Ms. Fumiko Hayashi
Mayor of the City of Yokohama
With tremendous economic growth recently, Africa is increasingly finding itself at the center of international attention. The City of Yokohama has hosted the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) twice, the 4th conference in 2008 and the 5th in 2013, where the entire city provided a warm welcome to the many visiting leaders of African nations. We worked tirelessly with the support of the Ambassadors of these countries to build and develop a stronger relationship.
The “‘One School, One Country’ Project” that is implemented at elementary and junior high schools throughout the city have given the children of Yokohama the opportunity to learn more about countries in Africa, and served to increase exchange activities. The “African Festival Yokohama” showcasing African culture was held for the 8th time this year, and has become an annual spring event in Yokohama. Indeed, Yokohama is the Japanese city positioning itself closest to Africa.
The core message of the 5th TICAD was “Africa and Yokohama, Towards Mutual Growth,” and the City of Yokohama focused on providing opportunities for business partnerships and supporting women to play a greater role in society. The “African Fair” that was organized to coincide with the conference featured information booths by numerous businesses from throughout Yokohama displaying technologies such as water supply and waste treatment to guests from Africa. The “Africa Business Seminar” provided Yokohama companies with an insight into the business environment in Africa; the seminar is still being held annually to this day due to high acclaim.
An official side event that was held in conjunction with the conference was the “Women’s Leadership and Economic Growth” symposium, which outlined in detail how female empowerment will be essential to achieve further development in Africa. Since the conference, the “Japan-Africa Business Women Exchange Program” has been held every year with the cooperation of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
The 5th TICAD also ushered in a new chapter for international relations with city-level exchange starting with Cotonou in the Republic of Benin. In February this year, Yokohama City Council members established the “Japan-Africa Friendship Yokohama City Council Members’ League” to further bolster exchange, and in April, a new zone was revealed at Zoorasia Yokohama Zoological Gardens, dubbed “African Savannah.” Modeled on the vast grassy plains of Africa, the zone is the first in Japan to feature a four-species mix including carnivorous cheetahs and herbivorous zebras, and has proven to be immensely popular. The distance between Yokohama and Africa has certainly diminished.
The City of Yokohama will fulfill the role required to boost cooperation between Japan and Africa into the future and capitalize on mutual experience and knowledge to develop as true partners.