TICAD7 official side event "Japan-Africa Business Forum"

August 2019

On August 29, JETRO convened the Japan-Africa Business Forum as an official side event of the 7th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD7) which was held in Yokohama from August 28 to 30.

Contribution towards TICAD's main theme: private sector engagement

Since TICAD V in 2013, priority has been placed on African economic growth led by the private sector. This was also the main theme of TICAD7 and participants discussed the transformation of economic structures and improvement of business environments through participation by private enterprises. At the same time, taking on the challenge of the promising African market is important for Japanese companies in terms of surviving a global competition growing fiercer as emerging markets such as ASEAN and India mature.

In response to these trends, and with the aim of widely disseminating information on the current situation and potential of African business toward Japanese companies to incite further interest in the continent, JETRO held this forum by welcoming 27 key figures from political and industrial circles of Africa, Japan and third countries.

The allures of African business and potential of Japanese companies conveyed by political and industrial leaders

In his opening remarks, JETRO Chairman and CEO Nobuhiko Sasaki touched on the importance of the African market for Japanese companies and emphasized that JETRO will assist them in entering the region by deepening collaboration with local companies and governments. Following that, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed hope for the development of business relations between Africa and Japan and promised the support of the Japanese government through organizations such as the Japan Business Council for Africa (JBCA). Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (current Chairperson of the African Union) introduced activities conducted by African countries toward improving the investment environment as well as trade liberalization within Africa through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), and made a passionate call for Japanese companies to invest. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa made clear his wish for African and Japanese companies to expand partnerships “from contacts to contracts.”

In the opening session, presentations were made by Tony Elumelu, Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation; Tewolde GebreMariam, Group CEO of the Ethiopian Airlines; and Jacko Maree, Deputy Chairman of the Standard Bank Group, to explain the potential of business in Africa and express expectations for Japanese companies. Satoshi Ozawa, Co-chair of the JBCA, stated that three factors—"expansion of regional trade," "digitization" and "incorporating manufacturers into the framework of international specialization"—would allow Africa to grow, and stressed that the Japanese side would support Africa through the Bilateral Committee on the Improvement of the Business Environment (tentative name) to be established.

Opening remarks by JETRO Chairman Sasaki

Guest speech by Prime Minister Abe

Guest speech by President El-Sisi

Presentation by Tony Elumelu

Keys for African business: "Start-ups" and "Multilateral Business Partnership"

In the following thematic sessions, panel discussions were held under the titles "African Innovation and Start-ups" and "Multilateral Business Partnership."

During the session about innovation, leading African venture capital firms and startups, as well as Japanese companies which have invested in African startups, spoke on trends and business models of startups which have been thriving in every corner of Africa. Elaborating on the characteristics and potential of innovation seen in the continent, they discussed "collaboration with local startups" as a new approach toward expanding business in the market for Japanese companies.

Panel discussion: African innovation & start-ups

In the session on multilateral partnership, panelists discussed whether collaboration with companies from third countries with rich business experience and knowledge on risk management can be a solution for Japanese companies expanding business in Africa. Welcoming board members of companies from six countries including Turkey and Cote d'Ivoire, as well as from the west, to the session, panelists spoke from their respective experiences and discussed the potential for collaboration with Japanese companies. In addition, Japanese companies which have worked together with those from third countries shared findings from their collaboration and points to keep in mind. JETRO Executive Vice President Katsumi Hirano, acting as moderator, ended the session advocating that, for Japan to internationalize, Japanese companies must take an open enough stance to leverage other countries’ expertise.

Panel discussion: Multilateral business partnership

Special side events under the themes of "startups" and "SMEs"

On August 30, the day after the business forum, JETRO also convened "Africa Startups Pitch" and "Japanese SME showcase."

Delving into the actual business side of “innovation and startups” discussed in the business forum, Africa Startups Pitch was held in collaboration with Nigerian accelerator Co-Creation Hub (CcHUB) under the theme of "new partnership with Japanese companies." Pitches were delivered by 10 African startups from seven countries* selected by CcHUB among approximately 200 candidates, who pitched their individual business models. JETRO also supported matching with Japanese companies wishing to collaborate with African startups to enter the market, with over 60 business talks held.
* Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Cote d'Ivoire, Tunisia and Morocco

Startup pitch


At the Japanese SME showcase, eight Japanese SMEs aiming to enter the African market were introduced. From the perspectives of "healthcare," "agribusiness," "infrastructure" and "Cutting-edge technologies," each SME touted the advantages of their products and services and future business prospects. With several approached by African companies following the event, there are hopes for business to develop in the future.

Presentation by Chuwa Industrial Co., Ltd.

Presentation by Zuiko Medical Corporation