On 28 April 2018, I gave a presentation on Kakehashi Africa (KA) at the inaugural workshop of the Afro-Asian Studies Initiative (AASI) in Doshisha University in Kyoto. Members of Kakehashi Africa served on the organising committee and therefore KA was afforded with the opportunity at the workshop to promote itself.
I presented the following argument for why KA was created:
- Africa has a lot of business potential.
- However, there are some challenges that one need to overcome to realise this potential.
- Two of those challenges are “trust” and “capacity,” i.e. it is difficult for foreign companies to find local partners in Africa that have both of those characteristics.
- It is especially difficult for Japanese companies because Africa is not their priority market and therefore they have a limited budget for business development in Africa. With a limited budget, one is especially reliant on local partners to minimise risks and costs.
- The ABE Initiative is a good plan by the Japanese government to help address this challenge. By taking young people who have an undergraduate degree (and thereby who have proven themselves academically) and some work experience through a long selection process and then bringing them to Japan for 2/2.5 years for a masters degree and internship, JICA is creating a pool of possible partners for Japanese companies that has a bigger chance of being trustworthy and having capacity.
- However, it is not enough. A Japanese company will still need to spend a lot of time to build a relationship with an ABE Initiative participant with limited guarantees. There is still a significant chance that the participant may not be suitable, in which case the company will have to repeat the process of trust building with another participant. But even if the participant is suitable, the company will have to repeat the process anyway if it wants to move/scale into new markets in a given African country and/or other African countries.
- The problem is ABE Initiative participants came to Japan as individuals.
- In order to make the ABE Initiative a truly useful network for Japanese companies, these individuals must be created into a community of people who know and trust each other. If such a community is created, a Japanese company only need to approach one of us in order to be connected to all of us.
- This is the objective of Kakehashi Africa, namely to create a community of interconnected African professionals and Japanese companies by building and strengthening relationships between ABE Initiative participants and also between ABE Initiative participants and Japanese companies.
Other speakers at the conference included Prof. Oussouby Sacko (president of Kyoto Seika University) and Hon. Betty Grace Akech-Okullo (the ambassador to Japan of Uganda). In the afternoon there were two parallel sessions during which multiple African and Asian scholars gave presentations on their research.