Japan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Toshimitsu Motegi, who is on an official visit to South Africa.
Japan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Toshimitsu Motegi, who is on an official visit to South Africa.

Important visit to SA by Japan’s foreign minister

Time of article published Dec 11, 2020

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Japan’s minister of foreign affairs, Toshimitsu Motegi, will be visiting South Africa today and tomorrow. His visit to Tunisia, Mozambique, South Africa and Mauritius is the first visit by a Japanese foreign minister to the African continent since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. This is also the first visit of a Japanese foreign minister to Africa under Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

During his visit to South Africa, Motegi will have a bilateral meeting with Naledi Pandor, the minister of international relations and co-operation. Motegi’s visit will also include a courtesy call on President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Suga follows a similar proactive African policy as that of prime minister Shinzo Abe, who was able to achieve an increase in both the quantity and quality of Japanese partnerships with Africa during the seven years and eight months of his administration. This further enhanced the process of the Tokyo International Conference of African Development (TICAD) by promoting business interactions to attract more investment by the Japanese private sector.

Thus, the main objective of this visit by Motegi is to promote business relations. While Japan has made a commitment to invest over $20 billion in Africa over the next three years during TICAD 7 last year, Japan has actually made a total investment of over $50bn in South Africa alone during the 2013-2019 period. Discussion is expected on how public and private sectors can work together to further promote investment from Japan.

As the host nation of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, Japan celebrated the Springboks’ victory. During this tournament South Africa demonstrated to the world that by working together in a positive spirit of unity and with an extensive effort almost anything can be achieved. Moreover, mutual respect between South Africa and Japan became higher than ever before, strengthening our bilateral relations considerably in 2019.

Including the Rugby World Cup final, Ramaphosa visited Japan three times last year along with TICAD 7 and the G20 Osaka Summit. During the TICAD 7 meeting in Yokohama Ramaphosa chaired a public and private joint session where more than 10 000 delegates participated and showed leadership towards the inclusive development of Africa through promoting private investment. TICAD 7 concluded with the signing of 110 memorandums of understanding with Japanese companies further strengthening their activities in Africa.

Motegi is expected to convey Japan’s strong resolve on advancing Africa’s development through the TICAD process and on a new chapter of special Japan-South Africa partnerships opened by the visits by Ramaphosa in 2019.

Although this positive trajectory of Japanese investment has been obstructed by the Covid-19 pandemic, we are encouraged to see major investment plans by Japanese companies including Toyota (R4.3bn), Nissan (R3bn rand) and Isuzu (R1.2bn), being firmly on track and expected to create more jobs and bringing new technology and other economic ripple effects through the development of suppliers. These investments will also support the economic recovery plan of South Africa. Japanese investment is long-term, human-centred with an accompanying skills transfer and knowledge component such as Kaizen to promote local productivity.

Over the years, the Japan International Co-operation Agency has trained more than 1 959 South Africans including 123 master’s and doctorate course students in Japan since 1991. Japan has made itself a focal point of investment and technology - its ongoing technical cooperation projects include; artisan training in TVET colleges, cooperation for maths curriculum development and teachers training in primary school, strengthening inter-university collaboration through the Centre for Japanese Studies, support for people with disabilities to promote inclusive development, enhancing agriculture extension services for small scale horticulture farmers, and the promotion of universal health coverage including the sharing of experience from Japan’s National Health Insurance which showed effectiveness in providing quality health care during the Covid-19 pandemic. Cooperation toward establishing one stop border posts in South Africa to promote intra-Africa trade is expected to be added to the list next year.

The two foreign ministers will discuss how to enhance the TICAD process toward TICAD 8 in 2022 and to bring new investment to South Africa.

In a broader perspective, Japan recently played a special role in reaching an agreement on regional comprehensive economic partnership with 15 countries including Japan, China, South Korea and Asean countries signed on 15th November 15, reaching one of the largest trade deals in the world. It has even opened a way for further enhancing the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. Stable and healthy development in the Indo-Pacific region has played a major role in the world economy. The sharing of the values, rule of law and other principles of the vision of the Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy is another aim of Motegi’s visit. Discussions are also expected on multilateral affairs including reform of the UN and other international institutions.

Although this is the first visit for Motegi to South Africa, he is no stranger to this region. During his tenure as minister of economy trade and industry, he hosted Japan Africa Mineral Resource Minister’s meeting in 2013 in Japan, co-hosted by South Africa, and at TICAD V he has announced to train 1 000 personnel in the area of mineral resources from Africa and also to double the JETRO offices in Africa.

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