‘’Building emerging economies and enhancing infrastructure development and industrialization can only be unlocked through education and human resource development.’’ This is according to the Japanese Ambassador to South Africa, Shigeyuki Hiroki, who has announced that applications are now open to young South Africans to study towards a post-graduate degree in Japan.

The African Business Education of ABE Initiative was launched by the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, at the 5th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in Yokohama in 2013, to provide 1000 young Africans from 54 countries the opportunity to study towards a Master’s degree at Japanese university. TICAD was initiated by the Government of Japan in 1993, and Japan has committed to the development of Africa. In its 22 years in operation, Japan has collaborated with almost all countries on the continent, carrying out a number of projects geared towards their peace and prosperity.

The scholarship programme also enables successful applicants to intern at a Japanese company for six months upon completion of the two-year course. Thus far 500 young Africans, including 49 South Africans, have been placed at various Japanese universities of their choice and the deadline for applications for the third batch of the programme closes at the end of October.

“I am of the firm belief that socio-economic development and growth are not achievable without education. I believe education upholds the values, interests and cultures of communities and is the foundation of nation-building,” says Ambassador Hiroki.

Participants will be accepted in any field of study. However, given the developmental needs of the continent, a special focus has been placed on engineering, agriculture, economics and business administration. The programme is open to all government officials as well as those working in the private sector and academics, who hold a relevant bachelor’s degree, between the ages of 22 and 39.

Says Ambassador Hiroki: “The Japanese government realizes that there is a need in Africa to turn its commodity-based economies into multifaceted, industrialized economies. And, as Japanese enterprises are showing a strong recognition of and interest in a prosperous Africa, we feel it necessary to boost its human resource development on its path to sustainable economic prosperity.

The ABE Initiative is run by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), one of the government organisations. South Africa is one of nine countries in which JICA has offices and from where necessary information and support will be provided.

‘‘Young graduates armed with the necessary skills, particularly in countries like South Africa which is going through a massive infrastructure build programme, must be at the epic centre of its industrialization programme, ” Mr Hiroki stresses the Programme’s significance.

The Government of Japan, is keen on the contribution to human resource development, job creation and skill transfer in South Africa, and it hopes the ABE initiative will help to address these challenges in this country and also generate young and ambitious South African leaders who will play big roles in strengthening the bilateral relationship between Japan and South Africa.

Application and general enrollment information available on ABE Initiative website at http://www.jica.go.jp/southafrica/english/office/others/abe.html or contact ABE Initiative Project Office SA (JICE) (078-141-0769 or abe.southafrica@jice.org).