Japan Should Rethink Aid-Preneurship

Published on 9th February 2010

The persistent downturn in the global economy has raised concern among governments, corporate institutions and families. Lots of brainstorming on how to tackle the downturn is still on. All strata of society have been affected. There has been retrenchment or corporate down-sizing; dropping out of schools and closing down of factories. It is difficult to afford meals and housing. 

There is call from some conservative capitalists’ quarters to allow the economy to hit bottom, from retrogression to recession and or even depression. They argue that every economy has a life of its own; that the economy will bottom up out of its own will through due process and competition. Others feel that years of malfeasance and lack of control by way of unsupervised deregulation has brought us this far and hence, we have to retrieve our steps by enforcing regulation and closing whatever gaps that existed. Another group feels that with a stimulus package and enforceable regulations, the world economy will cease to contract and in due course, bounce back.  

How best can Japan assist Africa under present circumstances? Japan, the second largest economy in the world and member of the UN Security Council is probably the largest donor country in parts of Africa, Asia and South America. Japan, however ought to change its mode of involvement in Africa.  

Although the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) carries out Overseas Development Assistance {ODA} projects, funds provided under this arrangement often end up in private pockets of corrupt and inept governments in Africa. For instance, Nigeria, the 5th largest producer of oil in the world cannot afford a steady electricity supply, pipe-borne water and reliable transport network for its people and yet receives donations. Even when a project has been completed, poor management and supervision rusts it away.  

Japan can borrow a leaf from President Barack Obama. On pledging a grant of US$70 million to Zimbabwe, he emphasized that these monies will not be channeled through Zimbabwe government but through aid agencies so that it will directly affect the life of the people it was meant for. I discussed this issue with an African journalist who visited Japan and we all agreed that if Japan must assist, it would be better to do so through non-governmental bodies.                         

There are Non Profit Organizations {NPO} that use funds received both from government and public to service office and staff. Eventually, what trickles down to the beneficiaries is insignificant. Japan should do away with such “aid entrepreneurs.” “Aid entrepreneurs” neither have Africa staff working or planning with them on projects nor do they have good knowledge of Africa.

Japan should engage with African governments and Africans in a more business oriented way as China does. Japan’s corporations and trading companies have a role to play here.  

Africa has lots of potential and the time is still right for Japanese businessmen to aggressively pursue this potential by going for it. Service oriented businesses like convenient stores {Konbini}, food chain business like Yoshinoya, and clothes sales shops like Uniqlo, automobiles and articles of daily use will thrive in some African countries with large population. Investment in railway, natural resources like oil and gas, agriculture, provision of water and water treatment technology will definitely favor Japan businesses. 

By Patrick Nwadike 

Nwadike is US-African Pointblank News Staff Correspondent in Tokyo, Japan.


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