Japan provides development assistance to a number of countries in Africa. Tom Collins spoke to representatives of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to find out about its activities in Kenya, the agency's biggest recipient on the continent
Known as the "living room of Africa", Kenya has long been a preferred destination for those looking to interact with the continent. With resilient markets, stable democracy and a growing middle class, the East African donor darling routinely attracts some of the largest sums of official development assistance (ODA) from Africa's increasing list of partners.
According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Kenya received the fourth largest share of ODA in 2016 behind only Tanzania, Nigeria and Ethiopia. Japan is keen to support this trend and Kenya has become its largest recipient on the continent. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Japan's development organisation, has its largest African office in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, employing over 60 staff.
Between April 2016 and March 2017, JICA, acting as a key conduit to Japanese interest, helped the Japanese government invest around SI80m in Kenya. JICA distinguishes itself by the quality of its projects, which are designed to complement the development mandate of Kenya's president, Uhuru Kenyatta.
Almost halfway through his second term, President Kenyatta is racing to finish what he hopes will define his presidency: the big four agenda of manufacturing, affordable housing, universal health coverage and food security. JICA officials tell African Business in Nairobi that Japan has been focusing on these four areas.
"We cannot cover everything," says senior representative Satoshi Sugimoto. "But we try to pick up the high priority projects which complement the government at a local, national and county level."
The Northern Corridor transport system, which links Kenya's coastal port of Mombasa with Uganda and Rwanda, is one such project. The route is a key pillar of the government's development strategy as it works to make Kenya a transit hub for regional goods. JICA is expanding Mombasa's second container terminal and enhancing the road capacity to access the port. Elsewhere, the development agency is working to facilitate trade by building and enhancing one-stop border posts (OSBPS), the most recent of which is at Namanga on the Tanzanian border.
With limited public funds, JICA also believes it...