News & Updates

Results of JETRO’s 2018 Survey on Business Conditions of Japanese-Affiliated Firms in Africa

Feb 15, 2019

Chinese companies emerge as top competitors in the African market for the first time

Between September and October 2018, the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) conducted its latest survey on business operations of Japanese-affiliated firms in 24 countries in Africa. The 7th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 7) will be held in Yokohama from August 28 to 30, 2019. This survey was conducted with the aim of capturing opportunities and contributing to discussions at TICAD 7. Below is a summary of the results.

Survey outline

Method Questionnaire
Period From September 7 to October 19, 2018
Destination of questionnaire 392 companies (310 respondent companies, including 81 manufacturers and 229 non-manufacturers; response rate: 79.1%)
Question items (1) Status of operations and future business outlook within the next one or two years, (2) Investment environment, (3) Collaboration with third countries, competitors in the African market, (4) Expectation of Japanese government's corporate support

Key points of the results

  1. There is a noticeable shift from natural resources and official development assistance (ODA) to business targeting private-sector demand. Attention to new industries is also increasing.
  2. Chinese companies emerged in the top ranks for the first time as competitors in the African market.
  3. In the leadup to TICAD 7, 76% of companies in Africa desire strengthened support from the Japanese government

Summery points

1. Operating profit forecast and future business outlook: Approximately half of companies maintain profitability, approximately 60% consideirng business expansion

  • Regarding the operating forecast for 2018, approximately half of companies in Africa reported a surplus. Looked at by country, about 60% of companies in South Africa, Zambia and Egypt are in the black. Egypt recorded the highest surplus (58.8%) in the past five years due to financial improvement in the country. On the other hand, the proportion of surpluses remained sluggish (25.0% → 34.4%) in Kenya, although it increased from the previous year.While, Morocco saw a significant drop from the previous year (61.1% → 45.5%). (Page 7 to 8 in the attached document)
  • The trend toward business expansion continues with the percentage of companies responding they would "expand business in the future" exceeding the majority for the past five consecutive years. By country, the proportion in Mozambique, where rapid growth is expected in natural gas development, was over 70%, and in Morocco, which focuses on attracting companies in free zone development, it was over 60%. (Page 13 in the attached document)

2. Change in business environment: Market entry in pursuit of private consumption demand, reduction of natural resources and ODA from Japan, growing attention toward new industries

  • Among the reasons for entry to Africa, there was an increase in answers of "growth potential" and "market scale" in what is believed to be pursuit of private consumption demand. In comparison with the survey in 2007, the ratios for "natural resources" and "ODA from Japan" were down significantly. More than 90% of companies in Nigeria and Egypt answered that "market size and growth potential" is attractive. (Page 18 and 20 in the attached document)
  • Among promising fields in the future, infrastructure, the service industry, the consumer market and new industries ranked among the top, exceeding natural resources and transportation equipment (motor vehicles, motorcycles, etc.) which had been areas of focus in the past.
  • In terms of management issues, "preparation/implementation of legal regulations" was the biggest risk. Approximately 90% of firms viewed this as a problem, indicating strong concerns about governance.
  • Enterprises using Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) are steadily increasing. In 2018, progress toward intra-regional integration was seen with the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The FTA most used by Japanese companies was the Southern African Development Community (SADC), for which South Africa has been a driving force. A framework many are considering using is the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) which includes Nigeria with its massive population.
  • The top three countries cited as worthy of notice in the future were, for the fourth consecutive year, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. Much attention was given to Kenya’s active ICT and startup industry. Nigeria is the continent's most populous country and biggest economic power, while South Africa was highly evaluated for its outstanding economic infrastructure.

3. Collaboration and competition with third countries: Chinese companies emerge in the top ranks for the first time as competitors in the African market

  • Regarding cooperation with third country companies, South Africa, India and France were promising. As a regional base, South Africa is attractive because of the knowhow and market networks accumulated by local companies have a head start in regional development. It was suggested that India’s appeal lay not only in its excellent strategy in the African market, where there is much affinity for the country, but also in the fact that Japanese companies could launch operations in Africa utilizing their Indian bases. For France, expectations were heard regarding the potential for cooperation in French-speaking African countries.
  • Chinese companies emerged in the top ranks as competition for the first time in the past four surveys. The ratio responding that they compete with Chinese companies increased from 3.7% in 2007 to 22.9% in 2018.
  • More than 40% of companies, when asked about China and its strengthened economic relations with Africa, responded that competition has intensified and is having an effect on their own companies. On the other hand, about 20% of respondents answered that “the situation is bringing about business opportunities and benefits,” with comments including "We can utilize infrastructure developed by China."

4. Support by the Japanese government: 76% of companies want strengthened business support

  • The 7th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 7) will be held in Yokohama this August. Currently, less than 30% of companies reported that they are receiving support from the Japanese government. At the same time, 75.7% of companies reported that "the Japanese government should strengthen its support." Many expressed desire for the Japanese government to make various requests to the respective local governments regarding improving the investment climate.

Ms. Takazaki and Mr. Yamazaki
Middle East and Africa Division, JETRO
Tel: 03-3582-5180 E-mail: