Japanese private companies have been reluctant to venture into Africa because they in most cases lack sufficient knowledge about opportunities presented by the continent.
However, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says his government will do whatever it takes to facilitate an increased presence of Japanese companies in Africa.
Abe was speaking at the seventh edition of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD7) that is underway in Yokohama, Japan.
The three-day conference is held every three years since 2013 convening African heads of state and government representatives to engage in bilateral and multilateral talks with the Asian nation.
This year's conference was held under the theme; 'Advancing Africa's Development through People, Technology and Innovation' built around three pillars namely accelerating economic transformation and improving the business environment through innovation and private sector engagement, deepening sustainable and resilient society by focusing on health, education, environment and disaster risk reduction and strengthening peace and stability.
Three years since the previous TICAD that was held in Nairobi in 2016, Japanese private investments in Africa were valued at USD20 billion, which is USD10 billion less to the amount of investment pledged during the Nairobi meeting.
“The Government of Japan will put forth every possible effort so that Japanese private investment of 20 billion dollars is surpassed in the next three years,” he said.
Abe said that TICAD, which President Paul Kagame attended, will provide African countries with a platform to finalize potential partnerships with Japanese companies and investors.
He said he was optimistic that the country’s cooperation with its local financial institutions will create new trade insurance that could cover 100 percent of African transactions.
He revealed, for instance, that, soon, a small-sized satellite built by Rwanda together with the University of Tokyo will emerge.
From space, the satellite will observe crop harvests and the state of water resources in Rwanda.
“I will say it again, the Japanese government will do its utmost to support Japanese enterprises that are betting on the future of Africa. We are in an era in which the challenges can easily be resolved through science, technology, and innovation,” he said.
Education for change
Education is among the kinds of human resource building is where Japan has invested the greatest amount of effort in Africa over the years.
Through the ABE Initiative, which has committed to nurturing young industry leaders from the continent by providing them with master’s degree placements in Japanese universities and internships in major Japanese industries, has benefitted 2,700 young people over the past five years.
The number of Japanese companies welcoming these young Africans as interns has grown to 358.
One of those is Otowa Electric Company of Hyogo Prefecture, a company that aims to be the world-beating lightning protection specialist.
Under the ABE Initiative, a young intern from Rwanda identified as Raymond Ndayisaba arrived in Otowa looking for lightning solutions for Rwanda after noticing a trend where lightning strikes were killing as many as 100 Rwandans every year.
He was not just given a placement at the company but also Otowa chose to expand its operations into Rwanda, which was two years ago.
The ABE Initiative is a solid bridge linking Japanese companies with Africa.
Over the next six years, it will aim to train a total of 3,000 more people. They will be the pilot Japanese companies can count on even more as they approach the African market.