Magazine article New African

Africa-Japan Business Investment Forum

Magazine article New African

Africa-Japan Business Investment Forum

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Slow but for the long term. That is the message in relation to Japanese engagement in Africa that one could take home from the inaugural Africa Japan Business and Investment Forum that took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, last month. Ndungu Nawa reports.

The Forum was a joint event organised by the events arm of the IC Publications group, and Nikkei Business, Japan's leading business and finance media group, which recently purchased the Financial Times. Just under 500 participants took part.

The event featured a number of high-level speakers including the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Desalegn, former President Chissano of Mozambique and a number of dignitaries from Japan.

The message was clear: Africa is open for business and is willing to engage with partners from all over the world. And the Japanese have a unique offering. It was acknowledged by participants from Japan, speakers and Africans alike, that Japanese engagement with the continent could be stronger. It was also noted that, due to cultural differences and the way in which Japanese companies operate, investment decisions often take longer to make. At the same time, when they are, engagement is loyal and is generally for the long term.

The Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) plays a leading role in the Japanese government's effort to promote investment into the continent, be it Japanese overseas aid or Japanese private sector engagement. JICA's VP for Africa, Hiroshi Kato, cited a number of factors when asked why Japan seemed to lag behind other countries, notably China, when it came to investing in Africa.

In terms of Japanese investment into the continent, he noted pull and push factors. Japan's ageing population constitutes a push factor, he argued, as companies looking to grow increasingly have to expand abroad. The pull comes from a positive African narrative and what is perceived as a new can-do spirit and attitude on the continent. Regarding what some might see as timid engagement in the past, he cited the fact that in the mid-90s and the early 2000s, when African economic growth started to pick up, Japan was entering a long recession, prompting Japanese companies to retrench rather than expand, and take an inward-looking approach. …

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