The environment and sustainable development have been the focus of Japanese projects in Egypt over many years, Japanese Ambassador in Cairo Oka Hiroshi said.
In fact, Japan’s interest in cooperating with Egypt across multiple fronts is augmented by Japan’s belief that such projects do not serve the two countries alone but Africa as a whole —Egypt being the gateway to the Dark Continent —Oka told Al-Ahram Weekly.
Oka cited the research being conducted on a material capable of facilitating the natural decomposition and disappearance of plastic over time. The problem, however, is that this material cannot be produced in Japan since it is extracted from palm trees and dates that are not indigenous to the region. As such, research is being conducted in Egypt, a country rich in palm trees and dates.
In commemoration of World Environment Day, held this year under the theme“Beat Plastic Pollution”, Oka said that Japan is collaborating with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) to support environmentally sustainable economic activities in Egypt.
This partnership, he noted,is meant to provide Egypt with technical support and promote engagement and exchange between stakeholders. By focusing on single-use and disposable plastic products, Japan is committed to reducing plastic waste and supporting communities worldwide, including in Egypt, he added.
Oka lauded the successful cooperation between Japan and Egypt’s Ministry of Environment, saying it is one of the most productive areas of collaboration between the two nations in recent years. Capitalising on this partnership, Japan wants to boost cooperation in reducing plastic waste and implementing advanced technologies to treat such waste, as well as providing eco-friendly alternatives like biodegradable and recyclable bags.
He also stressed the importance of reducing the harm caused by plastic to marine ecosystems.
Japan recently signed a project agreement with the Egyptian Ministry of Irrigation to enhance agricultural productivity in Egypt by modernising irrigation facilities. The project, supported by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation and the Egyptian government, will introduce modern irrigation systems, including irrigation sprinklers and small-scale agricultural machinery suitable for Egypt’s irrigation conditions, he pointed out.
Japan’s government will provide financial assistance and technical cooperation to implement the project, Oka noted. Tottori University, a leading institution in cultivating dry and desert regions in Japan, will participate in the project as well.
The ambassador emphasised Japan’s keen interest in enhancing agricultural productivity in Egypt, with a view to improving access to high-quality food for the Egyptian people and addressing the problem of food insecurity.
Oka noted that Egypt and Japan have also been cooperating in education, referring to the Egypt-Japan University of Science and Technology in Alexandria’s Borg Al-Arab and the positive experiences of Japanese schools operating in Egypt.
The Japanese ambassador told the Weekly Japan supports small-scale projects to the tune of $110,000, announcing plans to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the grant programme next year.
He pointed to the achievements of non-profit organisations and institutions that have already received funding, while also recognising the need to extend support to other organisations that are yet to benefit from the programme.
On 7 June, the Embassy of Japan in Egypt hosted a stakeholder workshop regarding Japan’s Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (KUSANONE) with the participation of the Ministry of Social Solidarity and more than 20 NGOs.
The grant provides direct and small-scale financial support to NGOs in local communities. Since its introduction in 1994, the grant has helped 176 projects throughout Egypt in a wide range of sectors, the ambassador said.
Referring to Egypt’s exports to Japan, Oka said Egypt was the leading exporter of frozen strawberries to Japan.
He added that his country imports broad beans, from which it produces nuts.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 22 June, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly