Uganda Can Learn From Japan to Develop

By: Monday Akol Amazima
Wole Soyinka a celebrated African author did say, the proof of wisdom is the wish to learn. Learning we are told is continuous till the last day of our life. Of late I have been interacting with Japanese through the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and surely find them unique. JICA is funding a number of development projects in Uganda and my association with both Japanese and Ugandans that have studied and lived in Japan has confirmed to me that there is a lot to learn from them.
As a people we need to borrow a leaf from the best practices that require not money but just a change of attitude. Here are the areas we can change so that we can redirect ourselves for development.
Time management; Japanese are very good time keepers says Nabakka Reste a Program Officer at JICA Uganda. She adds that this is a practice that is missing in Uganda. Indeed in Uganda the more people became important in society the more they become bad time keepers. In fact there is a common saying that the best way to show your importance in Uganda is to arrive late when everybody is there waiting for you. Its nations that have learnt to keep time, that have managed to accomplish goals in time. The mentality that we have all the time is one of the biggest setbacks in as far as developing ourselves is concerned.
More working time; in Japan by 7:00 am people are already at work and will not leave till 9:00 pm. This is very different from Uganda where people will arrive at work by 9:00 am and claim that they were stuck in the jam. And to make the already bad situation worse, they will leave by 3:00 pm. This means that in Uganda people spend fewer hours on their jobs and this explains why most organizations are not moving forward. The fact that Japanese spend more time at work explains why they are among the world’s most developed people.
Politeness; Japanese have learnt to reap from the saying politeness cost nothing but pays dearly. Even in the most difficult situation they will afford a smile. Even when provoked to the wall, they will not act out of anger. This politeness has given them a high degree of emotional intelligence and is what keeps them going. Ugandans we have long lost the humble and polite nature we were once known for. At the slightest provocation we can afford to slap a traffic officer on her job. Most of us are carried away by simple tittles and groceries.
Respect for our culture; according to Nampreera Aidah of JICA, Japanese are highly cultured. They will greet anybody they find along the way no matter how much they are in a hurry. They have not thrown away their language and other sensitive aspects of their culture. In Uganda most people that have grown up in urban centers have lost touch with their culture in the name of modernity.
Love to volunteer; every year JICA brings in volunteers to various sectors in Uganda. According to Lubega Paul of JICA, the volunteers apply and are selected in Japan through the government and sent to various countries. In Uganda the nfunirawa attitude is not taking us anywhere. Volunteering has a lot of benefits including linking you up with new people. It gives you work experience which in the first place you would not have got.
Avoid idle talk; those that have worked with Japanese will agree that they are not people that shall engage in idle talk. They will concentrate on the job that has brought them to work. Some organizations are not making headway because there is too much idle talk ranging from who is sleeping with who to who puts on the same clothes in a week. This idle talk is so dangerous that it kills the spirit of innovation.
Plan for everything; Japanese will plan for every activity in their life and this is why whatever they do they will register more than 90% success. A typical Ugandan will plan for things they imagine are important and the rest will be taken for granted. And this is why we have always failed in our small assignments because we don’t plan for them yet they mean a lot to us.
Finally, if Uganda is to achieve the middle income status, more emphasis must not be put on President YK Museveni and government dishing out money like the biblical manna to the wananchi. Ugandans should learn to adopt practices that will make us reduce on the time wasted and embrace hard work.
The author is a journalist, teacher and Pan African

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