WMU graduates from all over Africa converged on the city of Accra, the capital of Ghana from the 3rd of November to attend the All-African Regional Meeting of Sasakawa Fellows, which incidentally coincided with the 20th anniversary celebrations of SAFE (Sasakawa Africa Fund for Extension Education).
Graduates were expected from all over Africa, but eventually the 21 members present came from Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Nigeria and Tanzania. The facilitators of the meeting were two staff members of OPRF. Professor Toshio Hikima, Rector of the Marine Technical College, Kobe, was joined by Mr. Osamu Marumoto, Project Officer of the IMO Counter-Piracy Project Implementation Unit, as the main lecturers for the meeting.
Monday 4th November
The activity-packed program over the week commenced on the evening of the 4th with the self-introduction of present participants, as not all were present then. Discussions on the agenda for the Sasakawa Fellows' Network activities and how the rest of the week was to be used were also laid out. The working groups on the network activities were constituted and chairperson, co-chairpersons and secretaries were selected. Mr. Stephen Toya from Kenya presided at the meeting. The groups set to work immediately when their terms of reference were made known. As the week was packed with various activities, presentations by Fellows on their areas of interest had to be interspersed throughout.
Tuesday 5th November
The actual program commenced on the 5th with presentations by Professor Hikima on the topic "Fundamental Problems in the MET Field". In this lecture, for which he used the Japanese maritime industry as a case study, he asked the fundamental question, "How do we keep qualified officers and instructors?" He made the point that the maritime industry has seen a steady decline in qualified officers and instructors, particularly in the established maritime nations. This he attributed to high salary levels in these countries and other social factors such as separation from families, short stay at ports and the IT environment. He concluded that paying a higher salary in these countries as well as increasing the passion of the younger generation for seafaring may change the tide of decline.
Mr. Osamu Marumoto addressed the issue of the IMO Perspective on Maritime Security & Djibouti Code of Conduct. He further explained how maritime security issues are being dealt with from the basis of the SUA Convention to the ISPS Code to current efforts in the Gulf of Eden and the Somalia region. He stressed the need for capacity-building and regional cooperation as very necessary if piracy in various parts of the world is to be effectively brought under control. He urged nations to create a legal framework at the national level within which maritime security can take place through the effective use of maritime law enforcement, using tools of law drafting and inter-agency working.
These presentations were followed by equally interesting ones from some of the Sasakawa Fellows on their chosen topics. Interesting discourse on presentations on the second day with question and answer time at the end loosened the atmosphere, and members relaxed and shared jokes. In the afternoon, four important agendas such as 1) Fellows' Activities, 2) Internet Communication, 3) Friends of WMU, Japan Newsletter, and 4) Expansion of Network were discussed under the co-chairpersons. The day ended with a stroll to the Movenpick Hotel for cocktails with SAFE delegates.
Wednesday 6th November
The day commenced with an early breakfast at the Novotel, then the Fellows checked out, ready for the International Conference Centre (ICC) for the 20th anniversary celebration of 'SAFE Global 2000 Project' and thence to Cape Coast.
The program at ICC commenced on schedule with Ruth Oniang'o's (Chairman of the Board of SAFE and Chairman of the Symposium) opening remarks. She introduced former US President Jimmy Carter, who spoke via satellite.
Other dignitaries were:
H.E. Nicephore Dieudonne Soglo, former President of the Republic of Benin (former manager of the World Bank)
Steve Obempeh - former Agricultural Minister in the Rawlings government
Ms. Oniang’o traced the history of the Global 2000 program, which she said was inspired by men such as Mr. Sasakawa and Dr. Norman Borlaug.
Ghana was the first country in Africa to be approached by Mr. Sasakawa in 1986 for the Global 2000 program. In 1993, SAFE was adopted in Ghana by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast Professor K. Adjepong, who was a guest speaker at the conference.
The thrust of the meeting was to create awareness in the international community, particularly in the developing countries, on the need to look to the future by putting farmers center stage of developmental agenda. If we are to become food sufficient, we need to improve the welfare of farmers.
Technical knowledge, input and extension services to farmers are the backbone of food security in Africa, she added.
Sasakawa Global 2000 must be operating for SAFE to apply for mid-career extension workers. Interested universities must fulfill criteria in regulations to be eligible for consideration to join in the program. Another equally important agenda of this SAFE conference was to create a network internally and externally to fulfill the motto of Ryoichi Sasakawa: "The world is one family, and all humankind are brothers and sisters".
Sasakawa Fellows made a stopover at a Winneba practice farm on the way to Cape Coast, where there was a warm reception by the Chief of the Efutu Traditional Area, Neeney Ghartey VII, amidst traditional drumming and dancing by a cultural troupe.
The group was shown around the project farm by students, who took time to explain what the project's achievements had been so far. After an hour's stay, the bus finally departed for Elmina Coconut Grove Beach Resort, where the group lodged.
Thursday 7th November
The joint meeting commenced at 10:00am at the Sasakawa Centre, on the campus of the University of Cape Coast (UCC), with SAFE past and present graduates and WMU graduates attending. This was to allow WMU graduates to join in the celebration of SAF's 20th anniversary, with the sole aim of creating a platform for sharing experiences after graduation, and to network professionally to deal with challenges and problems as Sasakawa Program beneficiaries.
One graduate each from WMU and SAFE made presentations on their experiences before, during and after Sasakawa sponsorship. Both speakers particularly made the point of how Sasakawa Fellows enjoy the pride of place when it comes to the interest shown in them by their sponsor, Mr. Sasakawa. Like a proud father, he follows the development and progress of his 'children' throughout their careers.
Mr. Katsuhiro Motoyama of The Nippon Foundation received a present of a new gown from the SAFE students on behalf of Mr. Yohei Sasakawa. He left members with the wise saying of "growing one year of blame, 10 years of trees and a hundred years of human beings" as a policy for every human development endeavor.
After lunch, WMU graduates spent the rest of the afternoon sight-seeing in Cape Coast and Elmina, with visits to the Cape Coast castle by those who still had the energy, and naps for those who didn't.
Friday 8th November
Since our departure for Accra on the morning of Friday 8th was early, we arrived at the Novotel, Accra, around 10:30 am after an uneventful voyage, with most Fellows sleeping throughout. The afternoon session saw a continuation of presentations by graduates in the themes of Maritime Education & Training, Piracy & Law Enforcement, Maritime Environment, Transport & Logistics, and Ports & Maritime Industries. Fellows also worked on a resolution for the meeting.
Saturday 9th November
Saturday saw a continuation of presentations and the adoption of resolutions by graduates at the meeting and a plan for the future of Africa's alumni. On the whole, presentations by the graduates were very interesting and educative as they gave us the opportunity to learn more about each other's countries.
Field Trip to Tema Port
Graduates took a planned trip to GPHA Tema, to familiarize themselves with work there. After a two-hour insightful lecture, we took a tour inside the port, visiting the marine operations tug berths, the container terminal of MPS, and the container scanning point for SGS.
On the whole, the get-together was very worthwhile as some Fellows had not communicated much with each other previously by mail or phone. This wonderful meeting therefore presented us with the golden opportunity to right things and plan a future of better communication and collaboration. The African Fellows resolved to keep the torch of fellowship and unity burning by having a biennial meeting beginning in 2015 in each of the countries present in rotation. Kenya was chosen as the first country to begin the hosting of such a conference.