Naito to implement $32 billion Japanese commitment to Africa
Former President of SA Nelson Mandela, Winnie Mandela, Councellor Yasushi Naito and Shigeaki Koga (then Commercial Attache) pictured in 1990 at a welcome reception for the Consul-General of Japan at the Carlton Hotel, Johannesburg
“I can’t imagine life without South Africa,” says Counsellor Yasushi Naito of the Embassy of Japan in Pretoria, after 25 years of interactions and engagements with this country.
As South Africa looks forward to 20 years of a constitutional democracy, Naito shares his experiences of when 16 oraganizations, including COSATU, was banned and the oppression of the apartheid regime was worsening. “It was 1997 and our task as diplomats was to be present at meetings organized by the civic and other anti-apartheid groups to deter the police from supressing these meetings easily.
“I remember in 1989 I had arrived late for a meeting arranged by the civics in Mamelodi. The apartheid police had already fired teargas into HM Pitje Stadium and the residents were running from the police. I was caught in the midst of the chaos and a lady grabbed hold of my hand and sheltered me in her house. After issuing a strong protest the embassy received bomb threats and even received a call asking what we were doing in Mamelodi. Several years later at the TRC the instigators in the police were identified. This inspired me and taught me the spirit of Ubuntu and I stayed on in South Africa. I attended CODESA and was honoured to arrange the visits of Presidents Mandela, Mbeki and recently Zuma to Japan.”
Naito’s next assignment is to work at the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in Tokyo. He will be in the section that will oversee $32billion pledged to Africa at the recent TICAD summit by President Abe in Yokahama, Japan.
According to Naito, Japan has recognized the accelerated economic growth in Africa and the need for rapid industrialization. The funds will therefore be a resource for capacity building and skills development to benefit this transformation. It will also benefit the investment in infrastructure currently underway.