• Kyodo

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The Japan International Cooperation Agency will strengthen its development activities in Africa once the agency is through with ongoing reforms aimed at streamlining its operations overseas, JICA chief Sadako Ogata said Thursday.

Ogata, who is on a four-nation African tour, said she is exploring ways of strengthening JICA’s field operations system as the agency increases its emphasis on matters related to Africa.

Ogata, who is on her first visit to Africa as head of JICA, said the body will play a key role in rehabilitation programs once peace is restored in Sudan and Somalia.

“JICA can help in rehabilitation programs, including helping returnees if the talks succeed,” she told reporters in Nairobi, referring to stalled peace negotiations in the Kenyan capital aimed at resolving long-standing conflicts in Sudan and Somalia.

Ogata was speaking to reporters in Nairobi at the end of her four-day tour of the east African nation. She will also visit Ethiopia, Senegal and South Africa before returning to Tokyo on May 14.

“JICA is undertaking some serious reforms in order to attract effective operations overseas,” the ex-U.N. high commissioner for refugees said.

She said she would use her African tour to consider the future direction of JICA programs in Africa.

While in Kenya, Ogata witnessed the signing of an agreement of technical cooperation between Japan and Kenya, and held talks with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki. She also visited various JICA-sponsored projects.

As UNHCR chief between 1991 and 2000, Ogata was actively involved in providing humanitarian aid to Africa.

Established in 1974, JICA is the implementing arm of Japan’s official development assistance. It is undergoing rigorous reforms to strengthen its operations abroad.

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