Japan’s new Ambassador to Botswana, His Excellency Kozo Takeda has taken the baton from a predecessor, Masahiro Onishi, whose work ethic truly embodied the Japanese principle of ‘Kaizen’ or continuous improvement. Whereas Ambassador Onishi concentrated on foundational education and sport, Ambassador Takeda promises to support Botswana in the fields of transport and tourism. He fields questions from Botswana Guardian.
Botswana Guardian: Is this your first assignment to Africa?
Kozo Takeda: I have worked in Indonesia and Australia for several years in the past. Since this is my first time to work in Africa, I’m very excited and looking forward to working here in Botswana. More than fifty years have passed since Japan established its diplomatic relations with Botswana and 2018 is the 10th anniversary of the opening of our Embassy in Botswana. On the basis of our solid relationship, I would like to continue to promote and strengthen our bilateral friendly relationship for the next ten years.
BG: Can you give us your background: personal and professional (are you married, how many children; where do you come from; your educational background; and what you think you bring to Botswana?)
KT: I have three children and I came to Botswana with my wife this time. Prior to my appointment as the Ambassador, I have worked in the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism for more than twenty years. Since I worked at the Ministry for a long time, I’m familiar with the areas of transport and tourism. I’d like to contribute to the development in Botswana with my experience and knowledge regarding those sectors.
BG: Which areas do you think Botswana has comparative advantage to develop her economy/ diversify it and create the much-needed employment?
KT: It is generally accepted that the stable political situation, good security, good labour-management relations and various incentives in order to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) in Botswana can contribute to develop her economy. I’d say all industries can be developed. The mining industry seems to be mature in Botswana and it is probable that other sectors such as manufacturing and agriculture have potential for further growth. We understand that the Botswana Government aims the diversification of industries through Vision 2036 and NDP 11. I will consider how the Japanese Government is able to support the Botswana Government at this point.
BG: And how will Japan help Botswana in this given that the country no longer receives any financial assistance (ODA) from Japan because of her Middle Income Country status?
KT: As you said, it is not easy for the Japanese Government to implement large-scale grant aid projects in Botswana and to provide Japanese ODA Loans for the Botswana Government since Botswana is an upper-middle income country. Meanwhile, it is possible for us to support entities such as NGOs or district councils through Grant Assistance for Grass-Roots Project scheme. We are going to continue to contribute to the economic and social development, and the promotion of culture and the advanced education through the scheme. In addition to it, we will make effort to help the Government to enhance the capacity of the civil servants through technical cooperation.
BG:What is the current trade ratio between Botswana and Japan? How do you propose to increase this level of trade between the two countries?
KT: The amount of both import and export between Japan and Botswana in 2016 was approximately 2.7 billion yen, equivalent to 270 million pula. (The amount of import from Japan was 2.68 billion yen, equivalent to 268 million pula, The amount of export from Botswana was 2.7 billion yen, equivalent to 270 million pula, Trade Statistics by Ministry of Finance in Japan) The main import commodity from Japan was vehicle and the main export commodity to Japan was minerals such as diamond. The Japanese Government will support establishing environment which promotes international trading in the international framework.
Furthermore, we are going to explain the advantage of investment in Botswana to the Japanese companies, in order to attract them to come here and to promote the investment in Botswana, working with the relevant Botswana Governmental institution.
BG: What is the status of Marubeni Corporation in Morupule Expansion project?
KT: Since it is an operation by the private company, we are not in a position to comment on this issue. Generally speaking, the Japanese Government is trying to promote investment in Africa by the Japanese companies as part of TICAD initiative and this project is one of those projects promoted through the initiative. Once the project is completed, the project will contribute to your effort to tackle urgent challenges in Botswana such as the diversification of industries and the creation of employment. It will also have a positive effect on the future investment and the motivation of the other Japanese companies. It is my hope that it will promote and strengthen our bilateral relationship more and more as a result.
BG: How many Japanese nationals (tourists) visited Botswana last year (2017) and how do you propose to increase this level of people to people interaction between the two countries?
KT: According to the Tourism Statistics Annual Report 2015, which is published by Botswana Statistics, approximately five thousand Japanese nationals visited Botswana in 2015. (4,916 visitors in precise) As Botswana has abundant tourism resources such as Okavango Delta, Chobe National Park, Kalahari Desert and Moremi Game Reserve, more and more Japanese are getting interested in Botswana. Some high school students and university students visited Botswana in a school trip or training last year.
As the Embassy, we’d like to increase Botswana’s fans by supporting this kind of steady activities. As you may know, the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will be held in 2020. If a lot of Batswana athletes participate in it, I presume that both our countries’ awareness will be raised.
BG: How can Botswana NGOs and civil society organisations take advantage of the financial commitment made by Japan to Africa under TICAD VI?
KT: We are requested to support the development in Botswana through not only initiatives in TICAD process including TICAD VI but also various schemes which can help NGOs and the Government. The Nairobi Declaration is not a transient bonus and it describes the Japanese Government’s constant efforts to contribute to the development in Africa. In this sense, there is no special process to secure the financial commitment.
As we have continued for several years, we are going to support Botswana through the Grant Assistance for Grass-roots projects. Meanwhile, we will sincerely consider what we can do to support Botswana as the Japanese Government, dealing with each support request which we receive from the Botswana Government.
BG: Kindly tell us the projects that Japan Embassy is engaged in to help SADC integrate its economies and perhaps realise its Industrialisation Strategy?
KT: The Japanese Government is currently implementing the technical cooperation project regarding forest resource management with the SADC secretariat. We expect that capacity of the officers who are involved in the forest resource management in the SADC region will be improved though the project. We are also considering in Japan how we can support SADC secretariat for the sake of the industrialisation in the SADC region.