Ethiopia should be the bridge to unlock Japan in Africa
Modern Tokyo Times
Lee Jay Walker
Ehiopia and Japan are two nations with a rich history and both remained independent despite the creation of vast colonies in both Africa and Asia. In many ways both societies have distinctive realities and the independent spirit of both nations should fuse together in order to build bridges.
Ethiopia is undergoing major modernization and Japanese investments, technology, economic assistance, and state of the art technology, should be used in the second most populous nation in Africa. At the same time Ethiopia is blessed with many resources and major investments are needed to expand the infrastructure and again you have a natural correlation between the needs of both nations.
Not only this, but the geopolitical reality of Ethiopia means that this nation is also very strategic and this applies to several factors. For example, both Somalia and Yemen are unstable and recent tensions in Egypt means that a strong Ethiopia is needed for the entire region.
Also, it is abundantly clear that piracy in Somalia and the threat of Islamic terrorism in the Red Sea region means that Ethiopia is in a prime geopolitical location. Added to this is a government which is focused on modernization, stability in the region, clamping down on terrorism within the Horn of Africa, and which seeks to provide electricity to neighboring nations in order to boost the entire region.
At the same time Japan is being left behind by Brazil, the Russian Federation, India and China (BRIC) in percentage terms of growth in Africa and the BRIC nations all understand the huge potential of Africa. This applies to Africa being rich in energy resources, minerals and other important areas and Japan clearly lacks an abundance of natural resources and the manpower of Africa is enormous.
Not only this, it is in the interest of Japan to realize that both China and India are gaining in Africa and it is vital that Japan is not left on the shelf. This does not imply any enmity between China and Japan but it is natural that economic rivals must focus on and compete in strategic parts of the world.
Therefore, the time is right for Japan to be unlocked and Ethiopia with its rich history and responsible government is just the nation to build these bridges. Not only this, given Japan’s clear role in the modernization of China with regards to economic assistance, technological development, complementary markets, and other factors; then it should be a win-win for everyone and this applies to China, Ethiopia and Japan respectively.
Adam Lewis at www.fundstrategy.co.uk focused on a report issued from the Standard Bank and the findings acknowledged that Japan-Africa trade relations had improved and this applies to growing trade. However, the BRIC countries were clearly focused on making major strides and in this sense Japan is missing out.
The report states that “As such, while Japan-Africa trade roughly doubled between 2001 and 2009, China-Africa trade expanded by almost 1,000%, India-Africa trade rose by 525%, Brazil-Africa trade by 224% and Russia-Africa trade by 262%. Indeed by 2009 China’s trade with Africa was five times that of Japan and Africa.”
The two key reasons according to the report are “Firstly, the Brics have a deeper understanding of operating within challenging emerging market environments. Secondly, Bric enterprises are, more often than not, provided superior support from their respective governments in securing deeper access to African markets.”
”This advantage is most clear in the Chinese context, where Chinese state capital chanelled to Africa to support development strategies, largely in the infrastructure space, abundantly enhances the ability of Chinese companies to engage more wholesomely in high-growth African economies. As such, and in contrast to Japan, Chinese trade to Africa has a more direct impact on the ability of its domestic corporations to profitably engage Africa.”
It is also important to point out that the EPRDF under the Prime Minister of Ethiopia is intent on modernizing the nation and developing the infrastructure. Meles Zenawi, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, has managed to galvanize a desperate situation because the future of Ethiopia looked bleak until the EPRDF started to implement radical reforms once they obtained political power.
The reason for such success was that the EPRDF under Meles Zenawi had many major goals and not only were these plans written, it is clear that they were enacted. Therefore, many roads have been built, the education sector is expanding, more universities have been built, greater access to clean water, new hydro-electric power projects have materialized and a host of other areas have boosted the nation.
It is worth pointing out that this great success was achieved despite the enormous obstacles that the EPRDF faced. After all, the infrastructure had been neglected for many decades prior to the EPRDF and you have so much instability in the region. This notably applies to Somalia but not exclusively because many dangerous factors still exist in this part of Africa.
Despite this, the government of Ethiopia is not only a responsible government for the people of Ethiopia but this nation is also intent on helping regional nations and major nations in their fight against terrorism and piracy.
Turning back to Japan then it is clear that government authorities and private companies need to focus on Africa just like BRIC nations have. Therefore, re-engagement is needed and given the size of Ethiopia, the strategic importance of Ethiopia and the rich history and current responsible government; then the conditions are in place for Japan to do a lot of soul searching and to focus on nations in Africa which have huge potential.
This clearly applies to Ethiopia and the leadership of Meles Zenawi.
The report also points out that “Africa offers much of what Japan and its key advanced economy partners lack: a large and growing population, rising prosperity which is fueling the swelling urban nodes and an increasingly affluent middle class, and abundant natural resources to fuel expansion.”
On the other hand Japan can provide major capital, industrial expertise, a powerful automotive sector, manufactured goods, and so forth; and this will benefit the economy of Japan therefore the situation is a win-win for both the continent of Africa and Japan.
Overall, Japan should focus on major strategic partners in Africa and given my earlier statements then Ethiopia should be one of these major strategic partners because the leadership in this nation is focused on modernization, developing a strong educational system and creating an infrastructure which will cater for the future needs of the people of Ethiopia.