Japan’s International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is supporting the Egyptian government in developing the education system through the Egypt Japan Education Partnership Initiative which covers all stages of education including early childhood, basic education, and technical education, as well as higher education and scientific research, said Yoshifumi Omura JICA’s new Chief Representative.
“Egypt’s new government is focusing on developing the education field, especially after President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi announced that 2019 will be Egypt’s year of education,” added Omura, and that Japan will focus on sharing knowledge about the Japanese its “Tokkatsu System” to apply its additional activities in Egyptian Japanese Schools.
DNE sat down with Omura, who was appointed as JICA’s new Chief Representative in Egypt in June, for his first exclusive interview to the Egyptian media, transcript of which is below, lightly edited for clarity.
What is your mandated strategy in the Egyptian market for the coming years?
JICA selects three pillars of priority areas, each of which copes with targeted areas namely Inclusive and Sustainable Growth including Electricity, Transportation, Tourism Development, as well as Private Sector Development.
The second main pillar is poverty reduction and enhancement of living standards which include areas of Irrigation and Rural Development as well as Basic Social Services while the third main pillar is Human Resource Development/Public Sector Reform including Education and Human Resources Development, Public Sector Empowerment and South-South/Triangular Cooperation.
Would you please give us a brief about your post before coming to Egypt?
I was assigned in JICA Headquarters as director of South East Asia, Planning Department, and then I was assigned as the Deputy Director General of the Evaluation Department.
How do you assess the Egyptian business climate and economic situation?
JICA believes that Egypt has been making enormous effort to reform its economic structure in the last years resulting in great development in the business climate in Egypt although it was tough time after the Arab Spring. We respect the efforts of the government and patience of Egyptian citizens.
Based on the rich human capital and resources in Egypt, JICA wants to support Egypt and its citizens in order to accelerate the country’s development as we believe that Japanese direct investment, especially for the manufacturing sector such as labour intensive industries, could create thousands of job opportunities in this country, so we dispatched an expert to the General Authority for Investment and Free Zones’ (GAFI) Japan desk and, in parallel, provide support For Egypt’s technical schools, in collaboration with Japanese manufacturing companies investing in Egypt.
The main challenge that JICA is facing at the current moment is the promotion of the Public Private Partnership (PPP) in Egypt that can greatly support developing and boost the Egyptian economy.
Over the past years, What is the amount of finance that JICA has provided in Egypt in all types of cooperation, loans, grants, technical cooperation till the end of 2017, in US dollars?
About $1.2bn grants aid, and we financed 42 projects with Official Development Assistance (ODA) loan, which accumulates to nearly $6.5bn. Technical cooperation amounted at about $800m, so all funds are estimated at about $8.5bn.
Which are the main economic sectors that new governmental financial requests focus on?
Egypt’s new government is focusing on developing the education field, especially after President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi announced that 2019 will be Egypt’s year of education. Therefore, JICA is supporting the Egyptian government in developing the Egyptian education system through the Egypt Japan Education Partnership Initiative which covers all stages of education including early childhood, basic education, and technical education, as well as higher education and scientific research.
Japanese schools will be inaugurated this year, what about the next phases?
In the agreed plan between JICA and the Ministry of Education and technical Education, 100 new Egypt-Japan Schools (EJS) are expected to be established in different governorates, in addition to another 100 existing schools which will be transformed into EJSs beside the 12 pilot schools which are already applying the Japanese activities to reach the total of 112 EJSs on different stages.
The ministry has already announced the opening of new EJSs in September 2018 and an online platform for students’ application was launched in the beginning of July 2018. The rest of EJSs will be established and inaugurated on different stages in the coming years.
JICA is supporting the EJS through providing both technical and financial assistance. The technical assistance is extended through a team of Japanese experts who are working inside the mMinistry of Education to transfer the knowledge and knowhow for applying what is known as the “Tokkatsu Activities” which contribute to the development of social, emotional, physical and academic skills of students in order to become responsible members of society. As for financial assistance, it is extended in the form of soft loans amounting 18.6 billion Japanese Yen (about $168m) which is still under effectuation by the Egyptian Government.
This is in addition to the group training of teachers and principals of EJSs in Japan under another project with the Ministry of Higher Education.
It is worth noting that the EJS will apply Egypt’s new national curriculum and will focus on sharing the knowledge about the Japanese “Tokkatsu System” to apply its additional activities in Egyptian Japanese Schools.
Would you please tell us more about JICA’s programmes to enhance the quality of education in general and technical training?
We have been supporting human resource development in Egypt for decades via the diversity of assistance schemes, and in 2016 the Egypt-Japan Education Partnership (EJEP) was launched by the Egyptian President and the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzō Abe to empower the Egyptian youth through a comprehensive cooperation that covers all stages of education including early childhood, basic education, and technical education, as well as higher education and scientific research.
EJEP is comprised of several components and diversity of projects such as the earlier mentioned Tokkatsu Activities for basic education in EJSs as well as Egypt-Japan University for Science and Technology (E-JUST) which was established based on the bilateral agreement concluded in 2009 between the Governments of Egypt and Japan.
JICA has been providing various support for E-JUST, including dispatching experts and professors, as well as providing necessary equipment for research and activities, aiming to establish a university with small student to professor ratio, and a research-oriented graduate school to foster highly qualified human resources who can lead the socio-economic development in Egypt.
The undergraduate programmes for the Faculty of Engineering and the Faculty of International Business and Humanities were started in September, 2017 and the education and research equipment for the Faculty of Engineering will be installed for their practical education. As one of the concrete results, E-JUST has been ranked as number three in Egypt from the viewpoint of research performance, innovation output and social impact although it has less than 10 year’s history after its establishment, according to Scimago Institutions ‘ranking 2018.
We also have EJEP-Human Resource Development Project Under EJEP, and there is a project with the Ministry of Higher Education for developing the human resources of the Egyptian youth through increasing the number of Egyptians dispatched to Japan for scholarships, joint research and training programmes to reach at least 2,500 over five years together with other programmes, in order to transfer Japanese knowledge and knowhow in various fields including health and education to contribute to Egypt’s economic and social development on the long-term.
Additionally, JICA is supporting the development of competent graduates from Egypt’s technical schools, in collaboration with Japanese companies in Egypt, and JICA is doing that through introducing guidelines targeting both soft skills and practical skills on both the school management level and the teacher level. It is also supporting the establishment of work transition units in pilot schools, all in order to contribute to the improvement of discipline, productivity, and team work of students and their transition to the labour market.
We also have the Early Childhood Project, in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Solidarity (MoSS) for introducing the concept of “Learning through Playing” through the capacity development of 50 model nurseries in five targeted governorates.
Do you mull supporting MSMEs over new funds collaborating with Egyptian banks?
JICA supports Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) through working directly with the Egyptian government to implement its plans to enhance the MSME development sector and to fulfil the goal of financial inclusion and its role in poverty reduction.
In its support for MSMEs, from 2001 to 2014, JICA extended two loans to support the MSME development in cooperation with the Social Fund for Development, currently the “MSME Development Agency”, with the total of around JPY 9bn.
The projects aimed at creating opportunities, promoting entrepreneurship, as well as increasing income generation activities and job opportunities through providing microloans.
Additionally, Since 2015, JICA had been working with the Egyptian Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) to support the development of microinsurance in Egypt for financial inclusion. In early 2015, JICA supported with a study tour for our counterparts to the Philippines. JICA continued to support FRA until it issued the Microinsurance Directive in November 2016, setting the building block to aid the growth of microinsurance in Egypt.
JICA continued to support through a second phase from 2017, by working on the capacity development of the market through developing curricula and enhancing the microinsurance capacity of key training institutes, the Financial Service Institute (FSI) of FRA and Insurance Institute of Egypt (IIE) of the Insurance Federation of Egypt. JICA established and developed the first Microinsurance Diploma in the world which is being offered by the Insurance Institute of Egypt (IIE). The first class to earn this diploma graduated last April 2018.
Last, but not least, in order to provide more tools to the market, JICA conducted a preliminary Demand Survey for Microinsurance in Egypt to provide the market with basic data to understand their clients’ needs and launch their efforts in developing microinsurance products. This survey was requested by the market in order to start filling the gap of data availability.
JICA believes in the importance of this project because we live a fact where the poor are the most people exposed to risks, and through contributing to the development of microinsurance here, we are contributing to the mitigation of these risks and taking part in the development of a mechanism that will protect the poor against accidents, illnesses, natural disasters, and more, all through a method tailored to their needs and abilities.
What are the main features of Borg Al Arab’s new expansions, and latest updates?
In 2005, we financed the modernisation of the airport which was inaugurated in 2010. It helped the airport to increase the number of passengers twofold.
In order to tackle the increasing numbers using the airport, we signed a new loan agreement to expand it. The Procurement for the General Consultant for supervisions was concluded in July 2017 with a consortium of Japanese firms. The procurement for contactors for the implementation of works is under preparation.
The Eco-Airport concept, or installation of environmental-friendly equipment responding to global climate change, using Japanese Advanced Technologies, such as solar-power generation, high-efficiency air-conditioning systems, LED lighting systems and so on. In addition, the Japanese consultant is expected to transfer and train airport staff about operation, maintenance and management of the airport in the Japanese way called “Omotenashi.”
How will JICA support GEM in the future? Will you continue sending experts for restoration?
JICA is financing the construction of one of the world’s largest museums which is the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) near the Great Pyramids of Giza through two ODA loans for a total about $800m. The new museum will be one of the main symbols of Egyptian-Japanese cooperation. GEM is expected to exhibit over 50,000 artefacts including all the famous King Tutt’s treasures including the golden mask.
JICA is also providing technical cooperation relating to management and operation of the museum and exhibitions, in order to prepare for the museum’s opening. While GEM construction is progressing toward completion in 2020 as announced by the Egyptian government, it is quite crucial to take all the necessary measures by the Egyptian side to ensure sustainable operation and management of the museum according to international standards.
In addition, JICA is supporting the conservation, restoration, packing and transportation of artefacts at the GEM Conservation Centre (GEM-CC). Cooperation with GEM-CC started eight years ago, through which around 20,000 artefacts were successfully transported to the conservation centre and over 100 training courses were conducted in Egypt and overseas to develop the capacity of GEM-CC staff. Our aim is to establish the GEM-CC as the hub institute of conservation and study in Egypt and to have the artefacts of the GEM exhibition preserved in an appropriate condition.
Finally, JICA is supporting the excavation of the second solar boat in the Pyramids area, which is expected to become one of the key attractions of the GEM.
What are the new projects that JICA will finance or participate in concerning the sectors of agriculture, irrigation, water sanitation, health and energy?
In terms of agriculture and irrigation, JICA is currently suggesting to the Egyptian ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation the introduction of the concept of Comprehensive Irrigation Water Management (CIWM) to achieve recovery of function of the whole irrigation system, regarding all canal levels from the principal to the terminal as a means to realize “efficient use of water resources” in the irrigation sector, so it doesn’t tackle the problems of the sector as separate points, but rather in a wide-ranging manner.
The goal of this project is to achieve efficient water use along three main irrigation canals which are the Ibrahimia and Bahr Yousef Canals in Upper Egypt, and El Kasd Canal in Middle Delta. To achieve this goal, the project includes hard components such as rehabilitation of minor irrigation structures along the previously mentioned canals and introducing modern irrigation methods (such as drip irrigation or pivot irrigation) in some areas, in addition to soft component such as building the capacity of MWRI staff to achieve efficient water management. The achievement of the project goal can be considered as a countermeasure for the challenges of water scarcity.
For Al Gabal Al Asfar Wastewater Treatment Plant Improvement Project, JICA is currently cooperating with the Construction Authority for Potable Water and Wastewater (CAPW) in conducting feasibility study on El Gabal El Asfar Wastewater Treatment Plant Improvement Project, which aims to expand the total capacity of the plant to reach 4 million m3/day, in order to meet the growing demand on wastewater treatment in Greater Cairo.
The Egyptian government has requested to apply advanced Japanese Technology in Al Gabal Al Asfar Wastewater Treatment Plant, so during the feasibility study both sides, the Egyptian and Japanese, will determine the suitable technologies that can be adopted in El Gabal El Asfar Wastewater Treatment Plant. There are some wastewater treatment technologies that can have a positive impact on improving environmental conditions around the plant such as sludge incarnation, or even help in producing electricity from the waste.
Within the framework of activities of the feasibility study for El-Gabal El-Asfar Wastewater Treatment Plant Improvement Project, JICA has invited a number of officials from the Construction Authority for Potable Water and Wastewater (CAPW) and the Ministry of Housing and Utilities and Urban Communities (MHUUC) to Japan, to discuss topics of mutual interest, and to share the Japanese knowledge in the field of wastewater treatment plants and to help in the project’s formulation.
Moreover, “Project for Improvement of Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities through Improvement of Information Accessibility” will be conducted in cooperation between JICA, Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, National Library of Egypt and Bibliotheca Alexandrina.
The Project aims at providing the persons with Print Disabilities, with an accessible form of the printed material, by converting the contents of books and different printed material into the special digital format of DAISY “Digital Accessible Information System”. Print disabilities can be defined as persons with Blindness, Visual impairments and reading disabilities, Physical disability that hinders holding and/or dealing with books and printed material.
In line with the aforementioned projects, a Public Private Partnership Project will be conducted in collaboration with a Japanese company specialized in the DAISY production technologies, and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, to develop the technology that would facilitate the production of DAISY content in Arabic with high accuracy, which was a main challenge in the efforts of digitalization of printed content in the Arab region.
JICA views the health sector as one of the highly prioritised sector for the social and economic developments of Egypt.
Due to the fact that increasing numbers of the patients receiving the health care services are almost exceeding the capacity of CUSPH “Abo El Reesh Japanese Hospital” which was established with JICA’s support, an agreement for the construction of new outpatients’ facility for CUSPH was signed in 2016 between the Governments of Egypt and Japan which will help improve the quality of the services provided by the Hospital.
Furthermore, JICA conducted Health Sector Cooperation Planning Survey in 2016 to formulate a strategy for our future cooperation to Egypt in health sector as adopted in the joint statement between President Al-Sisi and PM Abe. As a result of the survey, the Ministry of Health and Population (MOHP) and JICA agreed to implement a new Technical Cooperation Project to improve the quality of health care services of public hospitals through applying the 5S KAIZEN system of quality management, targeting hospitals affiliated to MOHP and Health Insurance Organization.
The human resource development in the health sector is one of the components of the Egypt-Japan Education Partnership (EJEP) under which Egyptian physicians, nurses and paramedics will be dispatched for training in Japan in order to contribute and improve their skills and performance, as well as the quality of health care services in Egypt.
Additionally, JICA will continue this year its programs on the capacity building in the areas of “Energy Efficiency and Conservation” and “Operation and Maintenance of Thermal Power Plants”. JICA is also planning to support the electricity sector reform and is in dialogue with the Ministry of Electricity, Egyptian Electricity Holding Company (EEHC) on the potential future cooperation including support to the transmission network.
We have supported various fields of generation, transmission, distribution grid management and energy efficiency. Many of our projects are in renewable energy in response to global environmental challenges.
In addition, JICA provides capacity building opportunities to Egyptian authorities through training courses in Japan.
We have five ongoing projects in the electricity sector which are the Electricity Sector Rehabilitation and the Improvement Project signed in October 2016, totalling around $400m for the rehabilitation of existing power plants and improving their operation efficiency.
Under this project, the first contract for the rehabilitation of the Cairo North Power Station was signed in August 2017 and is currently under implementation. Contracts for the two sub-projects for the rehabilitation of El-Atf and Sidi Krir Power Plants are expected to be concluded next year.
Also, the Hurghada Photovoltaic Power Plant Project (PV) is very important as this solar power project is expected to utilize the technology battery storage for the first time in Egypt. The Consultant for the Project has been selected and ready to be mobilized. Bidding for construction and supply of equipment is yet to start.
The Electricity Distribution project with an amount of $220m focuses on energy efficiency, reducing loss of distribution network and saving fuel consumption. It targets three distribution companies which are North Cairo, North Delta and Alexandria. The tender documents for the project are expected to be announced soon.
For Gulf El Zayt 220 Mega Watts (MW) Wind Power Plant Project is almost $350 million Renewable energy project. Construction is completed and President Al-Sisi witnessed its inauguration in July 2018.
Our fifth ongoing project in electricity sector is the Energy Control System Upgrading Project in Upper Egypt (UERCC), with almost $100m, for promoting energy efficiency/Stability of energy supply. This project includes the construction of new control centre in Samalut, Menia and the rehabilitation of the existing Upper Egypt Control Centre in Naga Hamadi, including the rehabilitation and connection of over 100 substations. The project is expected to be completed next year.
Both PV and Distribution Projects were concluded during President Al-Sisi’s visit to Japan in February 2016.
We are regularly analysing sector issues in cooperation with the ministry of electricity and formulating together future projects to respond to Egypt’s needs and the Sustainable Development Strategy 2030.
In this regard, JICA is considering supporting the electricity sector reform in Egypt through a dispatch of long-term expert to the Egyptian Electricity Holding Company (EEHC).
JICA is also keen on the human resource development of the sector. From this perspective, two new technical cooperation programmes for capacity development and training in electricity have started this year. One programme is for energy efficiency and conservation targeting not only the Ministry of Electricity and its related organizations, but also other key ministries involved in Energy Efficiency such as Ministry of Petroleum and Ministry of Trade and Industry. The other training programme is for strengthening the capacity of operation and maintenance of Gas Power Plants and improving capacity of training centres of the Egyptian Electricity Holding Company. These two programmes are expected to target over 50 Egyptian engineers and technicians.
Among JICA’s pioneer activities of human resource development in this sector is the Third Country Training Program (TCTP). Under this programme, the Egyptian government, utilising JICA’s funding and experience, provides training in Egypt to Engineers from the Middle East and African Countries where they share Egyptian valuable experiences. Over 200 have been trained during the past two years on different fields including power system operations and maintenance.