Guinean President Alpha Conde called on Japanese companies Tuesday to boost investment in his country, emphasizing the “potential” of the growing African nation with a young population.
“Many people living in our country are under the age of 30. Young people in our country are well familiar with state-of-the-art technology,” Conde told a seminar in Tokyo hosted by the Japan External Trade Organization.
“Japan was the first nation that recognized us as a country since we became independent in 1958” from France, Conde said. “We therefore want to open a new page of cooperation with Japanese companies.”
Conde, elected president in 2010, is on a four-day visit to Japan that started Monday.
Later in the day, Conde held talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, where the leaders agreed to boost economic ties between the two counties.
At their summit meeting in Tokyo, Abe told Conde, who is chairing the 55-party African Union in 2017, that Japan will support economic growth in Guinea through “concrete assistance” such as building infrastructure.
“We have placed emphasis on relations with Guinea,” Abe said at a joint news conference with Conde after the meeting.
Guinea had lagged behind the rest of Africa in foreign direct investment, as the Economic Community of West African States, a regional group aimed at promoting economic integration, imposed sanctions on its then military government.
The sanctions were lifted in the wake of the launch of Conde’s democratic administration seven years ago.
In 2014, the highly infectious Ebola fever became an epidemic, killing more than 2,500 people in Guinea and denting the economy. The World Health Organization declared the end of the outbreak in Guinea in 2015.
On the back of robust production of bauxite, iron ore, gold and diamonds, the International Monetary Fund forecast earlier this year that the Guinean economy will expand 4.3 percent this year and 4.9 percent in 2018.
“The role of the government is to lay the groundwork for development. After that, the private sector becomes an engine” for growth, Conde said. “I would like to pursue the possibility of partnership cooperation between Japan and Guinea.”
According to the Japanese Foreign Ministry, only six Japanese firms were operating in Guinea as of October 2015. Around 50 Japanese people live in the country with a population of about 13 million.
At the seminar, Conde also asked Japan to invest in the continent across the board, saying it is expected to be a big market with a population of 5 billion by 2050.
“Africa is eager to be a factory of the world. We have a cheap labor force and our young generation can respond adequately to new technology,” Conde said. “I strongly hope that Japanese companies will invest in Africa.”
A Japanese Foreign Ministry official said that strengthening business cooperation with Guinea would be an important step in capitalizing on growth in the African economy.
Conde previously visited Japan to attend the 2013 Tokyo International Conference on African Development, a Japan-led conference on development in the continent. Abe and Conde held talks on that occasion and at last year’s TICAD in Kenya, the first to be held in Africa rather than Japan.
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