The Japan Times recently interviewed Shigeru Ushio, who heads the African Affairs Department of Japan's Foreign Ministry and is a key senior bureaucrat managing The Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 7) to be held in Yokohama from Aug. 28 through 30.

During the interview, Ushio attached great importance to the growing African population, saying it will likely become a huge market for Japanese firms. At the same time, he pointed out poor productivity regarding agriculture in Africa could be a "bottleneck" in the future. He also admitted Japan lags behind other nations in doing business on the African continent, and Tokyo is now focusing on the quality of its economic assistance and infrastructure projects.

The following are edited excerpts of the interview.