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  • Writer's picturerutendo matinyarare

Developing Africa Through The Flying Goose Effect.

It’s important at the beginning of this article that I concede the fact that like all other developed nations, imperialism, blatant primitive accumulation, colonialism and enslavement formed the basis of Japanese capital accumulation.

Therefore most of Japan’s propensity to employ the Flying Goose Strategy to develop industrially came directly off the back of murder and pillage of Chinese, Phillipinos, Koreans and other Asians.

Nevertheless, for the purposes of this post which is aimed at gleaming insights to inspire localized African development strategies. I will focus only on the investment and emulation part of Japan’s development [and not the capital accumulation] because investment and emulation are the formulae most feasible for Africa to follow.

This will leave Africa to focus on domestic and African diaspora savings and consumption reduction for capital accumulation in the absence of primitive accumulation.


Through a phenomenon termed the #FlyingGeeseModel, Japan pushed itself from being a Malthusian economy into a highly industrialized, manufacturing, wealthy nation within 50yrs [1920-70].

What Is The Flying Geese Model?

The Flying Geese Model is an economic development model based on the principle of a flying object building take-off and flight momentum to establish sustained flight. This is the basic process behind a flying flock of birds or any other powered flying object to sustain flight.

Japan’s industrial development began in the same way with Japanese local investors generating flight momentum by investing in research & development, training technical skills, building factories, then reverse engineering and emulating the manufacture of simple western style products like clothes.

Investment & Reinvestment

The profits generated in the first stage were then reinvested into other more sophisticated research & development, skills training, skills importation and factories to reverse engineer and manufacture TVs and radios. This was the flight phase. All achieved before these products' and technologies' novelty [learning] curves began to decline.

Along the journey of research, learning, knowledge acquisition and this production flight, Japan acquired experience and familiarity with technology, which empowered them to start innovating and this established sustained flight of Japanese industry.

Leap Frog Up Knowledge Curve

The #FlyingGeeseModel makes each new transition into a new area of technological or manufacturing easier and less complicated because of the accumulated knowledge, technical skills, experience, connections, capital, investor sentiment, business synergies, laws, policies and value chains created in the previous activities.

By going through the learning and experience curves, companies gain more knowledge [institutional memory], systems, processes, skills, profits and capital that soon they are able to attract foreign skills to compliment local knowledge, technicians and workers.

By so doing increasing new skills, maintenance knowhow, tools manufacturing to service manufacturers and collusive innovations to improve production processes, products and downstream industries. This is how innovation and industrialization comes about in a nation.

You Can’t Follow Adam Smith

This flight of industrialization will never be achieved by following Adam Smith and modern economics theories of specialization, which encourage poor countries to stay poor by importing more expensive industrial products from rich countries, while they specialize in cheap resource extraction and diminishing return activities.

The Adam Smith model ensures that poor countries specialize in being poor through being confined to low return resource extraction. Which sees resource extracting nations spend the little they earn importing expensive industrial products from industrialized [western nations].

While rich nations specialize in being rich through industrial production. They buy resources at a pittance from resource extracting nations. They then sophisticate the resources through manufacturing, producing industrial goods, creating quality jobs in their nations and fetching a high return by exporting their industrial products.

Adam Smith European Business Developer.

In essence Adam Smith wrote his economic theory for the benefit of England and not as a blueprint for Africa which he expected to remain a low cost resource center for the benefit of Britain and her european partners.

New African Focused Theories

Developing countries, like Israel did, have got to start investing in developing economic theories that encourage manufacturing and knowledge driven service from which learning, growth in technology leading areas where diminishing costs and increasing returns are still possible.

This in turn will create future relevant skilled jobs and lift standards of living. This is called #SequentialTechnologyTransfer.

However, African countries should not be caught in the trap of investing in manufacturing low tech goods that have gone through their learning curves and subject to high competition, diminishing returns and increasing costs.

Too Much Competition Means Poverty

These low tech activities are usually characterized by too many nations competing to produce the same products at the lowest price to attract buyers. This results in low returns, low profits, stops reinvestment, which lowers research & development; killing learning, innovation, wages and lowering national standards of living.

You see this trend in clothing manufacturing and car assembly where low cost leadership has seen China and India become favored cut-trim-make factories and assembly centers, while the same industries have died or trimmed margins and jobs drastically in other parts of the world.

Dead End Model

When nations compete at low price leadership in low tech technology manufacture, this is known as the #DeadEndModel.

In this model nations gain no advantage of learning, no technology transfer and this results in a competition to lower costs which brings about lowering of wages as your workers just become slaves of producing at the lowest price.

By Rutendo Bereza Matinyarare

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