• Since Kenya’s Independence, Japan, as a trustworthy partner, has undertaken various development projects with Kenya, strictly in keeping with Kenyan priorities as defined by the Kenyan people and leadership.
• Most of these projects are aligned with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four agenda.
It is a privilege for me as the Ambassador of Japan to Kenya to mark on this day, February 21, our National Day which celebrates our Emperor’s birthday.
His Majesty Emperor Naruhito ascended to the throne on May 1, last year as the 126th Emperor of Japan. He will turn 60 on February 23.
One of the pleasures of serving as Ambassador to Kenya is that, as I have found out, many Kenyans take a very keen interest in Japanese history and culture.
As such, many Kenyans are well aware that the Japanese Imperial family is the oldest continuous line of succession in the world and we are proud to have such a rich history spanning over 2,000 years.
At present, Japan uses the Gregorian calendar, in parallel with the Japanese imperial year, based on the reigns of emperors, which has been used for the past 14 centuries.
The era of Reiwa began on the day Emperor Naruhito ascended to the throne. Reiwa means beautiful harmony in Japanese, which was drawn from “Manyoshu”, Japan’s oldest existing anthology of poetry. Today marks the first-ever Emperor’s birthday reception in the Reiwa era.
On October 22 last year, the Emperor’s enthronement ceremony was held in Tokyo. President Uhuru Kenyatta and the First Lady, Margaret Kenyatta, attended this ceremony with other Heads of State from all over the world.
Prior to attending the enthronement ceremony, President Kenyatta participated in the Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (Ticad7).
This meeting was held following the historic Ticad 6 in Nairobi in 2016. Therefore, President Kenyatta’s attendance was essential for the success of Ticad7.
At the bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Kenyatta, the PM expressed Japan’s intention to support regional development in Mombasa through the development of the Mombasa Special Economic Zone and the construction of the Mombasa Gate Bridge.
In September last year, I signed the Exchange of Notes for these projects, amounting to Sh90 billion with Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani.
In October, we had the groundbreaking ceremony for the Special Economic Zone and the launch of the construction work for the Dongo Kundu Bypass, which I attended with President Kenyatta.
I am pleased to say that the agreements made at the Ticad meeting are steadily taking shape.
Since Kenya’s Independence, Japan, as a trustworthy partner, has undertaken various development projects with Kenya, strictly in keeping with Kenyan priorities as defined by the Kenyan people and leadership.
I am glad to note that most of these projects are aligned with President Kenyatta’s Big Four agenda.
In the area of manufacturing, Japan has supported human resource development through the African Business Education Initiative for Youth (ABE Initiative) and the Project on Human Resource Development for Industrial Development.
In regards to the food security pillar, we are constructing a dam for irrigation in Mwea and have conducted a smallholder horticulture empowerment and promotion approach to improve the income of small-scale farmers by spreading market-oriented agriculture. The first project, which was initiated in 2006, doubled the farmers’ income in the project area.
In universal healthcare coverage, we have provided technical support to the county governments to strengthen their systems and provided a policy loan of Sh4 billion to the government for the realisation of UHC in Kenya.
We have also constructed numerous quality urban infrastructure projects in Nairobi that are essential for urban development. There are many new apartments along the completed Ngong Road. Phase 2 of the road project is underway, and it will be completed in the next few months.
It is quality infrastructure of this kind that attracts private sector investment in the housing sector.
Other than the two big events we had last year, we will host the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympic games. I believe Kenya will win a lot of medals since there are many great Kenyan athletes such as Eliud Kipchoge, a current world record holder.
Kenya is a key nation in East Africa and the gateway to all commerce in the region.
As a trustworthy and longstanding partner, Japan is willing to expand and strengthen its cooperation with Kenya for the further development of this prominent country.
The writer is Japan's ambassador to Kenya