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May 2, 2017

Networking Fair Brings Together Japanese Companies and ABE Initiative Participants

photoThe venue bustles with activity

About 100 Japanese companies and 340 young Africans studying in Japan as part of the ABE Initiative attended the third African Business Networking Fair on March 24, 2017. *1

The event, held this time at Ota City Industrial Plaza PiO, is part of the ABE Initiative (Master's Degree and Internship Program of African Business Education Initiative for Youth*2), which aims to develop African human resources and strengthen networks between Japanese companies and young Africans who can act as “navigators” for Japanese investment in Africa. This was the third time it was held.

The fair was sponsored by JICA and United Nations Industrial Development Organization's Tokyo Office, and had additional support from the African Development Bank Group External Representation Office for Asia.

Japanese companies see a business opportunity in Africa

photoTakeo Tokunari of Meiwa Co., Ltd., talks with a third-batch participant at his company’s booth

The Japanese companies got to know the participants, who are part of the third batch of ABE Initiative participants and came to Japan in September 2016. Nine companies gave presentations on their businesses on a stage, and the participants listened attentively.

Meiwa Co., Ltd. of Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture, is a small-sized engineering company that previously accepted 15 interns from the second batch of ABE Initiative. It also exhibited at the Japan Fair at the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) held in Kenya in August 2016. Meiwa designs various biomass carbonization plants to convert organic waste into agricultural charcoal.

Takeo Tokunari, the Division Director of the International Development Division, said Africa is a region where a lot of innovations are tried and accepted regularly. He gave an example of mobile money transferring technologies that instantly became widespread because everybody chose to buy mobile phones from the beginning, skipping landlines. “Because of the rapid urbanization, population increase and lack of existing infrastructure, waste management and agriculture are becoming urgent issues in Africa. I believe it should be interpreted as huge business opportunities for those with relevant technological solutions in Japan,” he added.

This was the first time for Asai Nursery — located in Tsu city, Mie prefecture — to attend an African Business Networking Fair. Researcher Tingting Wu of the company's Research & Development Department said she has a vision: to spread throughout the world a new kind of agricultural management that uses information technology to control for such environmental factors as temperature using information technology. She added that she wants to create a network in Africa. Participants she talked to at the Asai Nursery booth seemed enthusiastic about being of use to their countries, she said.

Participants who want to create a relationship between their country and Japan focus on kaizen

photoJuvencia Deschamps Ralay Harisoa says she wants to be an intern at a manufacturer that uses kaizen
photoWhen he heard about the ABE initiative, Miyieba Joseph Lompo told his company he definitely wanted to participate
photoLino Gabriel Warkuk Atem says he wants to use business to connect Japan and Africa

The ABE Initiative participants expressed high expectations for Japanese companies and enthusiasm for them.

Juvencia Deschamps Ralay Harisoa from Madagascar, who is researching management at Nagoya University of Commerce & Business, teaches employees at her company in Madagascar about kaizen.
Kaizen is an approach to improving quality and productivity that has led to remarkable gains for Japan's manufacturing industry. Kaizen has the advantage of not requiring any new investment, and its best-known technique is 5S (sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain). It is also effective for human resource training, because it builds teamwork and cultivates autonomy and independence in employees.

Ms. Harisoa said she only knew her own style of kaizen, so she wanted to see how Japanese companies use it in factories and learn how they teach it to employees.

Miyieba Joseph Lompo from Burkina Faso, who studies management at Reitaku University, said he had dreamed of coming to Japan since childhood. His country has abundant natural resources but has been unable to use them effectively, and he wants to focus on kaizen, he said, just like Ms. Harisoa. As an intern, he wants to learn about Japanese human resource management systems including kaizen. And someday he wants to work for a Japanese company in Japan or in Africa, he said.

Lino Gabriel Warkuk Atem of South Sudan is a consultant in the field of oil and gas, and he is studying management at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University. He said he wants to intern at a company that is enthusiastic about expanding to Africa. He also wants to start his own company to help Japanese companies expand into South Sudan.

There are some companies that began working seriously to create subsidiaries in Africa and accepting ABE Initiative interns after participating in fairs held in the past. Little by little, the fair is becoming an intermediary between Japan and Africa. JICA will continue to hold seminars and events to offer opportunities that connect Japanese companies and Africa.

*1 Sponsored by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
Co-sponsored by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization's
Tokyo Office.
Support from the African Development Bank Group External Representation Office for Asia.

*2 The ABE Initiative began accepting participants in 2014, and is divided into four periods. The table below is a breakdown of the number of people who came to Japan and their birth countries in the third batch of ABE Initiative participants, who are the subject of this article.



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