The four-year programme — called the African Business Education Initiative for the Youth (ABE Initiative) — forms part of the cooperation between African governments and Japan through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
Evanson Njenga, the communications and partnerships manager at the JICA office in Nairobi, Kenya, tells SciDev.Net that the ABE initiative was born out of the 5th Tokyo International Conference on African Development held in Japan in June, when the Yokohama Action Plan 2013-2017 was adopted.
The action plan involves six key strategic approaches to steer the direction of development in Africa in the coming five years, including the promotion of private sector-led growth, according to Njenga.
“The African Business Education Initiative for the Youth will produce the requisite skills required for the continent to transform its economies.”
Maurice Bolo, Scinnovent Centre, Kenya.
Njenga says priority will be given to those institutions in Africa that JICA has worked with in the past, including the academia, private sector and civil service, adding that JICA has already engaged a number of universities in Japan where the beneficiaries would be trained.
The ABE initiative targets African scholars aged between 22 and 39 years who have completed their bachelor’s degree. They will be selected from the academia, private sector and civil service in fields such as agriculture, engineering, information and communication technology, management and administration.
The Japanese government hopes to use the initiative to boost Africa’s dynamic growth with a focus on promoting public-private partnerships, according to Njenga.
“Successful candidates who are classified as research students are requested to study for six months, then to take examinations to get into the master’s programme,” says a JICA report, which did not include the cost of the initiative. “Unsuccessful participants will be required to return to their home countries [after six months].”
Master’s students will complete the programme within two years. Upon graduation, the beneficiaries will then undergo internships at Japanese industries for six months.
The initiative will also help the scholars understand Japanese culture, including how enterprises in Japan are managed, says Njenga.
The training in Japan is expected to enable the scholars to be the agents in the transfer of best Japanese business practices to Africa, adds Njenga.
Maurice Bolo, the director of the Scinnovent Centre, a Kenya-based research and training organisation, says the initiative is timely because most African countries are transitioning into knowledge-based economies, thus such programmes will help increase Africa's capacity through postgraduate training.
“The African Business Education Initiative for the Youth will produce the requisite skills required for the continent to transform its economies,” says Bolo.
He notes that the focus on public-private partnerships and the inclination towards businesses will ensure that Africa does not just produce more graduates, but produces graduates who are ready for the market.
Bolo adds that the initiative could lead to the transfer of technology and know-how between Japanese and African industries.
Link to JICA report
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa desk