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SUJC Forum Explores Japanese Industry and Development in Africa 

Author: Inge Odendaal 

Stellenbosch University Japan Centre kickstarted 2024 with its first research forum titled “Japanese Industry and Development in Africa.” In January, the SUJC, with the support of a grant from the Toshiba International Foundation (TIFO), hosted this forum which focused on addressing the understudied topic of the influence of Japanese businesses on African industry through investments, participation, and production chains. It is part of a multi-year research project run by SUJC under the support of TIFO. 

The two-day virtual forum featured engaging online presentations and lively discussions. It brought together researchers from Japan and South Africa specialising in economic history, Japan’s aid programmes in Africa, and current trade, investment, and labour issues. The presentations covered different aspects of the forum’s theme and offered diverse insights into Japan-Africa relations. There was a total of nine presentations that explored the historical impact of Japanese foreign policy and investment on Africa’s development, alongside the latest trends in key sectors like Africa’s digital economy and infrastructure. This event not only served as a platform for experts to present their work but also offered young scholars from the Japan-Africa Young Scholars Initiative, funded by a Toshiba grant, to showcase their research. 

A highlight of the event was the keynote address by Professor Izumi Ohno from Japan’s National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS). Her presentation, “Learning Foreign Models for Development: Japanese Experience and Cooperation in the Age of New Technology”, shared her extensive work on the Japanese development experience, part of her ongoing research on international development policies and strategies. In her presentation, she elaborated on the characteristics of Japan’s experience in industrial development and how latecomer countries can learn and apply foreign economic development models.  

This event is part of the SUJC’s mandate to foster academic exchange, joint research, and cultural connections between South Africa and Japan. Forums like these are important as they play a key role in fostering research collaboration between Japanese and South African scholars. The exchange of knowledge across different fields and perspectives not only serves as a basis for the re-evaluation of existing dialogues but also facilitates deeper understandings and interdisciplinary insights. Moreover, such forums serve as a cornerstone for research development and cooperation. The January forum was the first in a series of symposia and research gatherings for 2024 facilitated by SUJC. In February the second JICA Chair lecture at Stellenbosch University was hosted on the topic of human security and development in Africa. A seminar on mathematics education and training, drawing insights from Japan and South Africa, was held in March. A follow-up symposium under the project of Japanese industry and development in Africa is to be held in August. Stellenbosch University will also host the 6th South Africa-Japan University Forum at the end of August.


List of Speakers and Presentations  

  • Opening, context and welcome: Prof. Scarlett Cornelissen 
  • Keynote address: Prof. Izumi Ohno (GRIPS)  
    • Learning Foreign Models for Development: Japanese Experience and Cooperation in the Age of New Technology   
  • Dr. Atsuko Munemura (Chiba Keizai Univ.)   
    • Tangy Taste for Japanese Consumers: Develop-and-Imports of South African Canned Peach in the 1980s
  • Mr. Jacques De Vos (Osaka/Stellenbosch Univ.)   
    • Predictive Modelling of Japanese Foreign Direct Investment in Africa 
  • Ms. Emma Ruiters (Tony Blair Institute, London) 
    • Rising Japanese FDI into African Digital Economies (2021/22) 
  • Prof. Hiroki Nakamura (Musashino Univ.)   
    • Japanese Foreign Policy Toward Africa: Towards a Middle Power Diplomacy 
  • Prof. Yasu’o Mizobe (Meiji Univ.)   
    • Navigating Economic Frontiers: A Historical Analysis of the Yokohama Specie Bank’s Role in Japan’s African Expansion Strategy in the 1930s
  • Mr. Gerhard Van Niekerk (Stellenbosch Univ.)  
    • Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific Vision: Global Commerce, Maritime Security and Implications for Africa
  • Prof. Scarlett Cornelissen (Stellenbosch Univ.)  
    • Japanese Firms and their Investments and Internationalisation in Africa 
  • Ms. Inge Odendaal (Ritsumeikan Univ.)   

Presentation Gallery