On July 13, 2019, the symposium “Landscape of African Studies in Japan” was held at Sophia University as a partner project of TICAD7. President Juichi Yamagiwa, Professor Motoki Takahashi and Professor Emeritus Ota from the Center for African Area Studies participated the event .
President Yamagiwa gave a lecture titled “African Studies in Japan: Observation from a Perspective of Gorillas,” reflecting on his research on gorillas he carried out in Africa for the past 30 years. Over the long period of fieldwork, he learned not only the gorillas’ personality and history, but also their natural environment and relationships with local residents. In Gabon, he started an ecotourism project aimed at protecting wildlife and sustaining local industries. Based on this experience, he emphasized the importance of developing human resources and collaborating with local residents when Japanese researchers conduct their research in Africa.
After the lecture, 13 universities and research institutes introduced their research in Africa. Prof. Takahashi gave a presentation on Kyoto University’s African studies. He emphasized that its uniqueness lies in the long history and breadth of fields, characterized by a combination of basic and applied research.
In the second half of the symposium, a panel discussion was held with practitioners working in Africa, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, JICA, and NGOs, to discuss the characteristics and issues of African studies in Japan and its future directions. Professor Ohta, who is also the president of the Japanese Association for African Studies, pointed out that Japanese researchers mostly focused on researching Africa and learning from African researchers, but there was not enough collaboration with Japanese practitioners working on Africa.
This symposium was a good opportunity to learn the breadth and significance of African studies conducted by Japanese universities. It also emphasized the importance of trans-disciplinary collaboration to address today’s challenges represented by the SDGs. In addition, the participants recognized the importance of expanding the networks established by Japanese researchers to policymakers and private sectors. Based on the contents discussed at this symposium, a joint statement was issued under the joint name of the participating institutions.