We have a lot to learn from Japan

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe and his entourage flew back into the country at the weekend after a week’s visit to Japan where he held bilateral talks with that country’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe.

Although relations between both countries hit a low in 2000 when Japan suspended technical cooperation, except for humanitarian aid, after Mugabe carried out the fast-track land reform programme, Abe is eager to find business opportunities in Africa and develop new markets for its firms in Zimbabwe.

We hope that Mugabe used his week-long stay in Japan to learn a few lessons on having long term economic plans.

Japan has a unique perspective on poverty reduction and development for a variety of reasons, not least because of the lessons it learned from its own path to modernisation. A lack of natural resources prompted the Asian giant to focus on its most important resource — the Japanese people.

The growing Asian nation succinctly understood that growth is not simply fuelled by natural resources. It is spurred and sustained by people —through skills, education, training, innovation and social cohesion.

If only the Zanu PF government can prioritise its people by unveiling competitive salaries for its employees — both the health sector and the rest of the civil service — and ensuring that students are adequately catered for in tertiary institutions, we could be talking of a different Zimbabwe today.

Japan also has a strong track record of development assistance through bilateral and multilateral channels, and while the country’s approach has evolved considerably, a focus on human-resource development is central to its philosophy.

Human resource development also means fostering democracy and recognising the importance of human dignity and development at an individual level.

Japan’s model seeks to ensure that individuals feel empowered and proud of the contribution they make to society.

This includes a particular focus on young people and women who, when provided with the necessary education, will become the engine for the development of their countries, and can be empowered to transform political and social systems.

Alongside human resource development, infrastructure also plays a critical role in enabling linkages between markets that allow the benefits of trade to spread.

It is the combination of infrastructure and human resources that provides the foundation for greater private-sector investment.

We hope Mugabe learnt a skill or two on “Abenomics” and start implementing a new suite of policies geared toward jump-starting the moribund economy — worsened by the mindless bloodletting in Zanu PF.


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