On August 29th, 2019, the African Chamber of Commerce in Japan (AfCCJ) project was successfully announced during an official side event of the seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in Yokohama.
Among the 300 participants in attendance, a great number were ministers, dignitaries, business leaders and executives from Africa, Japan and the rest of the World.
Her Excellency Ndiyoi M. Mutiti, Ambassador of the Republic of Zambia welcomed attendees with a strong statement on increasing the intensity of business relations between Japan and Africa. The Ambassador highlighted various reasons to invest in Africa, including the speed at which African economies were growing and the improvement of business environments. In addition, as the continent’s fast-growing population offers significant potential for economic development, she encouraged entities from both Africa and Japan to support the establishment of the AfCCJ.
Representing the Japanese private sector, Mr. Saraya Yusuke, President of Saraya and founding member of the AfCCJ, encouraged better understanding of existing opportunities on the African continent and how they could align with Japanese sustainable development convictions. Moreover, he expressed his desire to work alongside African communities to ensure that growth in Africa remains sustainable.
Partnership with Japan, as well as among African countries, was an overarching theme as Youssouf Moussa Dawaleh, President of the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PACCI), stressed the importance of regional and continental collaboration to better attract foreign direct investment (FDI). The PACCI looks forward to building a strong partnership with the AfCCJ to strengthen Africa’s relationship with Japan.
Furthermore, calling for deeper relations with Japan within African countries, the Governor of Niger State, His Excellency Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, utilized the example value addition in agriculture as one of the key ingredients for development. The Governor hopes that this conference can bring more collaboration between Japanese investors and local states in Africa to move forward agricultural processing facilities and support job creation for local populations.
To close opening remarks, Honourable Bogolo Joy Kenewendo, Minister of Ministry of Trade, Investment and Industry of the Republic of Botswana, drove home the importance of enabling connections and acting upon them now. The Minster highlighted the clear and consistent message emanating from TICAD 7, further emphasizing the transition of Africa-Japan relations from aid to trade. She also expressed the timeliness of the AfCCJ’s announcement as private sector engagement will make Africa-Japan relations most beneficial to the acceleration of African economic transformation.
The official announcement of the AfCCJ was symbolized by a “Kagami-Biraki”, a traditional Japanese ceremony which consists in cracking open the lid of the sake barrel with wooden mallets. “Kagami” (mirror, in Japanese) refers to the round-shaped lid of the sake barrel (roundess symbolizing harmony), while “Biraki” means “to open”. In other words, this Kagami-Biraki represents the AfCCJ’s opening to harmony and good fortune.
Following the ceremony, Yannick Gayama, Co-Founder and Chief Operations Officer (COO) of the AfCCJ took the stage to provide an overview of the organisation, its mission and services.
One of the main purposes of the AfCCJ is to help rebrand Africa and support African investment promotion in Japan, which was the theme of the panel discussion moderated by Pia von Waldau, expert on African nation branding in Japan and CEO of diplomatic communications agency Inter Media Japan. Panelists from Mozambique, Nigeria, Mali and Rwanda exchanged views on the challenges and importance of branding Africa to attract FDI to the continent and to their respective countries.
Guy Baron, Chief Investment Officer of the Rwanda Development Board, explained Rwanda’s approach to attracting investors to several investment opportunities in the country, stressing Rwanda’s focus on transparency, stability, and human capital. Rwanda ranked 2nd in ease of doing business in Africa, which makes the country a gateway to opportunities for Japanese investors.
In addition, panelists agreed on the imperative of creating business and investment environments conducive to increase domestic economic activity. This point was further illustrated by the perspective of Ibrahim Touré, Head of Investment Promotions & Facilitations at the Mali Investment Promotion Agency (API). Indeed, while resources in Mali are tremendous, the country is currently focusing on promoting these resources internationally while transforming them domestically. He elaborated on the critical need for more value addition and greater familiarity with Japan for greater involvement.
Building on this important factor, Mr. Adeshina, Director of Investment Promotion at the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), shed light on Nigeria’s efforts to improve the investment environment, particularly with Japan. Recently, Nigeria, along with the Japanese government, set up a business facilitation council to increase the number of Japanese investment engagements in Nigeria.
Ensuring the strength of these ties was echoed by Mr. Danúbio Lado, Marketing Officer at the Mozambique Investment & Exports Promotion Agency, Japan Desk (APIEX), who explained how his country continues to reinforce its diplomatic platforms to further attract Japanese companies, which has been fruitful so far. While the country is still developing its infrastructure, this situation, in itself, could be an opportunity that Japan could take advantage of.
The panel was followed by remarks from His Excellency the Governor of Plateau State (Nigeria), Honorable Simon Lalong, and Mr. João Teiga, CEO of Angola’s leading transportation and logistics company, Orey.
Governor Lalong provided insight on how Nigeria was developing a new culture, focusing on opportunities for increased market competition, not only among Nigerian states, but also outside the country, with hopes of improving business relations between Africa and Japan.
On the other hand, Mr. Teiga addressed myths and apprehensions on doing business with Africa, wanting to reassure Japanese investors by explaining what countries such as Angola were enacting. For instance, the country is implementing compliance mechanisms in addition to facilitating the establishment of businesses with 100% shareholding without local partnerships. Even though local partnerships are welcome, such policies can act as major incentives for Japanese investors.
The wealth of themes discussed during the event provided a sample of areas in which the AfCCJ could be most effective, from investment promotion to business information sharing. Ultimately, the goal of the AfCCJ is to encourage more Japanese companies, particularly small-medium enterprises, to consider Africa as an investment destination, and more African companies to consider Japanese partners in a world of increased competition for African market share.
Last but not least, the AfCCJ’s website, afccj.com, was launched at the event, with an early registration page at https://afccj.com/registration/. All organizations interested in getting involved in Africa-Japan business relations are encouraged to register today!