President Yamagiwa visits Nairobi, Kenya (19-23 July 2016)

Kyoto University’s relationship with Africa dates back to the mid-20th century, to the decade following WWII when its primatologists and anthropologists began traveling to the continent on research expeditions. These ties remain strong to this day. When President Juichi Yamagiwa and other KU officials visited Nairobi, Kenya, from 19 through 23 July, they had fruitful opportunities to rediscover and build on those connections.

President Yamagiwa’s trip to Nairobi later in the month centered around a series of events taking place 20-22 July, including a meeting with local alumni to prepare for the launch of the University’s first Africa-based alumni association, and a symposium organized by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science’s (JSPS) Nairobi Office in celebration of its 50th anniversary.

The alumni meeting took place on the 20th at a local hotel, where Professor Yoshihiro Tokuga, Vice-President for University Fund Administration and Alumni Affairs, welcomed 16 former students — 11 Africans of nine nationalities and five Japanese nationals.

After the Vice-President outlined the basic rules and policies governing the association, attending alumni were invited to share recollections of their student days. Dr Daniel Baheta, chief of education at UNICEF Kenya, expressed his gratitude for the academic training he had received as a KU graduate student. “I think now it’s our turn to give back to Kyoto University,” he said on behalf of his fellow alumni. A discussion then ensued on what Africa-based KU alumni could do to help raise the University’s profile and popularity in their respective countries.

The JSPS symposium was held the following day with about 150 attending. President Yamagiwa, who had directed JSPS’s Nairobi Research Station in the early 1980s, delivered a keynote address reflecting on a half century of African studies at the University. Referring to his own and fellow scholars’ experiences, he explained that KU primatological research in Africa had followed a trajectory from “discovery, through mutual understanding, to collaboration”.

Professor Itaru Ohta, dean of the Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies (ASAFAS), joined the President and others in a panel discussion on future directions for African studies. He suggested that Japanese and African researchers should work together to address pressing global issues, such as climate change and poverty.

President Yamagiwa attended several more meetings during his stay in Nairobi, including the pre-event for the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI), organized by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and the general assembly of the Eastern Africa JSPS Alumni Association.

It is anticipated that this visit will lead to even more active research collaboration and academic exchange between Kyoto University and its partners in Africa.

Vice President Tokuga speaking at the Preliminary Meeting for the Kyoto University African Alumni Association

President Yamagiwa speaking at the JSPS Symposium

Panel Discussion at the JSPS Symposium

Preliminary Meeting attendees