronicling the activities of AFAM was later on display to intimate all attendees on what the organization had been doing in the past.
The Afternoon Session ordered in various exciting and energetic performances from various groups. The peak of the session was when the Drum Caf’e Troupe took the stage with their interactive drumming and incredible performances.
In line with the common saying that a picture is worth more than a thousand words, below are some pictures which tell the story of the African Seminar and Cultural Performance 2018. By going through the gallery, we can always relive the rich experiences of this great event. We are sincerely indebted to our volunteer photographers for doing a great job!
The second edition of the African Seminar & Cultural performance was a great success. However, looking more closely, it was not as coordinated as the maiden edition. It seemed like we took our success in the first edition for granted. This goes to say that more seriousness would be required on the part of all stakeholders for sustainable success of such massive events in the future. From the foregoing, the following recommendations will be helpful for subsequent times
• More Africans should be inspired to get actively involved in AFAM’s activities.
• Committees should be formed early enough for proper coordination.
• There should be someone to coordinate the flow of events to avoid hitches and unnecessary interruptions.
• More attention should be paid to preparation and rehearsal for performances.
• We can invite non-Africans who are interested in the African culture to take part in our performances.
• There should be at least two professional photographers for future seminars as some important pictures were not taken this time around.
We sincerely appreciate all members and executives of the African Association of Miyagi (AFAM), African embassies in Japan, our Japanese and other non-African friends as well as our ever supportive sponsors for a great event!