AILAW in TICAD VI – Nairobi, Kenya
Sep 08, 2016
AILAW is proud to have participated in the sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) held in Nairobi, Kenya on August 27 & 28, 2016. Our firm partner Mr Shinji Sumida, who recently published a book on African Business and Legal Affairs, here shares his experiences and thoughts on the event.
How AILAW became involved in TICAD VI Japan Fair
During my business trip to Kenya earlier this year, the JICA staff has kindly invited me to participate. It is somewhat unconventional for a law firm to set up a booth in a major scale business conference such as TICAD but I decided it would be a good way to connect with African and Japanese businesses. It would also be helpful to know the booth holders’ views and considerations when I participate in future events.
My view is that it’s beneficial to develop a new relationship between Japan which has an aging population and African countries that have a generation of vibrant young talents.
Communication and mutual understanding with African authorities would foster a better environment for Japanese corporations to invest. Rather than working individually, creating a group platform to share information to reduce legal costs for Japanese corporations. Strengthening partnerships between Africa and Japan by channeling Japanese technology to benefit African economy.
Participation in the TICAD VI Conference
At first I had some doubts about whether the events would be conducted smoothly because in my previous trip to Kenya, negotiation between relevant parties of TICAD VI seemed difficult. However, the end result was beyond my expectations and I couldn’t hide my surprise.
I had a productive time focusing on Japan Fair and the side-events. Each events and encounters were filled with efforts and determination from both Africa and Japan and were very stimulating. All centered on the theme of how to improve Africa and it was enjoyable to take part in lively debates during my stay. Through the debates, I was able to consider issues from more angles, Thank you to the organizers and participants for their efforts in a successful conference.
The exhibitors were lively and most had vibrant eye-catching exhibits as part of their presentation.
In the photo below shows our booth with only our brochures and copies of my recent book unlike the others. Despite our plain assembles, we were able to exchange ideas with people understanding the necessity of legal frameworks.
The focus of enquiries from African people were mostly about intellectual properties. It appears that in Africa also, there is a growing recognition of the importance of intellectual rights.
During my spare time, I spoke to a range of Japanese exhibitors. Although I also spoke to major enterprises, due to the length of the article, I would like to introduce the medium/small businesses that are working in Africa.
OSA Japan that works in architectural and design had an exhibit booth decorated with LED, batteries and solar panels which attracted much interest from African participants.
Nippon Poly-Glu Co., Ltd had a booth that showcase practical water purification technology. It was interesting to hear from Mr Sawada about water business in development countries.
Afri-Inc develops logistics and sales management for Japanese confectionaries. It seems that they are expanding into Kenya from their current operations in Uganda.
AfricaScan was introduced during Prime Minister Abe’s speech at TICAD and is a marketing consultancy company.
Finally, Nippon Biodiesel Fuel which first began as a bio energy supplier in Mozambique but has now entered into the finance industry with digital money system and has possibilities in entering the banking industry from what I gathered.
There are many more companies that I would like to introduce, however, it would make this long article even longer. I would like to thank all the exhibitors that took the time to speak with me and interested parties who attended our booth.
Views on Certain Practical Aspects
1) Companies entering the market
2) Companies that are speculating
3 Companies that has a subsidiary or an office
4) Traditional, well established companies
1) For the enterprises that are entering Africa now, it is difficult to profit from tenders. Therefore, more strength in other aspects would be better. I believe it is difficult for medium/small businesses to request government support on a cost-performance basis. There is a need to evaluate how much value can be inputted into Africa.
2) For enterprises that are speculating, it seems they are considering the joint-venture structure. However, I think it is very rare for joint-ventures to be controlled as intended. It is often heard that difference in culture and work practice have caused difficulties. As there are many problems that cannot be solved by contracts and the judiciary, there are many considerations that needs to be balanced.
3) For the current businesses in African, there are also a range of difficulties they face. I hope those businesses find my book that seek to help them useful.
4) For the long established enterprises, it is perhaps necessary to be mindful of current trends and changes in the business environment and not simply stability.
I have gained much from the exhibitors around me. And a sense of comradery makes me truly hope for their success.
Thoughts on Africa
I felt intense interest in Africa from Japanese enterprises. In order to create a balanced society with partnerships between African which has an abundance of young talent and Japan a highly technically advanced country with aging population, there is a need to support a safe business environment for the businesses. With that as forefront, there is a need to share information. I believe that is highly important to create a legal platform that allows easy access from anyone. As part of that, I am proud to have published my book African Business and Legal Affairs. My co-author Takuma Kinjo is the pioneer in African business. I hope that I would be able to translate my book in the near future. Thank you to Chairman George Hara of Alliance Forum Foundation for helping with my book promotion.