Japan will help Asian and African nations compile accurate economic data, starting with census projects in Nepal and Egypt, taking a soft-power approach to expand regional influence amid China's growing reach.
Japanese experts on government surveys will help Nepal and Egypt collect household and corporate data by 2019, aiming for accuracy on par with that of developed nations.
More accurate data collection would not only better inform the governments' policies, but also prove useful to Japan in awarding official development assistance and encouraging corporate expansions into those markets. Helping countries develop record-keeping is also a less costly alternative to the infrastructure initiative China is pushing with its vast financial power.
The Foreign Ministry and the Japan International Cooperation Agency will handle overall planning, while the Internal Affairs Ministry's Statistics Bureau will dispatch the experts.
Nepal conducted its first-ever economic census between April and June with Japanese support. Around 3,500 locally employed enumerators conducted interviews, with the aim of collecting data on 1 million businesses, including giant corporations and tiny mom and pops. Roughly 900,000 businesses had answered by mid-June. A preliminary report will be released this September, with a final version due out next summer.
Using tablets when conducting interviews and storing data on servers help boost efficiency. Japan is providing about 600 million yen ($5.4 million) in support, with a portion of the outlays covering costs for sending experts and equipment.
Egypt will launch its own economic census this October, and Japan will provide approximately 150 million yen in aid to cover the provision of experts and equipment.
Egypt has conducted national censuses since 1882, but the data is said to be unreliable owing to the lack of expertise among enumerators. Personnel will be trained together with the rollout of the new economic census.