Abenomics: Policies & Political Economy Of Japan’s Shinzo Abe

Leaders are born for tough times. Whenever there is a crisis, there comes the need for drivers of change whose success solely depends on their preparation for the moment and courage to face obstacles. In Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan found a leader fit for an economic depression that had resulted in massive unemployment and the collapse of the world’s 3rd largest economy of the time. Shinzo Abe was born in a political family where his grandfather had served as Japan’ Prime Minister in the 1950s. He rose to become the longest-serving Prime Minister in the history of Japan until September 2020 when he resigned. In July 2022, Shinzo Abe died in a political rally shooting ending the era of his power over Japan.

One would be interested to know what makes a man as legendary as Shinzo Abe. In my study of his policies and political economy commonly known as Abenomics; I made a few findings as discussed in this column. One’s background matters in how they build influence and exercise their authority. Abe’s grandfather Nobosuke Kishi was a prominent man and Prime Minister of Japan. He gave Shinzo Abe a head start in nurturing a political career that would last for decades. Abe also enjoyed support from the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) which helped in crafting the popularity of his policies and managing his exposure to media. He enjoyed high approval ratings and wide popularity in Japan and the world over. He also cemented relationships with many African countries through the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TIKAD).

Abenomics was a three – tire strategy to fix Japan’s main economic detractors. First were fiscal policies that encouraged huge government spending on infrastructure in order to create more jobs, pay workers and have these workers spend on consumable commodities. Second were monetary policies which sought to correct a case of unattractive bank loans due to high-interest rates. Shinzo Abe reduced interest rates on bank loans, printed more money and deliberately drove the country to an inflation rate of 2% up from a deflation. Japan remained more solvent than the USA amidst such disruptive monetary policies. The third level of Abenomics was in structural reforms that addressed the shortage of labour. Shinzo Abe incentivized people to sire kids through sponsorship of childcare and education. Abe also introduced womenomics where he mobilized women to join the labour force and participate in building the world’s third largest economy in Japan.

More Than A Professor, Bitange Ndemo

Many might know of his works, but little about the person. We know of a certain permanent secretary in late President Mwai Kibaki’s government whose brain and work placed Kenya on the global map as a FinTech giant. While in government, he initiated the development of undersea cables into East Africa and later began the Kenya Open Data initiative. The man is a professor of entrepreneurship and associate professor at the school of business, University of Nairobi. He is Professor Bitange Ndemo.

In the Bible, great kings like David were supported by valiant men who were brave at war and courageous on the battlefield. In Prof. Ndemo, President Kibaki found a man of valour who helped greatly in creating an Empire in Kenya that many nations admire. Prof. Bitange Ndemo, unlike King David’s men of valour, didn’t support the president through spear or javelin. He instead applied his high intellectual gifting, rich professional network and understanding of evolutionary trends in business and ICT to run his portfolio as a permanent secretary.

Professor Ndemo is a corporate titan aside from his accomplishments in academia. He sits on the board of Safaricom PLC and in many other boards as an advisor. Some of the organizations that bank on Prof. Bitange Ndemo’s wealth of knowledge and expertise in business and ICT include UNCDF’s better than Cash Alliance, OECPD panel of experts on Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain, World Economic Forum Blockchain Council, UNESCO NEXTEXPLO Forum, Global Learning Council, Research ICT Africa and UN Global Pulse. Prof. Ndemo needs no introduction in many other companies, forums, councils and research classes as he is widely quoted, used as a point of reference or sought to advise without exactly being admitted to those boards.

The great professor is a widely published author and speaker on many forums across the world. He is a PhD holder in Industrial Economics from Sheffield University in the United Kingdom and holds a series of degrees in business administration, accounting and finance. Prof Bitange Ndemo is also a columnist on Business Daily and The Nation Newspapers. His footprint in global conferences, digital conferencing platforms, TEDx Talks, Engage Talks and University Lectures have created a huge impact on governments and the private sector. Prof. Ndemo has inspired change and transformation in Urban Planning, Financial Access through FinTech and the captainship of large corporations. The man has widely influenced policy making through his disruptive thinking, research and contributions in to corporate sector dialogues.

Of Trailblazing Legacies! – Sanda Ojiambo

Ms. Ojiambo comes from a family of achievers, but not just any kind; the trailblazing ones. Her late father, Dr. Hillary Ojiambo, was Kenya’s first cardiologist. Her mother, Prof. Julia Ojiambo, was Kenya’s second female elected Member of Parliament and the first female assistant minister. Sanda has three siblings consisting of a doctor, a lawyer, and a consultant management trainer. She speaks highly of her upbringing and attributes the support and inspiration she received to her success, now being the first African CEO of the UN Global Compact.

Sanda did her O levels in England and proceeded to pursue a BA in Economics and International Development at McGill University. After that came an MSc in Public Policy and Development Economics from the University of Minnesota. Her career decision was also majorly influenced by her experience growing up in Kenya, as she would get involved in various community development programs.

After her master’s degree, Sanda worked in Somalia for five years. She worked with CARE International and the UNDP office in Somalia as a Program Coordinator and Consultant respectively. She then joined the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in 2002 and two years later moved to the International Planned Parenthood Federation. She served as the Director of Programs in the Africa Regional Office, reaching over 40 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2008 Sanda joined Safaricom and worked with the company for 11 years. Among her key moments during the period was the inauguration of the M-Pesa Foundation Academy. At Safaricom, she also got exposed to sustainability as the Head of Sustainable Business & Social Impact and worked together with the UN Global Compact when Safaricom became a member company.

As the CEO and Executive Director of the UN Global Compact, Sanda works with businesses the world over to bring to realization the Sustainable Development Goals. She proposes that businesses must embrace working together to achieve these goals. Specifically for African Businesses, she puts forth that it would be impossible to survive should they choose to act unilaterally. She also emphasizes the need to move from ambition to action and accountability. Through the UN Global Compact, she can provide businesses with a system that helps them in this transition by allowing them to set goals and provide feedback on the same. According to Sanda, having a purpose-driven profit mindset is what will help businesses contribute to the SDGs and the 2030 vision.

The Nitty-Gritty Of A Scientific Banker

Jeremy Awori

Jeremy Awori was born in Kenya in 1971 to a Kenyan father and a British mother. Whilst his father was an engineer, his mother practised law. He has two siblings; a sister and a mentally handicapped brother, whose condition he says has highly contributed to how he (Jeremy) views life and people. In his early years, Jeremy was extremely shy and started swimming to hide it. At the age of 9 he was already a professional swimmer and competed for Kenya while boosting his confidence.

After his secondary school education, Jeremy flew out to the University of Manchester and pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy. He attributes his choice of course to the tutelage he got from his father, which moulded him into who he is today. He then worked as a Pharmacist while saving up for his master’s degree. When the time came, he decided to try something new to broaden his career options, so he relocated to Canada and pursued an MBA in Finance and International Business at McGill University.

Jeremy got an opportunity to work at Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) Canada after his MBA. The then CEO was trying his best to keep the branch operational and Jeremy performed outstandingly in his role. This led to a promotion as the head of retail banking, SCB Kenya, at only 28 years old. Soon after, he was transferred to SCB UAE, the fourth largest StanChart market then, as the head of consumer banking. Three years later he was promoted to Regional Sales Director, Middle East, South Asia & Africa. This was followed by yet another promotion to CEO and MD, SCB Tanzania, which was his last role with the bank.

At the peak of his career, Jeremy was offered two options, one at SCB Dubai and the other at Barclays Bank Kenya. His pick was based on two reasons. The first was he wanted his children to experience life at home, as they had mostly lived abroad. The second was that he was passionate about contributing to Kenya and Africa, and that is where he wanted his story to lie. And so Mr. Awori became the next CEO and MD of Barclays Bank Kenya in 2013. He confesses that the bank needed more work than he expected, but is glad that it gave him a far more challenging job. Seven years later, the bank rebranded to ABSA Bank with Jeremy still at its head.

Revisiting Performance With Purpose

Indra Nooyi

From being a young ambitious immigrant to rising to the World’s Most Powerful Women lists, Indra has seen it all. Yet despite the challenges she faced under the different labels she wears, she has somehow managed to rise graciously and leave her mark in the corporate world and beyond. But what exactly has her journey been like?

Sixty-six-year-old Indra Nooyi was born in Madras State in India. After her secondary school education, she attended the Madras Christian College and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics in 1974. Two years later she got her Post Graduate Diploma from the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta. Nooyi then moved to the United States in 1978 to pursue a Master’s degree in Public and Private Management from Yale School of Management.

Nooyi’s career started in India where she held product manager positions with two companies. While in the States, she worked with companies like Boston Consulting Group, Motorola, and Asea Brown Boveri before joining PepsiCo in 1994. She was the Senior Vice President, Strategic Planning at first, and then became the company’s President and CFO in 2001. Twelve years after joining Pepsi, she was named CEO, allowing her to shape a company she had come to personalize as her own. With Indra in charge, PepsiCo’s revenue moved from $35 billion to $63.5 billion, an 80% increase. In her own words, market capitalization rose by $57 billion whilst shareholders received about $79 billion in cash returns. Indra afterward resigned as CEO in 2018 and as Chairman in 2019, fulfilled and ready to venture into different fields.

Despite her various achievements as CEO, what is most notable about Indra’s leadership is the ‘Performance with Purpose’ strategy she used. She decided to not only think about the long-term growth of the company but also achieve it in a way that is friendly to society and the environment. Thus she began projects like using recyclable material and producing healthy snacks for consumers. She has also advocated for executives that are involved in a company head, heart, and hands. In modeling the heart aspect, she got to know employees’ families and built an environment that allowed young family builders to also be important contributors to work, without having to sacrifice either. This is well captured in her recently published memoir: My Life in Full: Work, Family, and Our Future, a must-read for executives and laymen alike!

A Man Of Invention, Re-Invention, And Stamina – Reed Hastings

A worldwide household name, Wilmot Reed Hastings Jr. was born in Massachusetts in 1960. He graduated from college in 1983 with a BA in Mathematics, after which he joined the Marine Corps. He however did not finish his training and instead joined the Peace Corps. Drawn by the thrill and adventure, he spent two years in Swaziland, teaching Mathematics. He then proceeded to earn a Master’s Degree in Computer Science from Stanford University in 1988.

Hastings worked at Adaptive Technology up-to 1991, when he founded his first company, Pure Software. Up to this point, Hastings had been involved in product development and its technicalities and had no idea how to maneuver through the intricacies of management. For this reason, his company started failing and he asked to be replaced as CEO. The board refused. Pure Software then merged with Atria Software to form Pure Atria, which was sold to Rational Software in 1997.

Following his experience with Pure Software, Hastings took a two-year break to strategize on the way forward. In 1997, he at one time was late in returning a movie cassette and was fined highly. And thus his next venture was birthed. Together with a former employee of his, he founded Netflix, which was then a movie-rental service. People would order their movies on a website and the DVDs would be delivered by mail. A subscription service was later launched, where customers would pay a specific fee for access to an unlimited number of DVDs. This idea was carried on when internet streaming services were launched in 2007. Today Netflix is also involved in content production and its subscriptions are at over 200 million households.

Based on Netflix’s culture, Hastings co-authored a book: No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention. In an interview on the same he explains why he thinks the best CEO is the not-busy one. “You want to be able to know what’s going on in all kinds of places, but not making decisions,” he goes on. For a CEO, it means having the bigger picture in mind and planning long-term. For an employee, it means taking everything into consideration in decision making, knowing full well that the buck stops at you.

One of the many things Hastings has learned over the years is portrayed quite loudly, especially through Netflix: It is better to do one product well than two products in a mediocre way.

The Black Dragon, Vusi Thembekwayo

Businessperson, entrepreneur, international public speaker, and author Vusi Thembekwayo was born in 1985 in South Africa. He comes from a poor Christian family and was raised by his mother after his father was killed in front of him when he was only 13.  Barely managing to get through his preliminary years in school, his dire financial situation caused him to drop out of his first year in university. His first company, Global Professionals South Africa, was then birthed, allowing him to get through his Management Advanced Program at the University of Witwatersrand. Immediately after that, in 2010, he enrolled for a PDBA at Gordon Institute Business School and a Corporate Finance course with INSEAD. Later on, he got his MBA from Hult International Business School.

Vusi has exponentially grown in his career, believing that what anyone else has achieved can be achieved. His career first began in public speaking, when at 17 he was ranked number 1 and received third place in the world at the English-Speaking Union International Competition. He then learnt how to make his talent work for him and has reaped immensely from it. While learning about business, he ended up learning entrepreneurship instead and has founded several companies, the most famous one being MyGrowthFund Venture Partners where he is the CEO. Out of this is his well –known mentorship program dubbed #Top40, aimed at identifying, funding, and mentoring promising African entrepreneurs. There is also an entrepreneurship masterclass he runs with the aim of passing on the knowledge and skills he has amassed for success.

Along the lines of mentorship, Vusi has been able to author 2 books: The Magna Carta of Exponentiality and Vusi: Business & Life Lessons from a Black Dragon. The latter has been a best-seller the world over and has opened him up to platforms and opportunities that enable him to pass on his golden nuggets. One of the most repeated ideologies he holds is getting rid of the ‘small business’ mindset we seem to hold dear in Africa. Albeit the fact that beginnings might be small, the thinking and strategy for it cannot afford to be anything less than global. His challenge to entrepreneurs and specifically African ones is to have ideas that are beyond personal interests and current generations. They therefore must be willing to go beyond every excuse and obstacle, despite their validity, and thus conquer themselves. Then conquer the world!

A Man Of Invention, Re-Invention, And Stamina- Reed Hastings

A worldwide household name, Wilmot Reed Hastings Jr. was born in Massachusetts in 1960. He graduated from college in 1983 with a BA in Mathematics, after which he joined the Marine Corps. He however did not finish his training and instead joined the Peace Corps. Drawn by the thrill and adventure, he spent two years in Swaziland, teaching Mathematics. He then proceeded to earn a Master’s Degree in Computer Science from Stanford University in 1988.

Hastings worked at Adaptive Technology up-to 1991, when he founded his first company, Pure Software. Up to this point, Hastings had been involved in product development and its technicalities and had no idea how to maneuver through the intricacies of management. For this reason, his company started failing and he asked to be replaced as CEO. The board refused. Pure Software then merged with Atria Software to form Pure Atria, which was sold to Rational Software in 1997.

Following his experience with Pure Software, Hastings took a two-year break to strategize on the way forward. In 1997, he at one time was late in returning a movie cassette and was fined highly. And thus his next venture was birthed. Together with a former employee of his, he founded Netflix, which was then a movie-rental service. People would order their movies on a website and the DVDs would be delivered by mail. A subscription service was later launched, where customers would pay a specific fee for access to an unlimited number of DVDs. This idea was carried on when internet streaming services were launched in 2007. Today Netflix is also involved in content production and its subscriptions are at over 200 million households.

Based on Netflix’s culture, Hastings co-authored a book: No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention. In an interview on the same he explains why he thinks the best CEO is the not-busy one. “You want to be able to know what’s going on in all kinds of places, but not making decisions,” he goes on. For a CEO, it means having the bigger picture in mind and planning long-term. For an employee, it means taking everything into consideration in decision making, knowing full well that the buck stops at you.

One of the many things Hastings has learned over the years is portrayed quite loudly, especially through Netflix: It is better to do one product well than two products in a mediocre way.

Africa’s Business Magnate- Alhaji Aliko Dangote

From being awarded Nigeria’s second-highest honour to being the richest man in Africa 10 years standing, Aliko Dangote seems to be an ever-expanding brand; an empire all by himself. Industrious (quite literally), innovative and entrepreneurial are a few words to describe him, especially since we keep discovering greater depths to his abilities and vision.

Born in 1957 in Nigeria, Dangote rose from a wealthy Muslim family. His father passed when he was 8 years old, after which he was raised by his maternal grandfather, the son of West Africa’s richest man then. Despite his wealthy background, what Dangote reaped most from his upbringing was a wealthy man’s mindset, as opposed to his money. As a primary school child, he would buy and sell sweets to other children just to make money. Driven by this passion, he went on to pursue a degree in business studies and administration from Al-Azhar University in Egypt.

At 21 years old he went back to Lagos, Nigeria, and was able to convince his uncle to loan him capital that he used to start a trading business. And thus began the Dangote empire. Over the years, he would import in wholesale and sell a variety of products, including cement, sugar, rice, flour and iron. He then studied manufacturing in 1996 and towards the beginning of a century started putting together his manufacturing plants. He bought a government cement factory that he has established to become Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest of its kind, now part of Dangote Cement. His other businesses include Dangote Sugar and Nascon Allied Industries, all a part of the Dangote Group, the largest conglomerate in West Africa.

Unlike many businessmen, Dangote has made it his purpose to invest, re-invest and build in Africa. His businesses are the number one single source of employment in Nigeria and this will be the case as he expands through the Sub-Saharan territory. He has also stood out as a philanthropist, partnering with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to eradicate polio in Africa. An interesting fact to also note is the kind of diversification he is willing to undertake to facilitate growth. Armed with the skill and resources, he targets the industry and takes it by its horns. ‘Go big or go home’ might even be a mantra he keeps reciting to himself. And to young ambitious entrepreneurs, he might say ‘Just Start’.

Re-Defining Global Industry Leadership-Mary Barra

At Fifty-Nine years old, it is curious to find that Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors (GM), has only ever worked at one company. Hers is a very unique career path, meandering through functions like Operations, Human Resource and Management at various levels. She has earned her spot in several leadership classes as a reference point for young upcoming global leaders and is an encouragement to current industry leaders. The big question at this point is, what exactly makes her stand out and why does she keep going?

Mary joined General Motors as a co-operative education student in 1980 at Eighteen years old. Five years after finishing her degree in electrical engineering, she received her MBA from Stanford University in 1990. She then went on to hold positions such as: Vice President of Global Manufacturing Engineering; Executive Vice President of Global Product Development and Vice President of Global Human Resources. It may seem that she kept gaining skills that would be helpful, even critical in her current position, but that is only in hindsight.

In every position Barra found herself in, her drive was being thoroughly accountable for what she was entrusted with. Healthy work environments were fostered wherever she went and her ability to easily adapt enabled her to make necessary adjustments when it came to it. As the head of HR, she reduced the long dress code to two words: ‘Dress Appropriately’! She would also allow junior managers and co-workers to make independent decisions as pertaining their responsibilities. In this way, she believed that she was empowering and allowing them to be responsible.

One might say that Barra’s leadership abilities have been tested in crisis. In 1998, there was a GM strike, and Barra was appointed the Internal Communications Director. With her leadership style, there was a forum where information could flow up and down the hierarchy and situations could be dealt with up-front. After her appointment as CEO, disaster struck again. A faulty ignition switch led to deaths and recalls of over 30 million cars. She faced the situation head-on, admitting errors made, laying off workers, appearing before the senate and adjusting policies to enable early reporting of problems. Instead of drowning in chaos, she was able to rise by putting lives first and by her own motto, being accountable enough.

We, alongside millions of people, will continue watching and learning as Mary Barra revolutionizes leadership globally.

Purity Buyanzi | The writer is an aspiring Financial Analyst, passionate about leadership and mentorship | puritybuyanzi@gmail.com