Over the past few decades Japan has been making deep inroads into Africa in terms of business, trade and bilateral relations with many the continent’s nations. To help aid this development and growth the African Development Bank Group hosted the Japan-Africa Business Forum 2017 in Iino Hall, Tokyo on the 25th and 26th of July.
The conference was not only aimed at presenting Japanese investors with success stories from Japanese companies like Mayekawa and Toyota in Africa. It also created a platform over two days from which national representatives could also show the existing strategies and programs in place that are helping address issues within the continent, including issues such as high levels of subsistence farming and in some areas poor health and access to healthcare. It was as much a place to exchange ideas and expertise as it was to invest capital.
The first day focused on four key areas, each having its own session with experts in the field and country representatives, these were; Energy and Power, Agriculture and Agribusiness, Infrastructure, Trade, and Industry and finally the issue of financing projects in Africa. Whilst these topics are interlinked, the segmentation enabled potential investors to get a stronger sense of the challenges and rewards posed by each one.
This was aided by Q&A sessions with the panelists after each talk. In one instance, a cocoa farm owner from Cameroon asked if the African Development Bank could help individuals like him. In the true spirit of the day, his answer involved almost all the panelists with Olam Nigeria’s Vice President of Corporate and Government Relations, Ade Adefeko giving advice on how the man might better be able to work with his neighboring producers to further access groups like the ADB and other investors. Similarly, companies like the fertilizer producer OCP showed how utilizing local initiatives crop yields in Ethiopia had increased by 37% over a four-year period.
Many challenges were presented such as; the need for greater acquisition and use of fertile land, security and similarly the need to spread information and technology. However, these were all challenges that were being tackled not only by African led initiatives but all by Japanese companies that were spreading their technological and industrial skills.
In this way, the conference combined the idea of business with development in a good sense. Much of the talks involved how the long-term investments and action could be sustainable and eco-friendly. There was an emphasis to ensure that any agreements or plans reached by Japanese investors and African nations or private companies would be long-term ventures.
The second day started much the same with seminars on health and sanitation, the promotion of business through partnerships and ICT within African Business. The second day differed however in its afternoon sessions with individual regional talks for North, South, West, East and Central Africa. The talks highlighted multinational schemes such as the southern African initiative, SADC (Southern African Development Community), which seeks to develop the region whilst also maintaining the sustainability of the industries and wildlife. These were culminations of the previous day’s talks with all the schemes involving industries from agriculture to information technology. Overall the outlook was very positive. All the regional schemes seemed to have been endorsed by some of Africa’s most influential leaders and the Japanese investors responses were good with talks being had inside and outside the conference hall.
The final part of the forum involved smaller more intimate, business partnership seminars focused on individual nations, held by CEOs such as South African Electrotechnical Export Council’s, Ms. Chiboni Evans and Member of The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Togo, Mr. Aklesso Daou. The seminars enabled interested parties, both Japanese and African, to learn more about the specifics of some of the more established groups.
The next step in developing these relationships and partnerships is with TICAD 7 (Tokyo International Conference on African Development), which has just been announced to take place later this year.
During the forum, JAPAN and the WORLD conducted interviews with the Ghanaian Minister of Health, Hon. Kwaku Agyeman-Manu and the Chairman of the Djibouti Ports and Free Trade Zones Authority, Mr. Aboubakar Omar Hadi. Readers will be able to find these in the next edition of JAPAN and the WORLD.