October 1, 2009
Financial Crisis and Vision for African Development--An Interview with JICA-RI Research Fellow, Jean-Claude Maswana
JICA-RI Research Fellow, Dr. Jean-Claude Maswana has been eagerly conducting research, particularly for his project entitled, “Global Economic Recession and Africa: Assessing Macroeconomic Impacts and Development Prospects” on which he presented at the Initiative for Policy Dialogue (IPD) African Task Force Meeting held in Pretoria, South Africa on July 9 and 10.
We interviewed Dr. Maswana on his background, his research interests and views towards JICA Research Institute and Japan in general.
Current research details
Areas of research and interests
My major research areas are in international finance and economic development. I personally wanted to pursue these areas not only out of academic interests, but also because I am from a so-called "developing country."
The analysis of economic trends is affected by basic elements of human life. As such, I find it interesting that I can approach my research from various standpoints like national politics, social science, culture and personal drives and values. From such perspectives, I can see how the "economy" and "development" are closely linked.
At JICA-RI, I carry out research under the theme of the "Global Economic Crisis and Africa: Assessing Economic Impacts and Development Prospects."
There are two major focuses of my research. First, I am conducting research on how Africa has actually been affected by the global financial crisis that started with the subprime loan problem in 2008; the second is how development prospect of African economies is likely to be affected by the adjustment costs of global rebalancing as well as the unintended effects of stimulus measures taken by the US, Japan and other developed countries. My final goal is to make policy recommendations to the members of international aid organizations and policymakers in Africa based on the research findings.
Actions and measures against the financial crisis
What can be the way to the solution varies depending on the situation. However, I think the first necessary step should be taken to correct the economic imbalance between developed and developing countries. Worsened under the influence of the global financial crisis, the global economy is now largely unbalanced.
To deal with the global financial crisis and recession, developed countries are expected to make prompt adjustments in order to correct the US current account deficit and the East-Asia huge trade surplus. I think it would be more efficient if the vast amount of funds that has been invested in financial instruments such as derivatives, by East Asian and oil exporting countries, are used instead for infrastructure development in Africa as an part of such adjustments.
In addition, it cannot be denied that the negative impact of the recent financial crisis on Africa is particularly dire because of its weak economic foundation. We need to utilize lessons from the past including this financial crisis to predict possible risks and take preventive measures.
Keys to the development of Africa
When considering the development of Africa, we need to analyze both external and internal factors. Among the external factors, "trade" can be a key. Thinking back on the past successful cases in the East Asian countries, expansion of trade was a major contributor to these countries' economic development. For Africa, participation in global value chains is an important step in addition to a focus on export diversification.
As for the internal factors, "education" is a critical issue. For example, even if you have car parts, you cannot produce anything without knowing how to assemble them. You can say the same thing about education. In Africa, "knowledge" and "human resources" have yet to be cultivated enough to take advantage of its abundant natural resources.
What is needed most in Africa are for relations with other countries to be strengthened through trade. Also, ODA and other forms of financial support and technical aid should be more efficiently utilized for further development in Africa. And we need to undertake measures to "sustain" development rather than just "initiate" it.
What brought you to Japan?
It has been 14 years since I came to Japan. After my graduation from Kinshasa University (Democratic Republic of Congo), I applied for a scholarship through the Japanese Ministry of Education (at the time) because I was interested in the Japanese financial system. After obtaining a doctoral degree from Nagoya University, I worked for Nihon Fukushi University, and since 2004 I joined the Graduate School of Economics of Kyoto University, before joining JICA-RI as a researcher in 2009.
As I live in a foreign country, every day is a challenge. Wherever I go or whatever I do, I always learn something new. Of course, there are lots of challenges because I live in a country with different culture and customs. Even if the language remains a challenge, I still enjoy being "involved" with other people. It is one of the things that make my life meaningful.
JICA Research Institute and Japan
Current research environment
While I was still in the academic setting, I realized that policy backed by sound research is important particularly for the field of development. I realized that one way of bridging research and policy in development field could be by carrying out such a research among development practitioners or in institutions/agencies with emphasis on fostering on-the-ground change in development policies and practices. For me, JICA Research Institute is the most suitable place that meets such needs.
In addition to its focus on practical policy problems, the Research Institute appears to me as the best response to the current rapid structural changes brought about by globalization. Globalization is shaping development goals with the emergence of new and unprecedented challenges. Not only effective responses, but also new knowledge is badly needed. The question is how my research can contribute to those challenges.
As for my African background, I believe that the successful development-related experiences of East Asia offer useful pointers to the way of development for Africa. Therefore, I think it is very important for me to carry out my study in JICA, which shares and has been part of the developmental process in Asia for many years.