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IDJ English – International cooperation in a post-COVID-19 world Special

To double the healthcare-medical cooperation budget

Strongly promote “Human Security”

Junichi Yamada, Executive Senior Vice President of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)


Since 2019, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has been promoting “Human Security 2.0” to re-examine the threats in today’s society and create a social system resilient to various threats. Given the global reaffirmation of the importance of human security in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, what kind of cooperation will JICA promote in the future? Junichi Yamada, who became the Executive Senior Vice President of JICA in May this year, speaks out.


ODA loan to be raised to over 44 billion yen

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, JICA is currently advocating “human security” to protect lives, livelihoods and dignity in response to threats including infectious diseases. Cooperation for people to live better, such as educational support, is still important. But I realize again that supports directly linked to saving human lives are also significant.

To achieve this, JICA plans to double the scale of each of the programs of ODA loan, grant aid, and technical cooperation in the field of health care in the medium term. With ODA loan, we aim to raise the annual average of 21.9 billion yen to more than 44 billion yen in five years. It will be used for hospital construction and the spread of Japanese medical systems. By combining this with technical cooperation, we would like to develop human resources, including the provision of equipment, to improve the local IT environment.

Furthermore, we are planning further cooperation such as connecting Japanese medical institutions and local medical institutions online and providing technical guidance including measures for COVID-19 remotely. These efforts will lead to the overseas expansion of Japanese medical corporations and the export of Japanese medical systems and technologies.

In addition, in the supplementary budget for FY2020, the implementation of “The COVID-19 Crisis Response Emergency Support Loan” has been decided, amounting to 500 billion yen over two years. Loan agreements (L/A) have already been signed with the Philippines on July 1st, with Indonesia on August 3rd, and with Bangladesh on August 5th. Online discussions are being held with other Asian countries, and L/A will be concluded in sequence.

In the international society under the COVID-19 crisis, China is strengthening its presence by developing mask diplomacy and dispatching its own medical teams to approximately 30 countries. We recognize that it is necessary to promote cooperation aimed at “human security” in order to compete with China.

On the other hand, in the infrastructure field as well, we plan to promote initiatives in response to the Post-COVID-19 Era. For example, we will focus on medical infrastructure such as hospitals and medical equipment, which is one of the pillars of the “New Strategy for Overseas Development of Infrastructure” compiled by the Economic Cooperation Infrastructure Strategy Council in July.


Localization required for consulting business

Under such circumstances, we make efforts so as not to reduce the number of new publicly announced projects even in the COVID-19 crisis. As of July, announcements are made on the premise that business trips to the project sites can be resumed after October. But if it is difficult, we will take measures such as shifting them to domestic work. We are also considering ordering projects that can be fully covered by domestic operations.

On the other hand, six countries, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia, have already deregulated travel restrictions for JICA officials, and JICA experts have begun to return to these countries.

I think that the number of countries that resume travel will gradually increase in the near future. Our decision to resume travel will not be set as a uniform standard, and will be decided according to the situation in each country.

However, while the end of the COVID-19 crisis is uncertain, there will be many places such as Africa and Latin America where travel restrictions will continue for the time being. Under such circumstances, in addition to remote project implementation, it may be more necessary than ever to promote “localization” and establish a system that can utilize local resources. Japanese companies that already have local subsidiaries in Myanmar, the Philippines, and so forth, are proceeding with their business in collaboration with them.

Localization will also strengthen the price competitiveness of companies. The selection method for consultant contracts (project implementation contracts) will be completely switched to the QCBS (Quality-and Cost-Based Selection= technology / price evaluation method) in the future. As the weight of price points increases, it is expected to be advantageous to those companies that can reduce labor costs by localization.


Full-scale DX in collaboration with business community

Digital transformation (DX) is also inevitable for the development of Post-COVID-19 in developing countries. Some developing countries have said, “we like to rely on Japan for the construction of traditional infrastructure, but we like to rely on China for software, especially when introducing cutting-edge technology”. DX has become an urgent issue for Japanese development cooperation.

Therefore, in December 2019, JICA launched a task force under the direct leadership of President Shinichi Kitaoka and examined the possibility of digital utilization in ODA projects. In the process, in collaboration with the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), we created a menu book that combines solutions that utilize the digital technology and know-how of private companies with ODA projects.

A total of 65 menus are listed in this menu book.All of them are proposal projects by private companies, and ODA schemes and the estimated amounts that are expected to be used are also suggested. In the future, we aim to incorporate these into our ODA projects.

For example, by collecting policies, laws and regulations in the health care field of developing countries and creating a database, we will create an environment that is easy for private companies to invest in. We will also promote digital health initiatives introducing the new public health infrastructure utilizing innovative technologies including remote medical care and drones.

In June 2020, the “Office for Science, Technology and Innovation, and Digital Transformation” was newly established in the Governance and Peacebuilding Department to take over the activities of this task force. This menu book is translated into English and will be proposed to the governments of the partner countries in order to utilize DX in full scale with all schemes of ODA. We want development consulting companies to use this menu book when conducting feasibility studies (F/S) and business proposals.


Contribution to revitalizing the Japanese economy

In order to continue the ODA project while the Japanese economy is exhausted, it is essential to gain the understanding of the public. For this reason, JICA hopes to contribute to the revitalization of the Japanese economy in four ways: (1) continuing infrastructure exports, (2) accepting foreign human resources, (3) expanding the pro-Japanese network, and (4) supporting the overseas expansion of SMEs.

In (1), we like to support the further growth of the Japanese economy through infrastructure development in developing countries. In (2), we intend to have the OBs and OGs of the JICA Overseas Cooperation Volunteers play an active role as a link between local autonomous bodies and residents and foreigners by making use of their own experience and language skills. In(3), under the initiative of President Kitaoka, we promote “JICA Development Studies Program (JICA-DSP)” by inviting human resources who can become leaders supporting the future of developing countries to Japanese universities and systematically learning  about Japan’s modernization and development experiences.

In addition, we would like to revitalize the local regions of Japan by promoting the internationalization of SMEs through the efforts in (4).

Through these, we aim to be a JICA that is useful, not only in developing countries, but also in solving social issues in Japan.


International Development Journal  2020 September edition






 国際協力機構(JICA) 副理事長 山田 順一氏
































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