Yokohama - The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) signed a tripartite partnership agreement to enhance collaboration between Japanese and African private sector businesses, to contribute to sustainable development. The agreement was signed at the margin of the Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD7).

Speaking on the importance of the partnership, Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator emphasised the critical role of business in development and how governments can create the right environment for businesses to create more jobs and become accelerators to ensure greater inclusion. He said, “this partnership is both a reflection of and a promise in the way we look at the future of business and development. Official Development Assistance (ODA) should not just be a solidarity transfer, nor just a public subsidy; it is in fact, public venture capital to be invested into development innovations and new opportunities and markets.”  

On his part, Nobuhiko Sasaki, Chairman and CEO of JETRO pledged his organization’s commitment to the partnership: “JETRO wants to maximize this opportunity and provide more effective support to companies, especially SMEs, so that we can make contributions to strengthen business ties between Japan and Africa. JETRO identifies promising SMEs through its offices across Japan and connects them with support offered by JICA and UNDP’s network in Africa”. 

The tripartite partnership agreement builds on an existing MoU for cooperation in Africa between UNDP and JICA; JICA and JETRO; and a new MOU between UNDP and JETRO also signed at TICAD7. Through the tripartite agreement, UNDP, JICA and JETRO intend to cooperate in facilitating business development in various areas between Africa and Japan enterprises.

The President of JICA, Shinichi Kitaoka, in his remarks, also noted: “it is recognized broadly that private sector development is one of the essential factors for Africa to realize sustainable growth. I believe that our collaboration could maximize synergies in terms of our catalytic function to promote private companies’ investment, especially from Japan, into Africa”. 

Highlights of the partnership agreements

·         Connect Africa’s opportunities and challenges with the technologies and services of Japanese enterprises, especially small medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)

·         Promote innovation by Japanese and African entrepreneurs/start-ups and provide business-based solutions to the social challenges in Africa

·         Jointly organize communications and advocacy activities such as seminars, symposiums and workshops to promote business in Africa

·         Convene regular dialogues, consultations and information exchange to promote the partnerships

Similarly, UNDP also signed another agreement with Keizai Doyukai (the Japan Association of Corporate Executives; “DOYUKAI”), to establish a framework of partnership to encourage Japanese corporations to contribute to the realization of the SDGs in Africa. The aim is to expand the layer of Japanese corporations which provide value-added solutions for sustainable growth and development in Africa and to disseminate successful cases of business engagement in Africa contributing to the SDGs by Japanese corporations in and out of Japan.

The Vice Chairman and president of the Association, Keiichiro Hashimoto, emphasized: “the more and more Japanese business leaders start turning their intense eyes to potential and bright side of African development. Doyukai is committed to accelerating such changes among the Japanese business sector, for we trust Japanese business can offer quality services and technologies for the unmet goals of SDGs”. 

Making a remark on the partnership agreements, the Assistant Secretary General and Regional Director for Africa of UNDP, Ahunna Eziakonwa, who signed these regional agreements for Africa on behalf of UNDP, noted: “there are energetic, young business leaders who are conscious of the contributions that they make towards SDGs achievement. I believe that connecting them with the Japanese business community will bring solutions to development challenges and provide value to African and Japanese public and private sectors.”

It is expected that the multiple partnerships will contribute to an accelerated private sector development in Africa with increased engagement of Japanese private sector, with focus on SMEs. It will also promote innovations and unleash the potential of start-ups towards the development of Africa’s economy and society.

Putting these agreements to immediate test, a side event was organized at TICAD7 right after the launch of the partnerships, to provide an opportunity for start-ups from Africa and Japan to showcase business models that are leveraging technology to offer innovative solutions to development challenges. The aim was to connect the African entrepreneurs to Japanese corporations/investors. Prior to TICAD7, UNDP-JETRO-JICA in close collaboration with the Japan Association of Corporate Executives also co-organized five seminars on doing business in Africa across Japan in June and July, to encourage businesses to invest in Africa.   

Going forward, UNDP is going to work with JETRO and JICA as well as the Japan Association of Corporate Executives to advance innovation and investment in Africa towards the achievement of the SDGs.

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