Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has been supporting the development efforts of Egypt since 1977 through grants, loans and technical assistance and has established itself as one of Egypt’s main partners for development.
Why cooperate with Egypt?
The political importance of Egypt and its economic and business potential for Japanese companies are significant enough for JICA to assist in the development of Egypt.
With a large and young population Egypt’s labour force and market are attractive to Japanese businesses. Fifty companies have expanded their operations here and more Japanese companies are interested in investing in Egypt.
In total, JICA has provided around $1.2 billion of grant aid, and financed 42 projects with loans worth nearly $6.5 billion.
JICA has been supporting Egypt with technical cooperation since 1980 to develop human resources and the social system. We had brought more than 2,800 Japanese experts to Egypt and sent more than 10,000 trainees from Egypt to Japan.
More than 280 Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) have also been working in Egypt.
The priority areas for JICA’s cooperation with Egypt include electricity, transport, tourism, basic social services, education, public sector empowerment and regional cooperation.
How do you see the challenges facing Egypt’s energy sector?
Energy security is crucial for economic and social development. We recognise the Egyptian government’s efforts to promote a more diversified mix of energy, as well as its adoption of challenging targets for renewable energy — to have 20 per cent of electricity generation from renewables by 2022.
We also acknowledge its serious attempts to reform the energy sector and introduce new mechanisms for private sector participation.
What are the main areas of cooperation between Egypt and Japan in the energy sector?
The Japanese private sector is starting to express interest in investing in the energy field in Egypt.
JICA has been supporting 17 projects in Egypt until now, at a total value of $2.1 billion. We have supported generation, transmission, distribution, grid management and energy efficiency projects, many of them in renewable energy in response to global environmental challenges.
JICA’s ongoing projects in the electricity field include a $400 million rehabilitation of existing power plants. There is also a $350 million project for the construction of the Gulf Al-Zayt 220 MW wind power plant, which is now in the final stages of testing.
Another project expected to be completed in Upper Egypt next year covers the construction and rehabilitation of energy control systems and includes the reintegration and connection of more than 100 substations.
JICA is also considering supporting the electricity sector reform in Egypt through dispatching long-term experts to the Egyptian Electricity Holding Company.
A number of training and technical cooperation programmes started this year. The Egyptian government and JICA cooperate to provide training in Egypt for electricity engineers from across the Middle East and Africa in power system operation and maintenance.
More than 200 engineers have been trained under this cooperation agreement in the past two years.
Egypt has other forms of cooperation with countries in Africa and the Middle East. Does JICA play a role in these?
In 1985 JICA began to apply the Third Country Training Programme (TCTP). It allows developing countries to accept trainees from other developing countries with JICA’s assistance for technology transfer or dissemination.
During the last 30 years Egypt has conducted programmes for African trainees. Egypt cooperates with neighbouring countries and other countries in the region through the Egyptian Agency of Partnership for Development (EAPD) under the Foreign Ministry, and JICA supports those efforts. We work together to select and design training courses in different areas.
In 2017 JICA implemented nine TCTPs in the fields of agriculture, health and medical care with 173 participants from 30 African countries.
Egypt has also conducted training programmes for Middle Eastern countries in the areas of health, tourism, electricity, water and trade relations.
The fact that Egypt is in the same linguistic area and is geographically close improves the outcomes of training in terms of efficiency and effectiveness.
Realising the importance of development for the continent, Japan instigated the Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD) which used to be held every five years until 2016 when it was decided it should be held every three years.
TICAD 7 will be held in Tokyo in 2019, bringing together governments and entities interested in investing in Africa.
As the current chair of African Union, Egypt might co-chair the next round of TICAD with Japan. It is an opportunity for both countries to broaden cooperation for the development of African countries.
How is JICA cooperating with Egypt to develop the transport sector?
In addition to financing the first phase of Cairo’s fourth metro line, which will connect the west of Greater Cairo to Fustat, JICA is financing the development and modernisation of several airports in Egypt, including Alexandria’s Borg Al-Arab airport.
We focus on eco-friendly airport development which includes the installation of environmentally friendly equipment such as high-efficiency air conditioning systems, LED lighting and solar power generation. This can contribute to the improvement of economic development through tourism promotion.
The Grand Egyptian Museum has enjoyed great support from Japan. What is the role of JICA in this project?
The new museum is expected to be inaugurated by the beginning of 2019 and will serve as a symbol of Egyptian-Japanese cooperation. JICA is financing the construction of the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) near the Pyramids of Giza, through a loan of around $800 million.
GEM will exhibit more than 50,000 artefacts, including Tutankhamun’s celebrated funerary treasures.
JICA is also supporting the conservation, restoration, packing and transportation of artefacts at GEM Conservation Centre. We are also supporting the excavation of the second solar boat in the Pyramids area, which is expected to become one of the key attractions of GEM.
Will GEM play a role in attracting more Japanese tourists to Egypt?
Despite the fact that after the 2011 Revolution the number of Japanese tourists decreased significantly, the number today is improving. There is now a direct flight once a week between our countries which helps increase the number of visitors.
After the completion of GEM I expect many more Japanese tourists to come to Egypt.
Japan is supporting education in Egypt. How do you evaluate the current level of cooperation in this field?
It is growing stronger. The Egypt-Japan Education Partnership (EJEP) was launched by President Al-Sisi and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2016 to empower Egyptian youth through a comprehensive programme that covers all stages of education, including early childhood, technical education, higher education and scientific research.
Under EJEP, JICA provides both technical and financial assistance to the Egypt Japan Schools (EJS) which from September 2018 will apply the Japanese concept of Tokkatsu, or whole child development, contributing to the development of the social, emotional, physical and academic skills of Egyptian students.
There is also an EJEP project to develop human resources by increasing the number of Egyptians dispatched to Japan on scholarships for joint research and for training programmes.
We have agreed with the Egyptian government to double the number of Egyptians going to Japan to study for masters and PhD degrees.
An Egypt-Japan University for Science and Technology (E-JUST) has been established based on bilateral agreements between the governments of Egypt and Japan. It started undergraduate programmes in engineering, international business and humanities in September 2017.
Are there special areas of cooperation for people with disabilities, given Japan’s experience in this field?
In line with Egyptian government initiatives to promote greater inclusiveness, such as marking 2018 as the year of persons with disabilities, and the general framework of the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology’s (MCIT) strategy to empower people with disabilities, a project is being carried out in cooperation with MCIT, the National Library of Egypt and the Bibliotheca Alexandria.
The project aims to provide people with print disabilities with an accessible form of printed materials by converting the contents of books and other printed material into the Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY), utilised in Arabic, English and Japanese.
The project will enrich the educational and cultural potential of beneficiaries not only in Egypt but in all Arabic speaking countries.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 28 June 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly with headline: Partnership for development