Since opening its Balkan Office in the Serbian capital Belgrade in 2006, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has played an instrumental role in Serbia’s social and economic development, lending financial assistance and technical cooperation as the executing agency of Japanese overseas development assistance.
The JICA Balkan Office, according to Chief Representative Masahiro Ueki, focuses on three key areas in Serbia in accordiance to the aid policy of the Japanese government: private sector development, environmental conservation, and improvement of social and economic services. In carrying out its work, the JICA Balkan Office also promotes the strong relations between two countries.
Among the government agency’s newest programs is Project NINJA, launched in 2020.
“NINJA stands for Next Innovation with Japan. Under Project NINJA, JICA helps startups that can also contribute to solving social issues in developing countries. Last year, we brought Project NINJA to Serbia and selected seven local startups for a three-month acceleration program wherein they got business training and mentorship. After the acceleration program, we hold a Demo Day, wherein the startup founders get to present and pitch their ideas to investors,” Ueki told GMI POST.
Another flagship program is JICA Chair (JICA program for Japanese studies).
JICA Chair, Ueki said, provides Serbian university students with the opportunity to learn about Japan’s history and experiences as it went through modernization, hoping the chosen students will contribute to the development of Serbia in the future and to further strengthening bilateral relations.
In Serbia, JICA Chair is held in the University of Belgrade and, so far, has comprised three intensive lectures. The JICA Balkan Office plans to deliver more of these special lectures by March next year.
As Serbia and Japan celebrate 140 years of bilateral relations, the JICA Balkan Office head hopes to generate more interest in Serbia through its activities.