It’s the end of an era at the Japan International Cooperation Agency: Sadako Ogata stepped down as JICA chief over the weekend; her successor, Akihiko Tanaka, officially assumed the presidency April 1.
Ogata, a former United Nations high commissioner for refugees, led JICA since 2003. She oversaw the agency’s reorganization and merger with the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, as well as an increased focus on field work in Africa and fragile states. Her tenure at JICA is longer than that of any major bilateral aid agency chief. At 84, Ogata is also the oldest to have held such a position.
Ogata’s retirement was announced Jan. 17. Tanaka, her successor, until recently served as professor and vice president of the University of Tokyo. His background is in international affairs and politics, and he has spoken and published extensively on East Asia, Japan-U.S. relations, China and globalization. He holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations from the University of Tokyo and a master’s in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Tanaka has served on various government advisory panels and is a former vice chairman of the board of the Japan Association of International Relations.
How Tanaka’s expertise will fit JICA’s changing needs will be watched closely. The agency is expected to play a key role in helping Japanese companies explore new markets in the developing world.
JICA is currently conducting feasibility studies on public-private partnerships that appear in line with a general trend among traditional donors: Germany and the United Kingdom, for instance, have been sharpening their focus on PPPs, and the U.S. Agency for International Development last year opened an office to facilitate new, innovative partnerships with businesses from around the globe.
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