Africa-Japan trade relations strengthened

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Colleta Dewa

Johannesburg – Trade between Japan and the African continent has been strengthened following the successful hosting of the Japan-Africa Public-Private Economic Forum that was held at the Sandton International Convection Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa, recently.

The forum, which was co-hosted by the government of Japan and the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) in collaboration with South Africa provided a platform for Japanese and African businesses and development-related institutions to highlight their work and discuss how the public and private sectors can work together to boost investment and make the best use of public and private resources.

In his address to delegates during the forum, President Cyril Ramaphosa said Africa is a continent on the move and is entering a new era of growth and development.

“The social and economic challenges on the African continent will not be effectively addressed if governments and business do not work together. Similarly, we will not be able to expand trade and investment relations between Japan and African countries unless our respective governments, state-owned entities and other public institutions are aligned with the work of the private sector.

 “For Africa to grow and for its people to flourish, its economies need to be more effectively integrated into the global economy. They need to attract capital, technology, expertise and best practice from advanced economies and use that to take full advantage of its plentiful natural resources,” said President Ramaphosa.

President Ramaphosa also highlighted that the growth in trade between Africa and Asia is a positive mark in the economies of African states.

“Trade ties between Africa and Asia have grown significantly in recent years.  In 2017, Africa’s exports to Asia as a whole were worth around US$64 billion, of which Japan accounted for around US$8.3 billion. 

 “However, the current basket of exports is very much commodity-based, exposing African countries to price fluctuations and denying them the opportunity to extract additional value from these commodities. African economies, therefore, need to diversify and shift towards greater production of intermediate and final consumer and industrial products,” added the president.

Japan’s minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko hailed the meeting as a great step towards trade integration between the two countries.

“Trade between Japan and Africa will increase the continent’s market value and improve prospects for investment by Japanese companies.

“The Japanese government recognizes the potential for Africa to become the new frontier for global economic growth, owing to its youthful and growing population and abundant natural resources,” added Seko.

Seko also spoke highly of the Kigali African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) saying regional integration makes the continent more inviting for Japanese investors.

In 2016 during the sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI), Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that Japan would invest US$30 billion over three years in Africa.

 It was also during that conference when Abe announced the launch of the Japan-Africa Public-Private Economic Forum in Africa to accelerate private sector-led economic growth.

The just-ended Japan-Africa Public-Private Economic Forum enabled engagements between the Japanese and African business communities, with a focus on new business frontiers and technologies, skills development, small- and medium-sized enterprises and entrepreneurship, infrastructure, power and energy.

It was also a significant opportunity for delegates to network, building business partnerships and multinational alliances around private sector activities in Africa.

 Africa is currently the second fastest growing region in the world and has the largest number of developing countries. 

 It has grown at a rate of 2 to 3 percentage points faster than global GDP over the past decade. 

 Regional growth is predicted to reach 4.3% in 2018, up from the 3.4% projected for 2017 and 2.2% achieved in 2016. 

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