GRIPS-ODI-JICA Joint Seminar "African Growth in the Changing Global Economy"


The November 27 seminar took place on the campus of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS), hosted jointly by the GRIPS Development Forum, the UK's Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and JICA-RI. The discussion focused on the adverse impact of the global financial crisis for Africa's economic progress as well as for development assistance to the sub-Saharan region. Several guest speakers outlined proposals to lessen the effects of the global meltdown. How to follow up on last May's Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD) IV was another important topic.


"We are going to suffer seriously from the secondary effects" of the turmoil, Tanzania's ambassador to Japan, H.E. Elliy E.E. Mtango, predicted. "Rich countries may be tempted to cut down on development assistance, and concessional loans may be reduced." He said that the outlook for Africa, as for much of the rest of the world, was gloomy despite Africa's sustained growth over the past decade. The 2008 overall growth forecast for the region has already been slashed from 6.5% to 5%.

"We must not wait for another 'lost decade' to develop before we put into place programs to protect [ordinary] people," Mr. Simon Maxwell, the Director of Britain's Overseas Development Institute (ODI), said. Noting that Italy had already announced a 58% reduction in its foreign aid, he bemoaned the capriciousness of international economics.

Mr. Maxwell referred to the clear decline in tourist bookings and remittances to Kenya -- down 40%. Yet, he also underscored Africa's remarkable growth rate over the last decade and asserted that if the progress can be sustained many sub-Saharan countries could become "middle income nations," on a par with India or Korea, in the not-too-distant future.

For that to happen, Mr. Maxwell stressed the need to weigh effectiveness in choosing aid targets. Instead of "ambulance chasing" -- finding the poorest person and delivering help to him, -- he said that the focus for future assistance should be projects which will deliver long term, sustained help to entire populations.

The African economic summit, TICAD IV, held in Yokohama six months previous, produced a new action plan emphasizing accelerated economic growth and infrastructure development. GRIPS Professor Izumi Ohno called for protection and enhancement of the advances made.

She advocated that Japan select a limited number of target countries to foster successful development, while at the same time forming long-term partnerships with African nations and among traditional and emerging donor countries and the private sector.

Professor Ohno said that JICA should engage in a "continuous policy dialogue" to draw up comprehensive development strategies for countries whose national policies are still immature. The expansion of core infrastructure should be emphasized as well as the creation of "an enabling business environment," she said.

Another GRIPS Professor, Dr. Akio Hosono, pointed out that lessons have been taught by past experiences in Latin America and Asia about recovery from financial crises. These could be applied in the current crisis situation to mitigate the effects in Africa.

Mr. Kazunori Oshiyama, Director General of JICA's Africa Department, outlined four key JICA priorities: 1) Promoting regional infrastructure development, such as roads, ports and electricity; 2) Strengthening private-public partnerships; 3) Strengthening working relationships with international financial institutions; and, 4) Focusing on activities conducive to economic growth, an example of which is an existing project to double continental Africa's rice production within 10 years. Remarking on some of the more somber assessments of the current situation made during the seminar, he told the audience: "I may sound too optimistic and ambitious, but as a practitioner, I tend to be optimistic."

Related File


Michiko Iwahashi at GRIPS-ODI-JICA Seminar Secretariat.
Email: 03-6439-6337/Fax: 03-6439-6010

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