‘Japan doesn’t believe in grants’

Tokyo International Conference on African Development (Ticad 7) will be held in Yokohama, Japan under the theme “Africa and Yokohama, Sharing Passion for the Future.” As the City of Yokohama is finalising setting the stage for welcoming Ticad to its shores, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) has invited 10 journalists from Africa to visit the city ahead of the summit. Our reporter JACOB NANKHONYA is part of the delegation and he caught up with Jica president SHINICHI KITAOKA to find out why Japan is increasingly reaching out to the South:

Kitaoka: We are happy to have achieved the things we have achieved

How does Japan provide support to countries in the South?

Our support to African countries focuses on quality growth. We want other countries to grow with high quality development. Apart from that we also support countries through offering what we call security of people or humanitarian approach.

How do you look at overseas development assistance (ODA) which some  argue aides corruption in poor countries?

We look at ODA a little differently from other countries. We raise assistance by loan not grant. This is done to help build self-reliance on the part of benefiting countries since the countries being supported will have to be serious as to why they need to borrow that money. In that way, we believe, we shall create self independence for there will be encouragement for countries to take only loans that they need and are able to repay. However, we also give out grants to countries but as a secondary means to prevent ordinary citizens in a particular country from suffering.

Doesn’t the world frown at your position on ODA?

We have indeed received a lot of criticism that we need to consider grants approach and also focus on Africa. However, we have continued to say that this is what we believe in and we will continue doing things that way.

Don’t you think that considering the size of the economy Japan can do better in supporting poorer countries in the global South?

We believe that we are doing what we can afford to do. In fact, we make thorough enquiries and consultations with the country before we move in to provide any support. We prefer to have a clear understanding of their problems and we need to be sure if we can afford to help. If need be we offer advice on alternative solutions. If we decide to come in with support, implementation of the same is much quicker and easier.

We also focus on personal development and capacity building. We send experts to Africa or we bring people from Africa and they learn how they can develop their respective countries. Our support focuses on health, nutrition and education.

How did the Japanese people manage to develop rapidly as a country?

We have equally and successfully used education. Our youth learned a great deal of things from countries such as China. As a country we implemented the same. We have been continuously improving our inventions and interventions in order to improve service delivery and development.

You really believe in your theories of development, are you happy with their outcomes?

Yes, we are. We are happy to have achieved the things we have achieved. I believe that each country is different; therefore, their problems ought to be dealt with different attention but with the country’s desires as guiding principles.

Do you think Africa can rapidly develop like Japan?

You know some countries’ support to Africa is more colonialist. We don’t look at Africa that way. Just come to think of it, in some African countries I have visited like the DRC, how many hospitals, roads and schools do they have? As a country we have never invaded other countries such as Taiwan, Korea or parts of China but we built schools, roads and hospitals there. We don’t see the same happening in DRC, for instance, I believe that each country is unique and they need to be in the forefront designing development plans which other countries should just come in to support.

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