Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has for a longtime been a development partner with the government of Rwanda for almost 20 years. JICA is in charge of administering Official Development Assistance (ODA) from Japan such as Technical Cooperation, ODA loan, Grant Aid, Japanese volunteers, Public-Private-Partnership, and others. Recently, the country office received a new Chief Representative, Shiotsuka Minako, with whom The New Times’ Alice Kagina discussed key areas of priority in partnership going forward. Below are excerpts. What was your previous work experience with JICA? It’s my first time to Rwanda but I used to be involved with African countries in various ways so far. For example, when I entered JICA just after my graduation, I took training for new employees in Tanzania. Then I was assigned at JICA Malawi. And even when I was posted at the headquarters, I was involved in planning, evaluation, and coordination of projects in Africa. So, I was always close to Africa, and I am very happy to be here. What are your priority areas as you take on this new role? I would like to continue and enhance our past cooperation in four priority areas that we have in line with Rwanda’s National Strategy of Transformation (NST1) and Vision 2050. These include economic infrastructure, agriculture, social services, and human resource development. The first two areas are the engine of development, the other two are the foundation. Regarding economic infrastructure, one of our past projects is the construction of Rusumo bridge and One Stop Border Post at the Rwandan border with Tanzania to enhance customs clearance capacity and increase international trade. They were also coupled with Rusumo-Kayonza and Ngoma-Ramiro road rehabilitation in progress. These corridors will strengthen regional trade. Now we are shifting our focus to urban mobility in Kigali City as well having in mind the population growth in the city. For Kigali City, we also supported the energy sector with more than three substations and distribution lines to people in Kigali. In terms of agriculture, we have constructed irrigation facilities to improve food production. Through capacity development in technical cooperation, we enhance the cost-effective agriculture and value-added products, which are essential for economic growth. As for social services, several projects on water supply improvement are deployed complementary. We are also looking to start cooperation in the health sector. It is a new experience for us in Rwanda, but we will soon communicate about it. Human resource development is the foundation of development where JICA has many achievements such as the support to Tumba College of Technology. Recently, we are putting much focus in ICT for on education and innovation. What do you think is the effective way to maximize the impact of cooperation projects in the frame of achieving development targets? I would like to emphasize two factors; self-sustaining growth and partnership. These two are essential for building and maximizing development impact. Self-sustaining growth is derived from human resource development by enhancing problem-solving capabilities and a sense of ownership. Not the simple technical transfers which are limited to person-to-person transfer but knowledge and experience sharing in teams. What we can do is to suggest options based on our experience. It’s up to Rwandan people to outline the solution they will take because they know the problems very well. It will not come up with tangible result soon, but in the long run, it is sustainable in the true sense. Now, while we are facing more complex challenges such as climate change, inflation, and food security, we have to unite our efforts to tackle such global issues. Sharing the targets to be achieved with stakeholders, we aim to promote partnerships and co-creation with various partners. In which ways can the partnership between Rwanda and Japan be strengthened to benefit the people? Our vision at JICA is “Leading the world with trust” and I believe that it comes from the relationship between people. In JICA, we have a short-term training program in Japan, the so-called Knowledge Co-Creation Program where not only acquiring technical skills but foreign participants and Japanese civil society share experiences and learn from each other in practical ways. Annually, about 50 Rwandans are invited to Japan under this program. We also have long-term training to study for a master’s degree at Japanese universities and experience internships at Japanese companies. In our long history of cooperation, more than 800 people have entered Japan and still have a very good relationship with the Japanese. And our 47 volunteers deployed to local communities all over Rwanda report a favorable cooperation with the Rwandan people. I really thank the government of Rwanda, as well as all Rwandan people, for welcoming our volunteers. These human capitals are an invaluable asset for the solid relationship between Rwanda and Japan.