On 20 September, President Juichi Yamagiwa and Dr Kayo Inaba, executive vice-president for gender equality, international affairs, and public relations, visited Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to sign a university-level academic exchange agreement with Addis Ababa University (AAU). The two also attended a general meeting of the Kyoto University African Alumni Association (KUAAA).
The two were accompanied by numerous KU faculty involved in African studies, including Professor Masayoshi Shigeta, director of the Center for African Area Studies (CAAS), Professor Itaru Ohta, dean of the Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies (ASAFAS), and Professor Shinya Funakawa, dean of the Graduate School of Global Environmental Studies (GSGES). All KU faculty enjoyed the trip as an opportunity to make and renew friendships with local researchers.
The agreement-signing took place in the morning in the Ras Mekonnen Hall on AAU’s main campus. Kyoto U and AAU had already collaborated on research in anthropology and geology as well as other fields, mostly through projects involving CAAS and the KU Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies. In addition, the AAU faculty includes Ethiopian-born graduates of Kyoto University’s ASAFAS and Primate Research Institute.
The agreement was signed by two officials each from Kyoto and AAU — President Yamagiwa and EVP Inaba representing KU, and Dr Jeilu Oumer, academic vice president and acting president, and Dr Demeke Achiso, chairman of the Department of Political Science and International Relations, for AAU.
This was followed by a commemorative lecture by President Yamagiwa, who began by outlining the WINDOW concept, and went on to explain how basic research at Kyoto has contributed to the solution of numerous problems in Africa, citing his work on gorillas and nongovernmental environmental conservation efforts. He also introduced the KU Interdisciplinary Unit for African Studies (Africa Unit), established last year to serve as the University’s contact with Africa, as he expressed his commitment to expanding academic exchange between Kyoto and the continent.
In the afternoon, the KU officials stayed on to take part in an Ethiopia-Japan Academic and Student Exchange Fair, held in the Mekonnen Hall by Hokkaido University. The event attracted a large number of African students with an interest in studying in Japan. Roughly 70 visited the KU booth.
The group then moved to a local hotel, where KUAAA hosted a reunion with former students, where four Japanese and 13 African graduates attended. Nine countries were represented by the African alumni, the same number as the association’s preparatory meeting in July 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya.
EVP Inaba opened the meeting by saying that it was her very first visit to Africa, eliciting hearty applause from the crowd. The African alumni announced their plans for promoting faculty and student exchange and joint research between Kyoto and African universities, as well as working with local institutes to establish a consortium.
President Yamagiwa responded by stating that Africa, as well as Asia, offer unique research topics that are not available in Japan or the West, especially for wildlife and climate-change studies, and that bilateral exchange is essential to ensuring continuation of original research on such topics.
The trip enabled the participating KU faculty to both rediscover their institution’s deep ties to the continent, and lay the foundation for even more active Kyoto-Africa academic exchange through AAU and KUAAA.