Ethiopia- Japan relations

Ethiopia- Japan relations 

Ethiopia and Japan have enjoyed long friendly relations dating back to the 1930s.  Both are nations with an ancient history and civilization. Emperor Haile Selassie was strongly attracted to the harmony that Japan achieved in conjoining modernity and traditional culture, even including in the Ethiopian School curriculum a book in Amharic entitled " How Japan was Civilized." His own official visits to Japan and the visit of the current Japanese emperor, the then Crown Prince, to spend his honeymoon in Addis Ababa contributed to strengthening relations between the two countries.  Both countries established embassies in each others capital.  Another milestone was the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games where Africas first Olympic Gold Medalist, Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia, won the marathon for the second time. His achievement is still remembered by those who saw his victory. Relations between the two countries have been regularly strengthened by various visits made by VIPs and high government officials. These have included the visit of the Prime Minister of Japan, Mr. Koizumi, to Ethiopia in 2006, and of Prime Minister Meles to Japan on several occasions. The Japan Parliamentary League as well as the Japan-Ethiopia association serves as a bridge to enhance people-to-people relation. Ethiopian MPs have also created an Ethiopian-Japanese association of members of parliament.  

Japan has demonstrated a real and dependable friendship in the significant role it has taken in helping our efforts in the fight against poverty. It has collaborated in agriculture, water resources, health, education and infrastructure, and has provided a wide range of development support in the form of grants and technical cooperation. This year alone, Japan extended 960 million Japanese yen (144 million Ethiopian Birr) to supply equipment to upgrade the capacity of the Ethiopian Roads Authority to deal with the recurrent landslide challenges in the Abay (Blue Nile) Gorge. Since 1998, Japan has given grants amounting to 15 billion Japanese yen (2.25 billion Birr) for the rehabilitation of 223 kms of roads, and the construction of the Hidase Bridge, built with Japanese cooperation over the Blue Nile in the Abay Gorge. Another 264 billion Japanese yen (184.7 million Birr) of grants have been given for safe water supply projects, and other humanitarian aid and cultural grants have also been provided. Japanese support has been invaluable in the construction of primary schools, the development of water facilities and the road network, in increasing agricultural productivity, much involving the active participation of local communities. 

It is important to mention the establishment of the Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD), one of the first international fora to bring Africa and its partners together. This was originally started in 1993 at a time when African issues were hardly taken seriously in the global agenda and as a result African states were facing the risk of marginalization. Over the years, TICAD has done much to negate that, contributing positively in the areas of human-centered development in Africa, infrastructure, trade and investment, capacity building, debt cancellation, non-project grants and last but not least consolidation of peace. Mr. Yasuo Fukuda, the then Prime Minister of Japan, delivering a keynote address during the TICAD IV Summit in Yokohama in May 2008, announced Japans intention to double its Overseas Development Assistance to Africa by 2012, offer up to US $4 billion of ODA loans to assist infrastructure and double the value of Japan's grants and its technical cooperation over the following five years.  He also pledged to take measures to encourage private Japanese investment in Africa with the aim of doubling Japanese foreign direct investment to the continent. TICAD, in fact, has demonstrated its value as an excellent example of genuine cooperation, based on mutual trust and understanding of all involved parties. 

There is, of course, still room for economic relations between Ethiopia and Japan to be developed further. Trade volumes have fluctuated between US $2.5 billion (2007) and US$1.6 billion (2009), but the balance always remains in favor of Japan.  Ethiopia exports agricultural produce, the major share of which is coffee, while importing technological products mainly cars, machinery and electronic goods. Japanese investors played a major role in the Ethiopian textile industry prior to 1974 after which their holdings were nationalized by the then military regime. This essentially brought an end to investment by the Japanese private sector. However, since 1992 a much more conducive environment has been created by improving the legal and regulatory framework through liberalization of the economy, and there is much scope for private investment and for the Japanese private sector to become involved. One of Japan's initiatives during the TICAD IV meeting was a pledge to establish the Japan Bank International Cooperation (JBIC) Facility for African Investment, and to take other measures to encourage increased private Japanese investment in Africa with the aim of doubling Japanese FDI to the continent. Ethiopia would also like to see tourism boosted; the number of Japanese tourists visiting Ethiopia remains small and isn't up to expectations. 

Japan has also been supporting social sector development in Ethiopia, providing numerous scholarships in various fields including agriculture and infrastructure. It has provided significant support through JICA, the Japanese Government Aid implementing body, for various kinds of capacity building programs and technical cooperation projects. Japanese experts, study teams and volunteers have also been put into various sectors through the JICA program. All of these are aimed at transferring technology and knowledge to serve the socio-economic development of Ethiopia, a concept very much in line with Ethiopia's current five-year Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP).