On August 29, 2018, the International School Network visited the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), to interview the Director, Dr. Yuko Yasunaga.
UNIDO is an international organization working towards poverty reduction, inclusive globalization, and environmental sustainability. The Tokyo office of UNIDO works with Japanese private customers and receives budget from the Japanese government to encourage Japanese private industries in developing and emerging countries, and promoting technological transfers from Japan to overseas.
About industrial development, Dr. Yasunaga noted that primary resources, such as agriculture, fishery, and underground sources are being too relied upon. Such primary resources fluctuate a lot as their supply and hence prices depend on volatile market and production situations such as climate and weather. In order to develop industries, Dr. Yasunaga noted that the initial products should be sold at higher prices with value added. For instance, a fish that is sold for \300 can be sold for \500 as tempura (fried), and \1000 as a sophisticated dish. Dr. Yasunaga believes that value added in this way is the starting point of industrial development.
For world peace, Dr. Yasunaga noted the importance of humanitarian aid as the baseline of UN objectives. He commented that the objective of UNIDO goes beyond aid, as it helps nations develop their own industries to earn income by themselves. With the eradication of poverty, people can learn to care for others and about manners, which is the first step towards peace and living harmoniously.
One of the activities of UNIDO is ameliorating investment climates. For instance, adjusting corporate acts can stipulate how private companies operate. Countries like Japan should allow more subsidiaries for foreign companies so foreign companies can gain more control. Furthermore, there are currencies that are favorable for investment; international currencies like the USD and Euro are easy to use and widely accepted. UNIDO asks promotion delegates to explain this to Japanese companies and ask for one-to-one meetings. UNIDO also strengthens activities such as English language skills for Japanese staff overseas through human resources, as many SMEs of Japan don’t have staff overseas who can speak the language.
Another activity that Dr. Yasunaga introduced is technological transfer. UNDO lists technological advancement products of Japan and makes promotion videos for them, as well as hosts exhibitions to Japanese SMEs can demonstrate their technology and products. Dr. Yasunaga believes in the potential of the African continent as an investment destination, as there is a high economic and population growth alongside urbanization. He mentioned that Japanese companies can teach the knowhow for systems such as environmental, waste, and water security to solve any infrastructural problems so countries can advance more industrially.
Geographical Area of Focus
Dr. Yasunaga explained that from the 1980s, Japanese investment has been focusing on ASEAN countries, where Japanese companies are now running successfully, and workers are accumulating wealth. This initiative had been mutually beneficial, and there are many reasons investment to Asia had been a success. ASEAN countries are geographically close to Japan and are belonging to the Chinese civilization area; this means that there was an existing original psychological sympathy, as linguistics and culture were close. Dr. Yasunaga noted that the broken English of the countries, including Japan, had been a similarity that did not act as a burden for investment. Investment to ASEAN countries was smooth and easy.
On the other hand, Dr. Yasunaga finds that investment to Africa has been a challenge for Japan because of geographical, cultural, and linguistic distances. Dr. Yasunaga noted that Africans tend to be very good at languages, as they can speak their traditional and former colonizer’s languages. African countries may also have unstable political situations due to its diverse nature and consequent internal and external conflicts. Dr. Yasunaga mentioned that such barriers had made Japanese companies too timid to invest to African countries, unlike some aggressive Chinese companies. Yet now, Japanese companies are starting to plan for African investment. Dr. Yasunaga gave some examples of companies working on investing in the African region, including Yazaki automobiles in Morocco, and Mayekawa juice companies in South Africa. Japanese companies mentalities have gradually been changing towards more active investment to Africa.
Dr. Yasunaga explained that competition has been severe in the market of international trade, with countries constantly producing cheaper and better products. The 1990s to 2000s in Japan, also known as the “Lost Decades”, had been a time with no growth, which Dr. Yasunaga commented is partly attributed to globalization, as Japan could not compete in the world market. Moreover, recently, Dr. Yasunaga has noticed that developed countries are choosing inward oriented policies, which could perhaps be a social problem. As examples, he listed President Trump’s disapproval of immigrants and high tariffs for China, and UK declaring Brexit. It is the dogma of economics that international trade enriches the world, yet Dr. Yasunaga notes that the world is not driven solely by economics.
When he was a child, Dr. Yasunaga had the dream of becoming an astronaut. He said that he was inspired when US Apollo II landed on the moon.
Now, one year has passed since Dr. Yasunaga was appointed as the director of the Tokyo office of UNIDO. Before, he worked as a bureaucrat in the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry. He was originally from the mining and engineering sector, and was involved in tasks including the foreign mineral resource development. He has traveled to Africa often since this time, to promote technology by accompanying universities and labs in projects. The science and technology policy involved pharmaceutics, materials, and environmental technologies. When the Japanese industries were especially strong during the 1980s and 1990s, Dr. Yasunaga was involved in aiding the floods of exports.
Dr. Yasunaga’s passion working as the director of UNIDO is the challenge of encouraging Japanese industries. He notes that people may be interested in investment but it takes time. Dr. Yasunaga has hosted various seminars and symposiums especially about investment to Africa, yet it will take time for companies to take action. He noted that the ASEAN case took 20 to 30 years, and so patience is needed for this case as well. There must be time for Japanese companies to become more familiarized with the African culture and people, and to realize the high expectations African nations have towards Japanese cooperation. There very good mentality for Africa in promoting Japanese business, which Dr. Yasunaga believes is a strong hope for the success of his mission.
Dr. Yasunaga’s goal is to realize 100 Japanese companies to Africa. He explained that there are 200 in South Africa, and 50 to 60 in Morocco, but other countries only have one digit.
Dr. Yasunaga told us that life is “full of challenges”. Sometimes there are risks to be taken, and sometimes not. He said that his Japanese government work life had been especially busy, but he kept his optimism high by turning his challenges into motivation. As a professor, Dr. Yasunaga teaches energy and resource economics at Tokyo University, especially concerning open innovation theory.
Dr. Yasunaga’s advice for students is to “do exciting things in exciting ways”, and not to stick to ordinary methods. He drew a graph to depict activities, with the y-axis indicating the excitement of the way of doing an activity, and the x-axis indicating how exciting the activity is. He explained that in life, we should make efforts to do the most exciting things in the most exciting way possible. Sometimes, it is inevitable that we have to do things that are not as exciting, and sometimes we do not have the choice to do something exciting in an exciting manner, but it is always important to strive for it. Dr. Yasunaga recommends to university students that there are ways to arrange your work for intellectual stimulation; to make boring things interesting. Furthermore, Dr. Yasunaga noted that many Japanese people do not look very happy; yet this can be changed if you think and add or change something to make your life activities more exciting whilst maintaining your world and identity.
As the director of UNIDO, Dr. Yasunaga’s message towards students is that he is welcoming university graduate students to UNIDO as interns. UNIDO internships offer a flexible schedule, and so he hopes that more students will be interested in participating.
Dr. Yasunaga also mentioned that there are activities that are not well known by young people. For instance, from April, the Director General in Vietnam will regularly visit Japan to have meetings. Furthermore, there is a symposium in Tokyo University that is globally active. To achieve SDGs, Dr. Yasunaga explained that there must be innovation; this requires new business models and human capital.
In terms of the literacy rate project, Dr. Yasunaga supported the importance of reaching decision makers as well as cooperating with the “grassroot” people, such as the teachers and advisors. Top down activities and bottom up activities must be done in parallel. This is the case for many volunteer activities such as in JICA, where experts as well as young and senior volunteers cooperate to advance their projects.
On August 30, 2018, the International School Network visited the Embassy of Cameroon to interview the Ambassador, His Excellency Dr. Pierre Ndzengue.
H.E. Dr. Ndzengue has been the ambassador of Cameroon to Japan since 2009. He noted that there are various areas of cooperation between Japan and Cameroon, including soccer. H.E. Dr. Ndzengue also listed cooperation through MOFA and JICA in terms of public relations, private companies such as Marubeni, and building hospitals and decentralized cooperation like in Oita Prefecture.
Culture and Unity
The educational system of Cameroon is bilingual. There are two official languages, English and French, as the nation was colonized by two countries. H.E. Dr. Ndzengue explained that Cameroon is home to about 250 different tribes, so it is difficult to unite them using just one language, which is why the educational system in Cameroon teaches both languages.
As a diverse nation, the culture of Cameroon has found “diversity in unity”. Because of the diverse nature of the nation, H.E. Dr. Ndzengue describes Cameroon to be like “Africa in miniature”.
H.E. Dr. Ndzengue commented that Cameroonians are warm, hospitable, and always welcome for greeting. He noted that this goes back to the way Cameroonians understand family. Family in Cameroon is very strong as many families live together for generations, and the inclusion of family goes beyond biological or blood relatives. H.E. Dr. Ndzengue explained that family is the first place to teach children how to behave, and adults will correct and educate children even if they are not biologically connected. H.E. Dr. Ndzengue explains that it is a common endeavor in Cameroon that people interact with each other. “Solitude is something we don’t know”; Because of this culture of family, people do not die alone or die from hunger. H.E. Dr. Ndzengue recalled that in his village, there are common houses where neighbors get together and eat.
H.E. Dr. Ndzengue sees the phenomenon of globalization to be a means of opening Cameroon for development and FDI. Globalization brings about a rapid change that cannot be avoided- and whilst this change takes place, H.E. Dr. Ndzengue stressed on the importance of “people first”. He noted that we must ask ourselves the fundamental question of “What do we need?” and must always watch out for the people. H.E. Dr. Ndzengue explained that through globalization, people must bring together specific qualities from their own countries, and realize their own dreams.
When H.E. Dr. Ndzengue met Emperor Akihito, he asked why Japan has maintained both traditional and industrial aspects. H.E. Dr. Ndzengue has noticed that there are traditional aspects in the modern streets of Japan, including small shrines in many corners of Tokyo. The Emperor answered that Japan had been closed from foreign influence before opening up after World War II. Because of globalization, there is now a need to embrace foreign cultures, such as the Western culture, but in villages of Cameroon, H.E. Dr. Ndzengue noted that traditions have been maintained. H.E> Dr. Ndzengue emphasized that it is important for the youth to know their own history and backgrounds, including their own traditional languages, which is in fact a challenge. French and English are international, working languages that people in Cameroon learn in school, so it is difficult for parents to pass on their traditional languages to their children. Nonetheless, H.E. Dr. Ndzengue emphasized that as “citizens of the world”, we must have both modern and historical knowledge and appreciation.
H.E. Dr. Ndzengue noted various natural and cultural aspects of Cameroon that he recommends for visitors to see. He first commented that there are reserves in Cameroon where tourists can see animals, as well as beautiful mountains and forests. He also mentioned that there are hospitable villagers with festive cultures, who ride horses, and do fireworks in the Winter at safari parks.
Relations with Japan
Cameroon and Japan have shared diplomatic relations since 1960. H.E. Dr. Ndzengue explained that the two countries have had a close and friendly relationship. Cameroon has supported Japan in international organization candidates, and Japan has helped Cameroon in a variety of aspects, including schools, roads, water and electric infrastructure, and rice cultivation. Furthermore, H.E. Dr. Ndzengue commented that Japan is famous in Cameroon due to the number of Japanese schools in the country.
H.E. Dr. Ndzengue expressed his aspirations for more Japanese companies to come to Cameroon. He noted that there must be implications for the private sector, as the decision-making process on the government level in Japan is too slow. He hopes that through TICAD, he can find more dynamic Japanese private companies that will come to Cameroon.
When H.E. Dr. Ndzengue was a child (at around age 12), he had the dream of becoming a priest. In secondary school, he wanted to become a military man, and it was after he graduated from university that he got interested in diplomacy.
H.E. Dr. Ndzengue expressed that he finds Japan to be an interesting diplomatic posting. He noted that Japan is very industrialized, with lots of knowhow to gain. His message towards Japanese people would be to encourage Cameroon. He wishes for more Japanese people to learn how the youth of Cameroon live, and to connect person-to-person to talk about their challenges and dreams. As an Ambassador, he hopes that more Japanese cooperation can strengthen between Cameroon and Japan for the future.
In terms of gender inequality, H.E. Dr. Ndzengue mentioned that it is important to ensure that women receive equal pay as men with equal qualifications. In Cameroon, there have been many strong business women as well as women in the parliament. The nation has not yet reached 100% gender equality, but H.E. Dr. Ndzengue assures that the situation is much better than that of Japan. Furthermore, he noted that it is not only the government that should be deciding rights for women, but it is the women’s important job as well to fight for rights daily. His message towards women is “not to let men drag you down” and to “make sure your qualifications are respected”.
H.E. Dr. Ndzengue explained that poverty is an issue that is always existing in all countries. H.E. Dr. Ndzengue noted that even in Japan, he was surprised when he was a homeless man on a bench which proved that the no matter the level of development in each country, poverty still exists. Nonetheless, H.E. Dr. Ndzengue, believes that fighting poverty means conducting policies that help people. He believes that policies should target the vulnerable part of the population, including kids, women, elders, and not the rich. He also explained the need for projects to assist them, such as projects that empower women, or takes care of families.
Last week, H.E. Dr. Ndzengue attended a conference on peace treaties. He posed the question, “Why do we have conflicts?” H.E. Dr. Ndzengue explained that every country has conflicts of some sort, and that world peace is impossible as long as it is something we are just dreaming of. He believes that we must go against the conflicts, and cooperate on working hard to achieve peace, by tackling the causes of instability. International organizations such as the UN gathers heads of states to discuss such humanity issues, and have found that economic issues, and injustice cause instability and inequality. H.E. Dr. Ndzengue believes that the two major factors that bring peace to the world are justice and love, as the lack of those two factors are what brings about inequality. H.E. Dr. Ndzengue hopes that people can realize that we are all humans, as no one is inferior or superior to one another. He said that the “blood flowing is the same color”. Furthermore, H.E. Dr. Ndzengue explained that this is one of the most important jobs of diplomacy; people-to-people communication and traveling leads to easier exchanges and understandings for other peoples, despite any differences in appearances or ways of living.
As a message towards students, H.E. Dr. Ndzengue hopes that students can be more open to learning foreign languages, to communicate better with others. Additionally, he hopes that students can seize every opportunity to travel and meet new people. He notes that it is especially important that students engage in student-to-student communication to befriend and learn about the youth from other cultures and their ways of thinking and living. He believes that students from differing nations or regions should come together to present the diversity of their cultures.