Japanese Cultural Diplomacy; a Lesson for Africa!

Best practices of Japanese cultural diplomacy can serve as relevant example for Africa

January 04th, 2018
Vincent Karatunga, CD News

Cross-cultural participation at the Uganda-Japan Festival held in Kampala, on November 12, 2017 (Photo by Denis Nsubuga, New Vision, Uganda’s Daily)

Africa and Japan have a long history of collaboration, which has strengthened the good relations between the two regions. Through its international development arm, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for example, in order to promote and enhance the Private Sector Development in Africa, Japan spends  US$ 2 billion; however where Japan continues to dominate global influence in terms of economic success, Africa is still at the bottom of the global  ladder.

Japan has been able to transform itself into a world power and a strong democracy because of its innovation and creativeness and it ability to invest in ‘Creative Knowledge’.  Its knowledge based resources have made Japan’s technology superior and one of the most admired assets globally. Take for example, the country’s automotive industry accounts for over 95% of all the vehicles that Africa imports.

Despite the setbacks Japan suffered during the Second World War, the country has been able to propel itself from the ruins of the war into a global centre of innovation and high-tech. The country has managed to place itself in the front line as an economic power house.

In terms of cultural diplomacy, Japan has reinforced its image and power of attraction in soft power through promoting freedom of expression thus, rated 72 out of 180 countries in terms of World Press Freedom. In its fight against corruption, Japan is rated 20 out of 168 countries while in the Good Country Index, it occupies the 19 out of 162 rated countries globally. In the World Justice Project, Japan takes the 15 position out 113 rated countries. 

Because of its lack of sufficient natural resources like oil and gas, however, Japan has instead, heavily invested in Science and technology. This has paid off for its success to become an economic giant of the East competing with China and India. 

In comparison to Africa, the continent is rated as the worst performing in as far as freedom of expression, corruption, and matters of justice and peace which threaten its stability. In the Good Country Index Africa is at the bottom of the list.
The continent is considered to be the poorest in the world yet with abundant natural resources; African heavily depends on exportation of raw materials. The bulk of its population is largely dependent on primitive subsistence farming. Along with bad governance and unceasing civil conflicts and violence which have led to the displacement of the bulky of its human resource, the continent continues to lag behind on the global economic ladder. 

Africa has a lot to learn from Japan in order to pull itself from the poverty trap which continues to ensnare the bulk of its population. Rather than continue to be dependant only on nature and divine providence, the continent needs to invest both in Science and technology. It´s educational system needs to be re-constructed in order to produce job makers instead of job seekers as is the case today.

In order to win global trust and attract foreign trade and investment, Africa needs to work on advancing the good governance agenda that promotes democratic values and respect for human rights. Globalization as a context today, provides with a lot of potentials and opportunities for Africa to liberate itself from the slavery of poverty and underdevelopment.

Africa, like the rest of the world will be able to take advantage of such opportunities if it re-strategizes itself in terms of setting up attractive and conducive environment for   globally accepted democratic values and sustainable national and regional security in order to win the trust and confidence for foreign trade and investment.


  • The New Vision, Uganda’s Daily, Monday 13 November, 2017 -
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