Africa means business. Foreign direct investment into Africa is on the rise and Japan is playing an increasingly important role across the continent.

Today, almost 450 Japanese companies are doing business across Africa. Many of these are managing their operations from the continent’s most industrialized and diversified economy — South Africa.

“There are 160 Japanese companies operating in South Africa and most cover the African continent from here,” said Norio Maruyama, Japan’s ambassador to South Africa. “As South Africa focuses on remaining competitive as a nation, companies are looking to Japanese manufacturers to create employment opportunities and develop employee skills.”

Japanese companies have already created an estimated 150,000 jobs in the “Rainbow Nation.” In a recent study conducted by JETRO in Johannesburg, South Africa was identified as the most important country in Africa for Japanese investment.

“With a population of nearly 60 million, the sheer size of the market represents tremendous opportunities and is one of the main attributes of doing business here,” said Hiroyuki Nemoto, executive director of JETRO Johannesburg. “Respondents to our survey identified communications, sufficient infrastructure and the ability to utilize the country as a gateway to the rest of the continent as the main advantages of doing business in South Africa.”

Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD)

Japan is increasing its engagement with Africa through the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD). Initiated by the Japanese government in 1993, today marks the final day of TICAD 7 (the seventh conference) held in Yokohama, Japan.

“Seventy memorandums of understanding were signed between Japanese companies, organizations and African countries following the 2016 TICAD VI held in Nairobi — the first TICAD to take place in Africa,” said Nemoto.

Driving Japan-Africa exchange

The Japan-Africa Public-Private Economic Forum held in May 2018 in Johannesburg attracted 2,000 attendees and included 100 Japanese and 400 African companies.

In May this year, the third Japan-South Africa Business Dialogue was held in Johannesburg and last month saw the Japan-South Africa CEO Business Roundtable.

“Through continued initiatives, we anticipate more companies will come to South Africa to establish relationships and do business,” said Nemoto. “We want to see the business environment improve here and encourage more Japanese companies to invest in South Africa.”

Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s president, has initiated a drive to attract $100 billion worth of investments into the South African economy over the next five years. Since elected into office in February 2018, Ramaphosa has made inroads into Japan.

Survey conducted Sept. 7 to Oct. 9, 2018, by JETRO Johannesburg. Response - 96 of 120 (80 percent) Japanese-affiliated companies in South Africa
Survey conducted Sept. 7 to Oct. 9, 2018, by JETRO Johannesburg. Response – 96 of 120 (80 percent) Japanese-affiliated companies in South Africa

“There are many areas for cooperation including the global ‘Industry 4.0’ initiative focusing on ‘big data’ and artificial intelligence,” explained Maruyama. “This is a priority for South Africa, as mentioned in Ramaphosa’s state of the nation address last February. As ambassador, I want to strengthen ties between Japan and South Africa as politically, culturally and economically this year has been exceptional. People-to-people exchanges will continue to bring our two countries closer together and I am confident the business climate in South Africa will continue to improve and attract even more Japanese investment.”