A Personal Recollection of Economic Assistance in Africa

Against such criticism, Japan was forced to review its aid policy and had to reduce aid to Africa before Ghana became a Japan in Africa. Since then, proposals for UN Millennium 2000 targets, including the debt relief, which mainly targeted Japan’s yen loans, have been drafted mainly by the U.K., and Japan’s presence in the world of economic assistance has gradually been lost.. I think that there is a fundamental difference between the Western concept of economic assistance and that of Japan. The underlying idea of Western aid is that of charity. This leads to the emphasis on “humanitarian aid,” and the idea of the possible economic independence of the recipient country is rare.

re posted from                                EXECUTIVE INTELLIGENCE REVIEW

This article appears in the July 3, 2020 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.

[Print version of this article]

Daisuke Kotegawa

A Personal Recollection of Economic Assistance in Africa

Schiller Institute
Daisuke Kotegawa

Mr. Kotegawa is a Research Director at the Canon Institute, and former Executive Director for Japan at the International Monetary Fund. He gave this presentation to the Schiller Institute International Conference, on June 27, 2020, “Will Humanity Prosper, or Perish? The Future Demands a Four-Power Summit Now,” on Panel 1: “Instead of Geopolitics: The Principles of Statecraft.” This is an edited transcript of that speech.

In the mid-1980s, when I worked as a staff member of the World Bank, I had an opportunity to complain about the slow development of African countries despite a large amount of aid to Africa, to a British and a French staff, both of whom had devoted their lives to economic development in Africa. Their answer was amazing:

Mr. Kotegawa. It is wrong to expect fast economic growth in Africa which can be compared to those in Asia and Japan. Because Africa is trying to achieve what humanity has done in 2,000 years within 100 years.

Japan’s Attempt to Create a ‘Japan in Africa’

When I returned to Japan in 1987, I became the budget examiner in the Ministry of Finance, in charge of the budget for foreign economic assistance. We reviewed Japan’s basic policies regarding economic assistance to Africa, and we started to try to create a country that would become a model for development in Africa, that is, a “Japan” in Africa. I was convinced that it was very important to create a Japan in Africa, because at my days at the World Bank, I realized that Asian countries found Japan as their model and hope, having come to believe that Asian countries could reach the level of Western countries if they work diligently like the Japanese.

The first step was to select the target country. The target country had to have a moderate economic scale, but small enough not to have internal contention such as tribal conflict. We chose Ghana, Cameroon, and Malawi. As for Ghana, the young and clean leader Jerry Rawlings was also a major factor. We poured all three kinds of economic aid into these three countries: concessional loans with a focus on the construction of economic infrastructure, grants focused on construction of social infrastructure in the medical and educational sector, and technical assistance with the aim of technology transfer through dispatching experts and inviting trainees.

A backlash from the former colonial powers was expected, and Japan, which had historically little relationship with African countries, lacked the know-how to build aid projects there. So, we made an arrangement with Crown Agents, a British aid agency, for consulting on our projects in Africa. As a result, about one-third of Ghana’s total annual income in the early 1990s came from Japan. Ghana, in particular, achieved great economic growth, and if we had continued to do so, a “Japan” in Africa could have been realized in the 1990s.

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