H.E. Mr. Maina had emphasized the friendly relations of Kenya and Japan since the independence of Kenya from British rule. According to the embassy, “Kenya is the leading recipient of Japanese development Assistance (ODA) in the Sub-Saharan Africa, and the aid is mainly focused on the improvement of technology, infrastructure, economics, agriculture, environment, education, and health.'' The reason for the vastness of the aid is due to Kenya’s growing absorption capacity. The nation has been able to fulfill these new projects’ goals under a given time constraint, and remains steadily committed to improving their society. Never defaulting on a project, the country strives to leave poverty in the past and enter the international markets by efficiently utilizing the aid from Japan.
Conversely, Japan has received generous donations from Kenya as well. After the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of 2011, Kenya donated 1 million USD to Japan to assist the victims that were affected. Additionally, just last year, Kenya donated 1 ton of Kenyan tea to Southwestern Japan when they were hit with destructive natural disasters. These interactions prove excellent relationship between these two countries, and H.E. Mr. Maina hopes to see further contributions from both sides.
In terms of trade, Kenya exports products such as tea, coffee, Macadamia nuts and roses to Japan. Kenya’s roses are known for their large flowers and long shelf life, and holds 30% of all shares of red roses in Japan. They wish to further negotiations in exports of agricultural products such as avocados, pineapples and mangos so that the Japanese markets can enjoy various commodities produced in Kenya. Japan exports cars, machinery, and other technological products to Kenya, and H.E. Mr. Maina also mentioned that 54 Japanese companies currently have headquarters in their cities. Although there is a heavy imbalance of trade in quantities, H.E. Mr. Maina hopes that Kenya and Japan would cooperate to maintain peaceful relations in favor of both sides.
Cultural preservation (the 4 values) (Nanami)
Unlike Japan, Kenya is made up of 42 different tribes and their respective languages and cultures. This is one of the biggest cultural differences between Kenya and Japan. Japan has always been monocultural, while Kenya’s many tribal customs blended to create a unique intercultural society. In a single household in Kenya, one would be able to hear English, Swahili, and their own tribal language. Although there are many distinct languages and ethnic groups, the country puts in effort to ensure that all of their people have one common language.
According to H.E. Mr. Maina, there are four values that are the core of Kenya’s culture, and the first and most important is ‘family’. Through the marriage institution, individuals have the power to create families and raise children to engage in beliefs that are true to their specific tribes. The household is very important because it is where children develop their sense of morality and grow into sensible adults. Morality is another core value of Kenya because it drives society to always continue improving. Then it is followed by leadership and the concept of private ownership of property. These are just some of the basis of Kenyan culture that H.E. Mr. Maina believes is shared by the Kenyan people.
When asked about the major differences in education in Kenya and Japan, H.E. Mr. Maina mentioned that Japan lacks major emphasis on learning about international affairs. Japan’s curriculum is solely based on their own country, despite their efforts to “globalize”. English is taught extensively from primary education, but the results of language proficiency exams prove that their education system is failing. In Kenya, students learn about international events at a young age, which makes them better able to adapt in new environments. H.E. Mr. Maina encourages more Japanese students to engage in the outside world in order to keep up with the changing global environment.
Kenya is a leading nation in environmental sustainability. A very impressive step Kenya has taken in the protection of the environment is being the first country to ban the manufacturing, selling, and use of plastics. H.E. Mr. Maina explained that plastics have not only been depleting the world’s resources but also has been sacrificing innocent nature, such as the ecosystems of the oceans and rivers. H.E. Mr. Maina also introduced that 83% of energy in Kenya is from renewable resources; the nation mostly relies on geothermal and solar energy, and a bit of hydroelectric energy. Kenya is the 8th largest producer of geothermal energy, which is much higher than Japan despite Japan’s help in the technological process. Furthermore, two weeks ago, the President launched the biggest wind power project in Africa, which generates 381 megawatts of electricity. Japan has a lot to learn from Kenya’s environmental policies and share of green energy.
H.E. Mr. Maina explained the importance for students to travel and open their minds to other cultures and nations. H.E. Mr. Maina emphasized the importance of adapting to other cultures when visiting a foreign country. He explained that it is important to know and appreciate other cultures and societies in order to live in peace. For instance, as a diplomat, H.E. Mr. Maina has worked in many countries over 33 years, and he adapted to the host country’s ways of living every time so that he can truly bond with and appreciate the local culture.
Furthermore, H.E. Mr. Maina believes that world affairs should be more emphasized in education. In Kenya, H.E. Mr. Maina noted that education covers world affairs very thoroughly, so people are aware and exposed to the world and its history from a young age. H.E. Mr. Maina commented that Japan, as a major world power, still has some room for increasing its focus on education to the world and foreign languages, including English.
Kenya is a technological center in Africa. H.E. Mr. Maina explained that technology is a very important aspect of development, and is the theme of this year’s TICAD. Kenya’s Vision 2030 blueprint to become a middle income economy also reflects its emphasis and progressiveness in technological innovation. Kenya has succeeded in two key projects: The first is Kenya’s high ICT infrastructure, consisting of a sophisticated and secure system. Kenya has connected the undersea system with high internet levels (of 13.5MB per second). Furthermore, another one of Kenya’s key to technological success is its highly educated and young population, who are the drivers of innovation and startups. Many companies have been outsourcing through Kenya, and the range of industries have only been increasing. H.E. Mr. Maina hopes that Japanese companies can invest more in technology in Africa.
H.E. Mr. Maina also explained cashless payments to be an important gateway for economic development. MPESA is a smartphone platform for digital money transactions. H.E. Mr. Maina highlighted the importance of this program as it has moved 3% of Kenya’s population out of poverty! What is significant about Kenya’s technological infrastructure is that everyone in the country, in both rural and urban areas, own a smartphone. This has allowed for communication and economic transactions over any distance, leading to an improvement in economic inclusion. With more of the population contributing to the economy, the social mobility has increased, as the poor people can lift themselves up in society more easily than before.
One event that highlighted Kenya as a technological center had been the launch of WIndows 10 in Nairobi. Furthermore, former president Mr. Obama had brought innovation and entrepreneurship summits to Kenya, which illustrates Kenya’s capacities and leadership in technological innovation.
Dreams growing up/ future aspirations (Madoka)
H.E. Mr. Maina explained that he has been exposed to worldly education throughout his years as a student. By the time he was in high school, he knew that he wanted to pursue his career in international relations. After high school, H.E. Mr. Maina studied in Wisconsin, which he noted was a large environmental transition (especially in terms of climate, as Wisconsin was much colder than Kenya). With a scholarship, H.E. Mr. Maina then pursued his masters degree in Ohio, where he saw various protests amidst of the peak of Apartheid in South Africa. Looking at the world in a different perspective, H.E. Mr. Maina found even more passion in international relations. In 1987, he started to work in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. H.E. Mr. Maina recalled his wonderful journeys traveling to many countries. As the Ambassador of Kenya to Japan, he mentioned that he is happy to work in Japan, a country he has always learnt about, and is glad to make contributions and successes.