Thinking Together and Working Together: My Experience as a Japanese Intern with IRI’s Africa Division

  • Yuta Anno, Yuta Anno

My name is Yuta Anno and I am working for the International Republican Institute as a student intern.  I am going to write about my experience living in DC and studying Africa as a Japanese student.

I have been working in the Africa division for the last three months.  While at university, I took a class titled: “Mobility, Plurality and Uncertainty in the Life of Africans” using the example of the migrations in Kenya and Tanzania.  The class was a special lecture in African Studies and truthfully, what I learned from that class was all I had known about Africa before I started here. 

The more I learn about Africa, the more I am fascinated with its sociocultural and political diversity.  Although I am still inexperienced, my coworkers in the Africa division give me a lot of opportunities to learn more about Africa.  In addition, being located here in the U.S. capital provided me with the opportunity to be connected with many dynamic people such as politicians and many professionals who are making a positive difference in the world. 

I was able to attend two important events with my co-workers in the last two months.  First, an event featuring former Nigerian President Goodluck E. Jonathan.  In the event, he talked on the recent political transition in Nigeria and prospects for good governance in Africa’s most populous state (with 180 million people) and its largest democracy. Second, I attended a panel discussion entitled: “What Next for Mali?” featuring Tiena Coulobaly, the Ambassador of Mali to the United States.  Mali has been especially spotlighted after the hotel attack in Bamako that occurred on November 20, 2015.  In the seminar, the panelists considered the future of Mali from comprehensive perspectives. Since each event touched on civil society and elections, which are important focal points of IRI’s work, I came to realize that IRI supports and is a driving force for future development in Africa.  The standing room only events came as a fresh reminder that Americans are very concerned about African countries.

In August 2016 the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), initiated by the Government of Japan, will be held in Kenya.  TICAD, which will bring together leaders from Africa, Japan and the broader international community, will be an excellent opportunity to show Japan’s willingness to cooperate with Africa. “Ownership,” one of the pillars of TICAD, is a key to the success of the cooperation with African countries.  One-sided imposition of political values and regulations only invites the antipathy of the local governments or citizens.  It is essential for realizing effective and efficient development to grasp local demand.  Reflecting its diversity, democracy in the African context needs to be based on and adapted to local democratic practices and traditions.  Making use of the location, I would like to deepen my knowledge of each country in Africa in order to contribute to better cooperation with African people in the future.  As Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan said in his opening remarks of the 2013 TICAD-V conference, we need to do a better job of “thinking together and working together.” My experience here at IRI has helped me deepen my understanding of the importance of this. In addition, there are definitely many things I can do in Washington D.C. that I can never do in Tokyo.  Through this experience at IRI, I am very eager to get a clear sense of direction for the future!  

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