As part of its commitment to supporting Africa’s development process, Japan has made the promotion of the continent’s structural economic transformation one of the three priority areas in the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI).
In furtherance of that, the Japanese government is encouraging the country’s business community not to only show interest in Africa, but actually invest by either setting up plants or entering into partnerships with local firms.
The Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, successfully brought down top executives of more than 70 Japanese companies, including some of the country’s leading firms, to the TICAD VI which was held here at the weekend.
At a forum held on Friday, by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) as a side event, participants from the business sector and top policy makers discussed how to promote economic transformation to reduce Africa’s dependence on primary products through diversification and industrialisation.
The purpose was to provide the leadership of the companies, the chance to assess at first-hand, the business opportunities available.
Prime Minister Abe is anxious for Japanese to step up their investments because he sees the continent as an emerging and very attractive market, as its population has been projected to double to about two billion by 2050.
Already, there are quite a number of Japanese companies investing in Africa. Statistics released by the Japan External Trade Organisation (JETR0) indicate that the number of the country’s companies investing in Sub-Saharan Africa increased by almost by 30 per cent to 269 in 2015, from 2012.
JETRO stated also that a study it conducted in 2015 showed that 56 per cent of the companies already in Africa would like to expand their business.
However, it has been observed that most of these firms focus on natural resources and automobiles, where as much more areas are available to explore.
Prime Minister Abe believes the number can be scaled up tremendously and is determined to achieve that goal, especially as other global players are also extending their tentacles to the continent.
The objective, as Japanese officials explained, is not to exploit the continent, but to create a win-win situation for both sides, because Japanese companies have the potential to generate and promote business activities “for the continent’s inclusive, resilient and sustainable development with their advanced technologies”.
That is why emphasis is being placed on industrialisation, and the African countries seeking the creation of a sustainable environment to bolster their economies in view of the very sharp declines in the prices of their commodities and consequent fall in revenues.
From Jim Macauley, Nairobi, Kenya