Ticad V: We should not miss the train

So, a US$30 billion economic rescue package from the world’s third largest economy, and this time the provider of funds is leaving administration of money in the hands of the Africans themselves?

Candid Comment with Itai Masuku

There is no doubt that many an African government must be rubbing their hands in glee asking themselves in their indigenous languages the same question as ours, and that is: “Japan yatibvira nepi nhai?” (What a Godsend Japan has been).

Naturally, our governments are salivating at yet another prospect of a gravy train once more when, in the particular case of Zimbabwe, the chips were down.

That Japan is no doubt committed to the economic and social upliftment of Africa while also benefitting in return cannot be doubted. In the words of its Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the country commits to what it promises and this is rooted in the culture of the nation, which has a very strong element of ethics and discipline.

Indeed, since it began the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (Ticad) process 20 years ago, Japan has kept its pledges, beginning by committing US$1 billion in Ticad I and increasing this to US$3,2 billion in Ticad IV.

It was at the just-ended Ticad V in the port city of Yokohama that the country increased its support exponentially to 32 trillion yen (US$32 billion.) Of this, US$14 billion will be in the form of the normal official development assistance (ODA), the traditional pot that our African governments have always dipped from; no, not dip, decant from, and left donors and citizens marveling at the disappearance act.

Mind you, this is only part of the “bag” from Japan. We are yet to hear what the other Ticad partners, particularly the World and Bank and UNDP, are to put on the table.

Whatever it is, it has been agreed that the African Union Commission will run with the show, so that the element of African ownership is present.

It is this part of Ticad that is a cause for concern, given our proven track record in mismanaging funds. Yes, some may question what may seem to be Afroscepticism, or in particular, Zimboscepticism.

Would that be unjustified, however? Our growth projections have already been revised downwards by about half, while our budget and trade deficits threaten to be wider than the Sea of Japan. And we are not even half-way through the year. Strong mechanisms need to be put in place to ensure that the Ticad money doesn’t face the fate of its predecessors.

While it is true that Africa is inevitably the next big thing in terms of world economic growth, it doesn’t necessarily hold that all its countries will benefit equally. It is those countries that are better prepared to take advantage of the unfolding opportunities such as those from Ticad that will stand to benefit.

The remaining US$18 billion from Japan that will be in the form of private money and commercial loans will naturally go to countries that offer a conducive environment for private investors, mainly those from Japan. Zimbabwe should not miss this last train lest it passes us by as rapidly as the famed Japanese bullet train!