Monday, September 20, 2021

The unsung heroes and heroines from Japan

While the American Peace Corps are popular amongst many African countries and their existence readily and frequently acknowledged in Botswana, there is another group of equally, if not more, important men and women from Japan who have been silently rendering invaluable service to many African states, including Botswana, for quite a long time.

Even as they dedicate a lot of their time and resources in imparting skills and knowledge on various disciplines and fields to various communities in our society, this group of good ‘Samaritans’ from Japan has never sought some kind of ‘me good’ publicity through the usual ‘in your face’ approach normally applied by other African aiders.

It’s lunch time as I walk into the offices of Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA) in Gaborone to check on a friend who works there. Nothing official. Just a personal visit. By chance, and as fate would have it, I get introduced to a man who immediately strikes me as a legend of interpersonal skills.

His handshake is firm. His smile is contagious, welcoming and genuine. He looks happy and energetic. He asks a lot of questions and answers all questions thrown his way with so much confidence and contentment. An impromptu and informal interview kicks off as he seats across the table that ‘houses’ stacks of newspapers in the office. He asks about my job as a writer and how the newspaper industry in Botswana operates. When he is satisfied with my answers I then shoot back with enquiries on his organization’s mandate and his role.

JICA Resident Representative, Mr Nobuhiro Kumagai, is very passionate about his job and his organization’s assignment in Africa. He is the head of JICA in Botswana. Thanks to our coincidental meeting, I now know a lot about the unsung heroes and heroines from Japan who have been doing a great job in Botswana since 1992 under the auspices of the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteer (JOCV) program. The JOCV program is run and monitored by JICA.

JICA was established to facilitate and implement the Official Development Assistance for developing countries such as Botswana through technical cooperation .This is done through dispatching of experts and acceptance of trainees. The Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteer (JOCV) program was incepted in 1965 by the Government of Japan as an organization under the supervision of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to provide official technical assistance to developing countries. This assistance takes the form of Japanese volunteers working directly with the people of the host countries to transfer skills and knowledge.

In 1992, the JOCV program started in Botswana and became part of the overall technical assistance program of JICA when the JICA Botswana Office was established in the same year. Since then, JICA Volunteers have been dispatched to many different government departments, statutory institutions, line agencies, and NGOs in many different parts of Botswana to undertake various technical assignments.

There are currently 28 Japanese volunteers in Botswana. The attachments last a maximum of two years per volunteer. The experts impart skills on different fields such as health, education, human resource, sports & physical education, agriculture & livestock, food security, food processing & preservation, information technology, automobile maintenance, investment & trade promotion, tourism, Japanese language education, rural community development, etc.

For procedures that need to be followed for requesting JICA volunteers, all information can be easily obtained from JICA offices. I feel privileged to have known about JICA and the role it plays in Africa and most importantly Botswana. I salute the good men and women from Japan for their selfless dedication and devotion to Africa.

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