“Job creation is an absolute priority for all African economies and must be a priority for foreign companies operating in our markets.”
These were the words of President Cyril Ramaphosa while addressing a gathering of over 150 Japanese exhibitor companies and thousands of business people from Africa at the Japan-South Africa Business Expo, Yokohama, Japan.
“Through partners like JETRO, together with governments and the business community, we have been able to unlock new opportunities that both drive Africa’s growth and enhance the economic relationship between Japan and Africa.
“The message from Japanese companies operating in Africa is clear: now is the time to invest.
“Our hosts JETRO tell us that 57% of Japanese firms currently based in Africa are planning to expand in the coming years,” said the president.
These companies cite factors like a rapidly growing local market, dynamic economies that defy weak global economic growth, and the ever-expanding potential of Africa’s export base.
In South Africa, Nissan has recently invested over R3 billion in its local production operations and Komatsu has recently opened a 300,000 m2 industrial complex, while hundreds of Japanese companies continue to operate and thrive.
Ramaphosa said that within the next 30 years, Africa will be a market of over a billion people.
“Our population will grow more urbanised, better educated and more engaged in the workforce.
“In ten years’ time, Africa’s consumer spending power will reach $2.5 trillion.
“These consumers will operate in an economic environment transformed by unprecedented infrastructure development.
“Our people will be connected by new road and rail networks.
“Our industrial economy will be revitalised by an energy revolution that encompasses vast untapped reserves of oil and gas and the rollout of next-generation clean energy technologies.
“Our products will be linked to the global economy through digital technology and by new and more efficient deep-sea ports,” he said.
The president said that the African Continental Free Trade agreement will lower barriers to trade on the continent.
He said it will enable the development of efficient value chains that will improve Africa’s manufacturing competitiveness.
This agreement, he said, signals that in an era in which some countries are seeking to close their borders and turn away from the international community, Africa remains committed to open and shared growth.
“We firmly believe that the Japanese government and Japanese business community have a great role to play in the development of the African continent.
“Japanese companies already benefit from Africa’s manufacturing prowess, our vast mineral wealth, our infrastructure development, young population, and rich agricultural land.
“And we benefit from the chance to learn from Japan’s rich organisational culture and technological prowess.
“Investors will be most successful when they partner with local firms, employ local people and learn from local knowledge.”
The Japan-Africa Business Expo is an opportunity for companies to meet one another, find points of mutual understanding and work together on new projects.
Ramaphosa encouraged them to reach out to the African companies and officials “here today”.
“Speak to us about your ambitions and plans, be open about the challenges you face and let us find ways to help. “We look forward to working together to achieve growth, development and shared prosperity.”