Blog post

 Yesterday(Feb. 8), we discussed the case of Ghana in our Competitiveness course.  The case ended in 2001, but our discussion extended to recent events in Africa. 

  It was the first time we discussed Africa in this course.  The countries we discussed so far include Finland, Japan, Estonia, Chile, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Singapore and EU, but not Africa.  Reflecting what we have learned so far, we tried to identify why the country with abundant natural resources such as Ghana has not been able to make significant progress in its economic development.  We also discussed what would be the role of various types of aids given by such organizations as IMF and World Bank.  Our discussion extended to other alternatives than the international aid at the time of crisis.

  When we discuss this type of topic, ICS class SHINES because our class is  “diversity” itself.  The average age of our students is about 30 with several years of experience, and they represent some 20 countries throughout the world. Partly because we make class contribution a key item for their performance evaluation, many of them are eager to express their views.

  The items debated include whether natural resources and aids are good or not for making the country and people to be on their own, and if not, what other alternatives are available.  As these issues have no “right” answers, we usually have heated debate in which people disagree/agree with each other.  I have promoted the disagreement and different views in class on purpose.  Students argue against each other, without my intervention.

  As Africa has been in focus due to the turmoil  in Egypt and the surrounding region now, our discussion has proceeded to cover the importance of meeting the basic needs of people such as employment and education in the first place.  We also realized the importance of having foundations in place such as solid  legal systems and sound macro economic policies.  We compared democracy and authoritarian regime in economic development of the country.   

 What was interesting for me was the debate about the recent investment rush in Africa by various countries for securing resources there.  Whether such investment benefits the host countries in their endeavor for sustainable economic development became a hot topic.  It extended to more fundamental question of “Would Win-Win relationship be possible?” “Can we really achieve ‘positive sum game’?”   We also compared Africa and Asia which had once been comparable, but now quite distant, as Asia is a growth engine of the world economy today. (We have many students representing Asian countries, while none from Africa.)

  When I lead discussion in ICS class, I “feel” what diversity is, as diversity is not the concept or term found in the textbook.  It is a reality and alive in our class.  I realize that people from diverse background, culture and nationality have different views and perspectives.    I sincerely hope that many young Japanese will  have this type of experience as often as possible.  It was the class that shows the beauty of ICS. How fortunate I have been!

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