[12th October 2012]

KENYA DIASPORA CONFERENCE – 2012, TOKYO JAPAN

H.E. Amb. Ben H.O. Ogutu (in front) addressing the participants during Kenya Diaspora Conference on Saturday 22nd September, 2012

The first ever Kenya Diaspora Conference was recently held in Tokyo on September 22, 2012. The colorful and thought stimulating event was organized by the Embassy of Kenya in Tokyo, with the full support of the Kenyan Diaspora Community in Japan. The Conference was Unique in a number of ways: Firstly the theme of the Conference carried a message that was in sharp contrast with other gatherings where demands are made for the government to fulfill certain expectations. Important as that may be, the discussions at the Japan Institute of Architecture in Tokyo on Saturday 22nd September, 2012 was marked by an expose from distinguished Kenyans who were telling the Government what they are prepared to do for Kenya. Under the slogan "My Country: My Destiny – Harnessing the Diaspora" the citizens of Kenya in Japan held wide ranging discussions on the various issues ranging from their possible contributions to the attainment of Vision 2030 to modalities for strengthening relations between Kenyan and Japanese institutions. The Kenyan Diaspora also resolved to work together and to strengthen partnerships and collaborations amongst themselves as well as their relations with the Embassy in order to promote Kenya's national development.

The Kenya Diaspora Conference –Japan 2012 was graced by Kenya's Minister of Tourism, Hon. Danson Mwazo as Keynote Speaker and was attended by over 135 participants including Kenya's Ambassador to Japan, H.E. Benson Ogutu; Dean of the Africa Diplomatic Corps and Ambassador of Zimbabwe to Japan, H.E. Mr. Stuart H. Comberbach; the Director of Diaspora Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Nyambura Kamau; the Regional Coordinator in Japan's Foreign Ministry (MOFA),Mr. Asazuma Shinichi; the Director of Africa 1Division within JICA, Mr. Saito Mitsunori; and Director General for Trade & Economic Cooperation in Japan's External Trade Organisation(JETRO), Mr. Shigeru Ishii. The Conference realized three key objective namely:

In pursuit of those objectives, the Conference addressed the five levers available for harnessing the Diaspora Resources for Kenya's national development. The levers were discussed under five panels which dealt with education, business and investments, science and technology, engineering, architecture and construction, and media, sports and culture for development. The levers were meant to guide the discussions and to showcase areas of expertise of the Diaspora in Japan as well as the important role that Kenyans in Japan can play in our national development.

In his key note speech, the Hon. Minister briefed the gathering on various opportunities that are available for the Diaspora under Vision 2030. He said that the new constitutions had opened a lot of doors and opportunities for the Diaspora as well as friends of Kenya and challenged the Diaspora Community to take advantage of the opportunities availed by dual citizenship and voting rights. The Hon. Minister also underscored the important role of the Diaspora in Kenya's development, encouraging Kenyans all over Japan and friends of Kenya to work together to develop and sustain strategic partnerships; collaboration and mutually beneficial projects. He outlined the various initiatives of the Kenya Government to address key barriers to investments, to promote better institutions and to facilitate education, science and technology. He called upon participants to invest in the opportunities arising from the construction boom as well as exploit tourism opportunities through the use of available media coverage and leveraging new products such as culture, Eco Tourism and new products in the Western part of Kenya and Nyanza. He called upon the Conference to contribute to the national Diaspora dialogue by disseminating the knowledge, lessons learnt and best practices.

In his opening address, His Excellency Amb. Benson H.O. Ogutu, Kenya's Ambassador to Japan applauded the Conference as a good start towards leveraging the expertise, experience, and skills acquired by the Kenyans in Japan for mutually beneficial cooperation between Kenya and Japan. He pointed out that the Kenyan Diaspora in Japan was a major segment in the development of the national economy and socio-political life of our Country. He added that as we prepare to become a middle-income country by the year 2030, Japan as one of Kenya's leading development partners will be expected to play an important facilitative role.

Other speakers at the Conference accentuated the need for the Africa's Diaspora to play an important role in the development of their respective countries in accordance with the recent Declaration by African Heads of State and Government.

The intensive discussions in the different panel Groups brought out concrete suggestions for further actions by the Diaspora in Japan. Some notable outcomes of the dialogue include the following:

In the end, the Conference not only achieved the objectives it had set out, but also spelt out a fairly comprehensive set of next steps that need to be undertaken in the coming months. The Conference affirmed that Kenya's national development required each stakeholder to play their role. The Diaspora therefore cannot ignore their role in the development process. In addition, the Diaspora noted that there are numerous opportunities in Kenya for Kenyans in Japan as well as for Japanese friends. That required Kenyan's in Japan to come together, and work together as a team to support national development as well as to cement their bonds of unity to get Kenya to the level of sustainable development. They affirmed the need to identify and follow-up on opportunities so that they can be Programmes for National Development.

Hon. Danson Mwazo, Minister of Tourism of the Republic of Kenya, addressing the participants during the Kenya Diaspora

From left to right: Mr. Makoto Yamanouchi, Mr. John Chirchir; Mr. Paul Ndung'u, Mr. Frank Omondi and Mr. Sylvanus Masiro during the interactive session on Tourism Development.

One of the plenary sessions during the Conference.

Hon. Danson Mwazo, Kenya's Minister for Tourism exchanging gifts with the Organizers of the Kenya Diaspora Conference – 2012 on 22nd September, 2012.

Prof. Nathaniel Agola, President & CEO of Qweza Inc, making a presentation on Harnessing the Diaspora in Japan for National Development on 22nd September, 2012

Participants paying attention during the Panel Session on Harnessing the Diaspora for Education for Development on 22nd September, 2012

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