Report of the 2017 African Seminar and Cultural Performance

Report of the African Seminar and Cultural Performance Held on September 17, 2017 at Sendai International Center.

INTRODUCTION
Some say, “The best ideas come from a meeting of mutual cerebral atmosphere over a cup of excellent brewed coffee”. AFAM executives had a meeting at the Sendai International Center coffee shop in this exact situation in March 2017. We gathered around coffee tables and deliberated on having an African seminar, in fulfillment of AFAM’s planned activity program for the fiscal 2017, though we could not imagine its feasibility until the day it became accomplished. As its first step in this process, AFAM executives considered two major things as vital, sponsorship and venue reservation.
AFAM made a request to JICA Tohoku office for sponsorship through Skype conference, which JICA Tokyo office, AFAM executives and a representative from the Miyagi International Association (MIA) attended. JICA agreed to collaborate with AFAM for the organization of the seminar and pledged sponsorship.
Since JICA sponsorship was to cover the morning seminar session, there was the need to look for other sponsors to help with the cost of the cultural performance in the afternoon. Thanks to the grants from Miyagi Co-op and the “Tohoku Exposition Memorial International Exchange Fund” that helped with the rest of the cost.
With these sponsors, African Association of Miyagi (AFAM) organized the first Tohoku-Japan Africa Seminar on September 17, 2017. The event gathered more than 370 Japanese and nearly 100 Africans at the Sendai International Center.
AFAM would therefore, take this opportunity to express thanks and appreciation to our sponsors for their valuable support. In this report, we would briefly describe the organizational process, from the problem statement, objectives of the seminar, the strategy used to organize the event and report what happened on the day of the event. We would also include the analysis of the feedbacks from the attendees to measure the level of success.

I. PROBLEM STATEMENT AND OBJECTIVES OF THE SEMINAR
The Tokyo International Conference of African Development (TICAD), last held in Kenya (2016) was launched in 1993 by the Government of Japan, to promote Africa’s development, peace and security, through the strengthening of multilateral cooperation and partnership.
In the course of the past 20 years, TICAD as a platform of Japanese government’s response to revive the waning cooperation with Africa, has evolved into a major global and open multilateral forum for mobilizing and sustaining international support for Africa’s development under the principles of African “ownership” and international “partnership”. Being a multilateral partnership platform, TICAD process also actively promotes South-South and triangular cooperation, in addition to traditional cooperation1.
AFAM (African Association of Miyagi), realizing that in Sendai city (and Tohoku region in general), little is known about TICAD, initiated the idea of an “African Seminar” as a platform to help Japanese citizens in the Tohoku region and others alike know and understand Japanese Government’s efforts on African Development. Putting aside the low awareness about TICAD, few Japanese citizens have ever seen a live demonstration of African culture, performance of African dance, exhibition of African dresses, not to mention eating an African food.
Hence, the African seminar was aimed at spreading messages about some palpable fruits of the TICAD derived Africa-Japan cooperation, about the Japanese government’s initiatives in Africa, trying to minimize AID but partners for development and growth.

STRATEGY: FROM IDEAS TO EXECUTION.
● January 2017: Under the leadership of Dr. Isaac Yaw Asiedu, President of AFAM, the first meeting to plan the African Seminar was held and AFAM Executives were asked to come-up with the name of the event and a theme for the seminar. Out of the themes suggested by the executives, “African Seminar and Cultural Performance” won the popular vote and was adopted for the event.
Whilst reflecting upon the theme, executives were keen to promote the TICAD VI which was held in Nairobi the previous August 2016. Indeed, emphasizing TICAD was an important concern because the TICAD resolutions were essentially promoting cooperation and win-win partnership opportunities for both African and Japan.
● March 2017: The search for funding started and AFAM was fortunate to receive support from Miyagi Co-op and a grant from “Tohoku Exposition Memorial International Exchange Fund”.
● April 2017: AFAM sent invitation letters to various African Embassies in Tokyo and to some institutions, to give them a platform to promote their diplomatic activities during the Seminar. It was settled that the Ambassador of Burkina Faso who was the chairman of the diplomatic mission on TICAD be the guest speaker for the event. Invitation letters were sent to selected Embassies and organizations.
● June 2018: AFAM Dance rehearsals started led by Alain Nzeyimana a graduate student of Yamagata University (Tsuruoka campus). In addition, AFAM Music group, “KUVUKI” led by Joshua Owoyemi a graduate student of Tohoku University started preparing for a music performance to be staged at the day of the event.
● August 2018: Preparations were synchronously going on: meetings, rehearsals, food preparation, tickets sales, making poster, social media, etc. Sales of tickets that had earlier seemed a hurdle to tackle ran out as demand superseded supply. This was clearly a sign of the greater success to come.

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Volunteers and AFAM members gathered for rehearsal / meeting / brainstorming at Miyagi International Association (MIA) on September 16th 2017

September 17th 2017:
The Setup of the venue was done by various team members, who started working around 8.30 AM, at the Sakura Hall of the Sendai International Center. The reception team consisted of AFAM members and Japanese volunteers who received the attendees with warm reception and smooth service. Two desks were set up at the entrance of Sakura Hall. Desk 1 was the welcome desk for all Government-municipality authorities and booth exhibitors. Desk 2 was for registered/non-registered visitors. The major tasks executed included distribution of name cards to the guest speakers and the distribution of the day’s program and questionnaire sheets.

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Scene at the reception

Once everything was set, the seminar session started with the raucous drumming from the Drum Cafe team that welcomed the VIP guest to the stage. The more than 370 Japanese attendees as well as anyone who was within the Sakura hall of the Sendai international center could not deny that the air was rising with a crescendo of Africanism in it. There was the vivid sight of the Africa they know of; the jungle of the wild.
The opening address was given by JICA-Tohoku Branch Manager, Mr. Katsuyoshi Sudo who welcomed the visitors with his storytelling of his experience from a recent visit to Mozambique. It was followed by a keynote presentation from the guest speaker H. E. Mr. Francois Oubida the Ambassador of Burkina Faso, the Chairman of the TICAD Committee who spoke on the theme “Africa’s development journey and partnership necessary for the region’s socio-economic development”. He elaborated on the successes and lessons of Africa-Japan cooperation.
Taken turns, Mr. Komori Masakatsu, Deputy Director of JICA Tokyo, spoke on “Africa’s development supported by TICAD and JICA”. He explained the objective of the ABE Initiative Master’s Degree and Internship Program which is to support young personnel who can be a “Navigator” for contributing to the development of industries in Africa.
Dr. Akita Jiro Professor of Economics and Management, Tohoku University also gave a lecture giving detailed statistics on the Africans studying in Tohoku University.

The last speaker, an inspiring businessman, Mr. Sato Shunsuke, CEO Kanedai Co. Ltd. gave a presentation under the topic “Fisheries Management in the Republic of Namibia” elaborating on the business attractiveness as well as some common difficulties faced by his company in doing business in Namibia, Africa.

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Mr. Katsuyoshi Sudo JICA Tohoku Branch Manager making his speech
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Keynote address from H. E. Mr. Francois Oubida, Ambassador of Burkina Faso
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A plenary lecture on “Africa Development support by TICAD and JICA by Mr. Komori Masakatsu
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Plenary lecture on “The current status and issues of foreign African students’ education at Tohoku University” by Prof. Akita Jiro
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Lecture on “Fisheries Management in the Republic of Namibia” by Mr. Sato Shunsuke

The seminar was followed by a panel discussion by the four speakers under the theme “Initiating social changes and accelerating progress” moderated by Dr. Isaac Yaw Asiedu, AFAM President. They engaged in discussions about the possible ways of initiating social changes and accelerating mutual progress in Africa and Japan.

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Scene of the panel discussion

In the afternoon, the main attractions were the “networking lunch session” the African lunch box, booth exhibition by some African Embassies (Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Tunisia, Ethiopia and Angola) and the very awaited stage African cultural performances.

AFAM catering team led by Ms. Betty Asiedu, in collaboration with the Tohoku University Co-op Catering Service served an African lunch box, the Cameroonian dish known as “Poulet DG” to almost 300 attendees of the event.

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Distribution of lunch boxes

After the networking lunch session, the next phase of the agenda was filled with activities ranging from African fashion show led by Angela Hirai, AFAM Music group performance (KUVUKI), led by Joshua Owoyemi to AFAM Dance group performing with the song “Wombolombo” led by Alain Nzeyimana and the Drum Cafe show with Isaac Kobina as the MC.

From the very start to the end of the performances, the attendees were thoroughly entertained. They were invited to join in the dancing and the beating of the drums. The smiles and energy emanating from both the performers and the crowd was mutual. The children were not left behind. They beat drums with their own beautiful rhythm. It was indeed a great day of re-affirming our identity as African People.

Booths representing some embassies and institutions also received visitors with whom they had interactions: display of their activities, promoting sales, promotion of African culture etc.

STATISTICS OF THE SEMINAR

1. General statistics of visitors

VIP (Speakers + Booth exhibitors) = 23 persons

Registered people who came = 100 persons

Visitors = 289 persons, AFAM Staff = 58 persons

Total number of persons including children who attended the Seminar and performance = 470 persons

2. Quantitative summary of the questionnaire
The following results are based on the feedback received from 66 Japanese visitors using consecutive sampling (not random).

2.1.Distribution of visitors by gender

Out of the 66 persons who filled the questionnaire, 41 were female.

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2.2.Distribution of the source of information about the seminar (Question: where the participant heard about the seminar)

Majority had the information about the event through families, friends and acquaintance.

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2.3. General level of satisfaction of the visitors regarding the morning session

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Level of satisfaction with the morning session break-down to specific levels of satisfaction. Mode: Satisfied

2.3.1. Satisfaction with lectures themes (Mode: Satisfied)

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2.3.2. Satisfaction with content and structure of seminar (mode = Satisfied)

2.3.1. Satisfaction with lectures themes (Mode: Satisfied)

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2.3.2. Satisfaction with content and structure of seminar (mode = Satisfied)

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2.3.3. Level of satisfaction with smoothness & progress of seminar (mode = satisfied)

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2.3.4. Level of satisfaction with the staff response (mode = satisfied)

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2.4. Level of satisfaction with the cultural performance (mode = satisfied)

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2.5. Willingness to participate in another African Seminar (mode = I want to participate)

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2.3.1. Satisfaction with lectures themes (Mode: Satisfied)

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2.3.2. Satisfaction with content and structure of seminar (mode = Satisfied)

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2.3.3. Level of satisfaction with smoothness & progress of seminar (mode = satisfied)

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2.3.4. Level of satisfaction with the staff response (mode = satisfied)

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2.4. Level of satisfaction with the cultural performance (mode = satisfied)

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2.5. Willingness to participate in another African Seminar (mode = I want to participate)seminar 35.png

CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The objectives of the African Seminar and cultural performance were:
– To discuss the goals, initiatives, activities of Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) with the Japanese citizens in the Tohoku region.
– To demonstrate and portray African cultural values through fashion show, cultural performance and the introduction of an African food.
Through the oral presentation of the speakers and through the display of African culture, AFAM didn’t only wanted to contribute to the reduction of the effects of Afro-pessimism in the Japanese society, but also, to shed more light on the collaborative progress made by TICAD, JICA and African governments.
We believe that, during the morning session of the seminar, the Japanese attendees became more aware of those collaborative efforts between Japanese government and African countries aiming at initiating social changes and accelerating progress for mutual benefits. More specifically, by the power of cooperation (economic, educational, technological, ABE initiative, JICA activities etc.), African countries and Japan are on the path of mutual holistic development. The afternoon session unveiled the other world of Africa with various stage performances introducing the rich cultural heritage of Africa including fashion parade, singing, dancing and booth exhibitions. Through the serving of “Poulet -DG” the Japanese participants probably had the first chance to taste an African food.
Though 300 attendees were expected at the seminar and cultural performance, the number of questionnaires filled by attendees indicated that 470 visitors participated in the event. We enjoyed the presence of six embassies (Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Angola), two Japanese NGOs (Cafa Gana and Maris Art project) and institutions, MIA and JICA for the booth exhibitions.
We used a post-event questionnaire to assess the level of satisfaction of the attendees. A summary of the results indicate that most of participants expressed satisfaction with all parts of the event (seminar session, lunch session and cultural performance). Because of that, they are willing to attend the next African seminar and cultural performance to be held in the future. Some also expressed suggestions, which shall be implemented to add more value to the forthcoming events.

Some conclusions from the guest speakers:

By H.E Mr. Francois Oubida.

  • Japan accounts as one of the top partner of Africa at both bilateral and multilateral levels.
  • The Japanese Government policy has revived the waning interest of the partners for Africa.
  • It has also raised the attention to the need for a dialogue with Africa to take on board African priorities as set forth by the continent. • Many countries have also engaged in similar activities for Africa.

By Mr. Komori Masakatsu

  • The ABE Initiative program is to enhance Human Resource Development and Productivity Improvement through provision of training to African students.
  • The training includes attaching students to Japanese enterprises on internship to develop effective skills and knowledge in various fields for contributing to the development of industries in Africa.
  • However, the H. E. Mr. Francois Oubida pointed out that placing students to enterprises for internship for a period less than a week and more so conducting the training in English wouldn’t help the students make the right networking with those enterprises they’ve been attached with. He therefore suggested that students be given the chance to learn basic Japanese and be able to communicate in Japanese otherwise the students serving as a bridge between Japanese companies and the companies in Africa will just be a dream.

By Professor Akita Jiro

  • The number of international student from Africa ranks 3rd in comparison with other foreign students from other continents after Asia and the Middle East.
  • However, the number of engineering students has decreased considerably in recent years. This trend poses a threat to African development since engineers are the backbone of development and needs to be addressed.

By Mr. Sato Shunsuke

  • Merit of doing business in Namibia Africa: abundant fisheries resources
  • Stable political system
  • Good security
  • Promising markets in neighboring African countries and easy access to the EU market.

Message of Appreciation: by AFAM President, Dr. Isaac Yaw Asiedu

On behalf of the African Association of Miyagi (AFAM), I would like to thank all of you for attending the African Seminar & Cultural performance.
宮城アフリカ協会を代表して、アフリカセミナー&文化パフォーマンスに参加した皆様に、感謝もうしあげます。
Thank you His Excellency Mr. Francois Oubida for sharing the African Development Journey story with us.

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AFAM President, Dr. Isaac Yaw Asiedu

ウビダ大使にはアフリカの開発に関するお話を共有していただきありがとうございました。
I would also like to thank Professor Akita Jiro for sharing his experience in handling African students. These students we see today will be the future leaders of Africa. Thank you for nurturing them.

秋田先生には、留学生を受け入れているご経験をお話しいただき、また、将来、
アフリカで活躍する学生たちを育てていただいていることを感謝いたします。
Mr. Sato Shunsuke, thank you for your company’s commitment and contribution towards African Development. We appreciate the great work you are doing in Namibia, networking Japan and Africa.
佐藤さんには、会社での積極的なアフリカでの事業の努力について、感謝申し上げます。
ナミビアでの事業は日本とアフリカのネットワーク作りにおけるすばらしい事例だと思います。

Mr. Komori Masakatsu, I would like to thank you and JICA for the active role in African Development initiative. Your assistance is leading the path for the achievement of SDGs in Africa.
アフリカ開発イニシアチブにおける積極的な役割についてJICAに感謝したいと思います。
I also like to thank and appreciate the presence of our African Embassies to the event. You have made us proud and I believe many of the participants have learned a lot about Africa in your booth exhibitions. AFAM hopes to support your mission as Ambassadors to Japan.
このイベントにご協力いただいたアフリカの大使館の皆様にも感謝申し上げます。
多くの参加者がアフリカについて多くのことを学ぶことができたことと思います。
And to our volunteers, from start to finish, you were an incredible volunteer, and because of your dedication and hard work, the seminar and the cultural performance were a great success. Thank you so much for your commitment of time and energy to this important event.
AFAM would like to set a platform to encourage more Japanese business community to invest in business ventures in Africa through the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) initiatives.
AFAMは、多くの日本企業がアフリカで事業を展開するためのplatformをつくっていきたいと思っています。

The Africa we know today is far different from Africa we knew yesterday. There are many countries in Africa safe and sound for business. Political stability is probably one of the best in the world and the warm heart of Africans provides an atmosphere that makes foreigners to the continent have a sense of belonging.
We, therefore, invite you all to be part of the African Development journey story through any little contribution you could offer.
みなさん、アフリカセミナーを通して、アフリカに対してどのようなイメージを持ちましたか?多くのアフリカの国では、安全で事業の展開も可能になっています。また、アフリカの人々はみなさんをいつでも歓迎しています。ぜひ、アフリカの発展の一員になってください。

And lastly, AFAM is grateful to JICA, Miyagi Co-op and all our sponsors and supporters, to help bridge the distance between Japan and Africa. Hoping that you will continue to be engaged with AFAM on a different platform, to continue the goodwill between Japan and Africa.
最後に、協賛していただいたJICA、みやぎ生協と、ご協力いただいたみなさまに深く感謝申し上げます。みなさまのおかげで、このセミナーが、日本とアフリカの架け橋になっていると思います。
今後とも、AFAMをどうぞよろしくお願いいたします。
Thank you.

Sample introduction of feedbacks expressed by some visitors

“I just wanted to send you a quick e-mail congratulating you on a wonderful event. It was not only educational but entertaining and fun! I must also apologize that there was little I could do to help you with this event. I think you must be relieved it is over successfully but do hope you plan more in the future! It was wonderful. Thank you so much for providing this experience to us.” – Virginia

“We really had a wonderful time with the meal, music and fashion show… I would like to say congratulations to the success of the event and I am very proud of your hard work to make this event successful.” – Price (Tohoku University)

“I had a really fantastic time yesterday. Your national costume was really suits. Everybody was beautiful costume, and powerful song, dancing. It was wonderful!! I received great energy. I think I want to know African culture more.” – Kusaka Ichiro (Gozain Member)
“You make my mother and father happy today. They were so happy of the AFRICAN CULTURAL PERFORMANCE” – 大山美恵

“I really enjoyed and was happy to work with you” – (friend of an AFAM member, from Tokyo)

“One of the best memories of mine here in Japan. I enjoyed every moment” – Volunteer at the reception desk

“I did enjoy the music and dancing. It was nice meeting you” – Volunteer Photographer

Dancing in the Rain and Playing in the Mud – The African Way

We woke up to a weekend ushered in by continuous raindrops that made glitters on the tarmac and mud on the ground. It is not what we were looking forward to especially after a night of careful hair making for a woman of color. It makes it twice the task when you have to maneuver on your own, anyway, that is beside the point. We soldierly embraced the wetness as we put up tents for the coveted Festival of the Year for Foreign Students in Tohoku University; Tohoku University International Festival (TUIF). We kept on with positive energy and we silently whispered a prayer to God for a brighter tomorrow which was the D-day for the Festival. The weather man was not mincing his words and the rain did indeed continue nonstop for the entire night and the morning after. Still filled with enthusiasm, we decided to enjoy the raindrops without getting wet. We were fired up and were motivation was clear, not even the weather was going to halt our psyche. Our theme was cut throat clear, “I am Because you are” the World was because we were. We were home, we all travelled to our countries and brought the ‘Mountain to Mohammed’ in front of Hagi hall. The aroma from the foods filled the air, the warmth of the smiles from the world made crying in the rain a worthwhile course. AFAM (African Association of Miyagi) a body of Africans in Miyagi was represented in full colors, ambassadors from Kenya and Ghana were ready with their food stalls to bring African Cuisines to Sendai, AFAM had an interactive booth which if I should mention won the best interactive corners booth Award, I will come to that later on.

AFAM Members Showing Support for Kuvuki's Performance
AFAM Members Showing Support for Kuvuki’s Performance

KUVUKI, a performance of popular songs from countries in Africa was on the list. The African students performed Malaika by Miriam Makeba; the song originally from Tanzania and Beautiful by Asa from Nigeria. The harmonious melodies brought the crowd to a standstill, the peaceful music was reminiscent of home, and it brought a silhouette of the setting sun over the Savannah. They climaxed with the latest Sauti Sol feat Yemi Alade song “Nowhere be like Africa” that literally took the little world gathered in Sendai by storm. People forgot the rain and were not cautious of the mud anymore. In Africa, we believe that rain is a blessing from God and so we embraced it. The world joined and danced to this beautiful African Song as they echoed that Indeed “Nowhere be like Africa, No Where Be like Home”. Truly, we are the Sons and Daughters of Praise, Dance and Entertainment.

Everybody Joining in for the Dance
Everybody Joining in for the Dance

As we came to the close of this year’s Tohoku University International Festival, I had a chit chat with this brilliant gentleman from India and he explained to me why AFAM won the best Interactive Corner team. “There were two competing stalls for the same category but the Inclusion of people by the Africans where they taught them how to dance to African Songs and flow to the rhythms is what gave AFAM an upper hand”. This was a profound lesson to me, we as Africans live in communities and people for us make the place. We treasure the little things like a warm smile, a hug, a bowl of soup and a jig. We currently live in a world with one too many uncertainties and we could all do with love expressed among ourselves in ways more than one. “When it rains on your parade; look up rather than down, for without the rain, there would be no rainbow.” Gilbert K Chesterton

Faces at the Interactive Corner
Faces at the Interactive Corner