Co-Creation between Africa and Japan: Inspiring the Next Generation of Global Leaders

In August 2023, a Kwansei Gakuin University lecture with Ahunna Eziakonwa, UNDP's Director for the Regional Bureau for Africa, highlighted Africa's leadership in development and the promotion of cross-cultural youth interactions to engage Japan in youth development.

August 25, 2023
Photo: UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa

Deep historical ties exist between Japan and Africa. This is aided by the Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD), a platform based on the fundamental principles of African ownership and international partnership. The next generation of international leaders is key to developing Africa's diverse population for a strong future.

Against this background, the Integrated Center for UN and Foreign Affairs Studies at Kwansei Gakuin University (KGU) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) organized a special lecture to bring together students to meet with Ahunna Eziakonwa, Director for the Regional Bureau for Africa, UNDP, in August 2023.

Eziakonwa drew parallels with Japan's economic success and highlighted the importance of Africa leading its own discussions and economic transformation. She emphasized the African philosophy of "Ubuntu," underlining mutual respect and partnerships to achieve global goals and encourage young leaders to embody this philosophy.

Mr. Shunichi Murata, Professor for the Integrated Center for UN and Foreign Affairs Studies and Director of the KG Career Center for International Organizations at KGU, also stressed the importance of Africa's leadership, highlighting UNDP's shift from 'program' to 'partnership,' signifying the need for collaborative efforts across sectors. 

During the Q&A session, when asked about effective ways to engage Japan in increasing investment in youth development, Eziakonwa suggested, "promoting cross-cultural interactions among young people and leveraging existing international exchange programs could foster positive changes and government support." 

She also noted the importance of utilizing ongoing initiatives and seeking sponsorship for international events, which has already driven meaningful progress.

Eziakonwa captivating participants with her keynote speech during the event

Photo: UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa

Regarding Africa's future potential, Eziakonwa stressed the need to dispel the misconception of Africa as a single country when it's a diverse continent. "Recognizing this diversity is vital. Africa must reshape its narrative, empower its youth, and overcome dependency. Effective governance will help leverage its abundant resources to address challenges."

Furthermore, she emphasized that while building trust is crucial, mutual understanding is equally significant. Establishing partnerships based on mutual respect, cultural understanding, and recognition of contributions is essential.

Additionally, Ezaconwa stressed the need to prioritize challenges in resource-constrained settings and highlighted the role of innovative technologies in providing rational solutions to complex issues. "Africa, in the technological age, has the potential to leapfrog traditional stages and accelerate its growth trajectory through innovation. UNDP's strategy promotes innovation, with initial investments yielding cost-efficient long-term outcomes." 

Finally, Eziakonwa stressed the importance of addressing gender and youth disparities, with UNDP providing policy guidance and data-driven insights for more inclusive policies. Investing in renewable energy is another strategic step towards sustainable growth, aligning with global climate goals. She stressed, "The objective is to identify silver linings in adversity and pave the way for a resilient future."

Eziakonwa with participants at KGU

Photo: UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa