Egypt is hoping to deepen its cooperation with Japan to assist African countries improve their access to medical care, its ambassador to Japan, Ayman Aly Kamel, said in a recent interview.
Egypt is keenly anticipating its chance to make the proposal as Japan gears up to host the Group of 20 summit in June and the Tokyo International Conference on African Development in October, which Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi will attend, Kamel said.
“We have a very close relationship with Japan which allows us to engage in more productive projects that could benefit a great deal our African brothers,” the ambassador told Kyodo News on Friday in Tokyo.
Just as Egypt has learned from Japanese expertise, Egypt would like to communicate its success story to Africa, he said.
Japan is “one of the leading countries” regarding universal health care coverage and medical expertise, while Egypt has a successful track record of combatting tropical and neglected diseases.
“We will try to use our experience and knowledge in this field with the help of Japan to benefit other African countries,” he said, noting that they could particularly benefit from close cooperation in promoting health education and the training of professionals to provide medical services.
He also suggested establishing mobile hospitals in some remote areas and providing them with necessary equipment and staff training, while expressing his hope that the nations could work together to improve access to pharmaceuticals in underdeveloped areas.
Japan’s motivation to provide assistance to Egypt, and African nations more widely, is in some part driven by a wish to rival China’s increasing influence on the continent, facilitated by massive investment programs.
The TICAD gathering goes some way to achieving this through its basic principles of “transparency, consistency, and follow-ups,” as outlined by Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono at a meeting with representatives of 52 African nations last October in Tokyo.
However, Kamel said security challenges in some parts of the region may make Japan think twice about its commitment. He stressed Egypt can provide know-how Tokyo may need when it endeavors to provide financial and technical assistance to the continent.
With Egypt chairing the African Union this year, Kamel said it is in a good position to coordinate with Japan to foster greater relations with Africa. As strategic partners, Egyptcan be Japan’s “gateway” to the region, he said.
“The potential of cooperation is very high and we have high hopes in the nature of the coordination that we enjoy,” he said.
The envoy is already seeing some of the fruits of the relationship in the education sector.
He said educational model developments will also be spread to other African countries, mentioning the Egypt-Japan University of Science and Technology in Alexandria, built through a partnership between the two countries, as a platform to transfer Japanese expertise and technology to Africa and the Middle East.
He also welcomed Japan’s dispatch in mid-April of Ground Self-Defense Force officers to the command of Multinational Forces Observation in the Sinai Peninsula. The MFO monitors the implementation of the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.
“This is a great symbolic move showing that Japan is getting more interested in participating in the Middle East and ensuring peace and stability in the Middle Eastern region,” he said.
It is the first time that Japan has dedicated officers to a non-U.N. backed mission. The move was facilitated by a security law which came into effect in 2016, loosening the constraints on the Self-Defense Forces imposed by the country’s pacifist Constitution and widening the scope of activities in which it can engage.