Prof. Simukanga Honoured by Japan

Japan has honoured the Higher Education Authority (HEA) Director-General, Prof. Stephen Simukanga, for his role in expanding and deepening mutual understanding and friendly relations between the Republic of Zambia and Japan during his tenure as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Zambia (UNZA).

This was made known by the Ambassador of Japan to the Republic of Zambia, His Excellency, Mr. Kazuyuki Takeuchi, at a Ceremony and Reception held at his residence during an event honouring Prof. Simukanga with the Japanese Foreign Minister’s Commendation for 2023.

The Japanese Foreign Minister’s Commendation is awarded to individuals and groups with outstanding achievements in international fields, to acknowledge their contributions to the promotion of friendship between Japan and other countries in different sectors. For 2023, Prof. Simukanga received this award with together with 186 individuals and 63 groups from all over the world.  

In his remarks, Mr. Takeuchi said that in role as Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Simukanga developed strong and close academic relations with Hokkaido University of Japan.

“He made an earnest effort to foster the cooperation and elevate it to a comprehensive and strategic inter-university Academic Exchange Agreement and Memorandum of Understanding on Student Exchange, which were concluded between UNZA and Hokkaido University in March 2011,” Mr. Takeuchi said.

The Ambassador further added that based upon the inter-university agreements, Prof. Simukanga broadened the sphere of academic cooperation.

“One of his key contributions was the establishment of the first ever liaison office of a Japanese university in sub-Saharan Africa in 2012, and the provision of continuous and dedicated support to the activities of the office,” he said, adding, “the office, now known as Hokkaido University Africa Office in Lusaka, has been playing a pivotal role in facilitating academic exchanges and two-way exchange of students between UNZA and Hokkaido University since then.

He further stated that the Office has expanded its scope of activities by running “Study-in-Japan Global Network Project”.

“In this regard the office represents not only Hokkaido University but also various universities in Japan, and providing information and assistance for students who wish to study in Japan,” Mr. Takeuchi said, concluding, “the Office now reaches out to motivated students both from Zambia and the other countries in the Sub-Saharan region, and assumes a role as a regional hub for exchange of students between Japan and the region.”

Mr. Takeuchi concluded his remarks by stating that the importance of Prof. Simukanga’s contributions to Zambia-Japan relations could not be overstated.

“Indeed, with my humble experience of 40 years as a career diplomat, I am pleased to tell you that the cooperation between UNZA and Hokkaido University is one of the most successful and flourishing inter-university partnerships,” the Ambassador said, adding, “no one denies that, in fostering friendship and cooperation between the two countries, there is nothing more important than exchange of motivated youths, allowing them to live and study in the other country and absorb the local culture and thinking first-hand.”

He added that learning a foreign language is a gateway to mutual understanding between peoples of different cultures.

“Prof. Simukanga supported the opening of Japanese language extension courses at UNZA, as well as the development of opening of Japanese language courses in the Bachelor’s curriculum of UNZA,” the Ambassador said. “The courses provide valuable opportunities to the students of UNZA and other people to learn Japanese.”

Prof. Simukanga served as UNZA Vice-Chancellor from 2007 – 2015. He was honoured at an event which took place on Tuesday, 17th October 2023.