22 SEPTEMBER 2015
HYATT REGENCY, JOHANNESBURG
Ambassador of Japan to South Africa, His Excellency Mr Shigeyuki Hiroki,
Chairman of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industries in South Africa, Mr Sachio Kaneki,
Executive Director of JETRO in Johannesburg, Mr Kimihiko Inaba,
Leaders of government, business and labour,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honour and privilege to address this important gathering, the 3rd Japan Seminar organised here in South Africa.
It is a distinct pleasure for me, having recently returned from a visit to Japan, where I was inspired by Japan’s economic and social achievements.
I returned from that visit enthused and excited about the opportunities for collaboration between our two countries.
I wish to commend the Japanese Embassy, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industries in South Africa and the Japan External Trade Organisation – JETRO – for organising this seminar.
We always look forward to engagements with our Japanese counterparts because we always learn something.
The most recent meeting of our two countries, at the Brighton Community Stadium on Saturday, was no exception.
We were taught a lesson.
I wish to congratulate the Japanese national rugby team for its deserved win against the Springboks at the Rugby World Cup.
This gathering today presents another opportunity for our two countries to get better at getting better in achieving our respective and shared developmental aspirations.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The focus of this seminar on building industrial clusters, human resource development and the contribution of Japan companies to our economy is critical.
Last month, during our working visit to Japan, we were able to meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other senior leaders, who affirmed Japan’s commitment to our country’s development trajectory.
Among those we met was the Executive President of JETRO, Mr Satoshi Miyamoto.
The Japan External Trade Organisation is a crucial platform for building trade and investment relations between our country and continent and the private sector in Japan.
This relationship is built on what Mr Miyamoto refers to as the dual principles of ‘African ownership and international partnership’.
Through the Tokyo International Conference on African Development – or TICAD – process, South Africa is ideally placed as a gateway for Japanese investors wishing to venture into the continent.
We were heartened by the optimism of Japan’s leaders about the prospects for our country and continent.
It is instructive that business leaders from Japan, China and other countries who have witnessed some the greatest feats of rapid industrialisation in the last century, believe that South Africa has the potential to pursue a similar path.
They see promise in this country.
They see opportunity.
We were heartened by the words of the Senior Vice-President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, Mr Hideaki Domichi, who said that Japan is convinced that new types of innovation will come from this part of the world.
When we were in Japan, we had an opportunity to explain to Japanese business leaders under the auspices of Keidanren that our National Development Plan outlines an ambitious programme for fundamental economic and social transformation.
As our vision to 2030, the NDP aims to grow our economy at a far greater rate and decisively address underdevelopment, poverty, unemployment and inequality.
The NDP has been translated into the Medium-Term Strategic Framework, which outlines the priorities and actions for the five-year term of this government.
Earlier this year, President Jacob Zuma outlined nine immediate priority areas to stimulate growth.
These include greater beneficiation of our mineral wealth, more effective implementation of our Industrial Policy Action Plan, resolving the energy challenge, and unlocking the potential of small businesses.
They also include revitalisation of the agriculture and agro-processing value chain, developing the ocean economy, and encouraging private sector investment.
Other areas include steps to address work place conflict, the reform of state owned companies, and the roll-out of critical social and economic infrastructure.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Industrialisation and skills development have been identified as key drivers of our economic growth.
As a country rich in commodities, we plan to move towards large-scale beneficiation of our natural resources.
This will enable us to derive greater value from these resources, creating jobs, stimulating investment and diversifying our exports.
We are therefore keen to collaborate with Japan in the area of hydrogen fuel cell technology.
Japan is currently a leader in cutting-edge hydrogen technology and holds the largest share of patents in this field.
This technology holds the promise of a cleaner, more sustainable future.
South Africa has a significant potential competitive advantage in developing hydrogen fuel cell technologies since our country is endowed with considerable deposits of platinum, a key catalytic material used in fuel cells.
Japan also has a huge role to play in the development of South Africa’s capabilities with respect to marine transport, ports management and engineering, offshore oil and gas exploration, and aquaculture.
We are working to expand our cooperation in the food value chain to include fisheries and forestry.
Japan is currently involved in implementing capacity building and training projects. The Smallholder Horticulture Empowerment Project, for example, has implemented training in Japan for agricultural experts from South Africa.
We know that South Africa’s competitive success must be supported and sustained by an investment in human resource development.
It is for this reason that education is an apex priority of our government.
Japan is a valuable partner in the work we are doing to educate and skill our people.
We look to Japan to share with us innovative ways of attracting and keeping young people in the fields of maths and science.
We are grateful to the Japan International Cooperation Agency for advising our Department of Basic Education on promoting education in mathematics.
The Agency has also sent 20 volunteers to South Africa, approximately half of whom are teaching mathematics and computer technology in Technical Vocational Education and Training colleges.
It has been part of the ‘Employability Improvement’ training programme at the Tshwane University of Technology, which has now been expanded to other universities of technology in the country.
I understand that, based on this experience, Japan is considering establishing a ‘TICAD Human Resource Development Centre for Business and Industry’ in South Africa.
As part of the African Business Education Initiative for the Youth announced under TICAD 5, Japan plans to train 100 young South Africans by the end of 2016 for Master’s degrees at Japanese universities, in conjunction with internships at Japanese businesses.
South Africa and Japan are cooperating on joint research projects like the production of biofuels using algal biomass, early warning systems for infectious diseases, mitigation of seismic risks at our mines and climate predictions.
All of these initiatives demonstrate the unwavering commitment of the Japanese government and business community to support South Africa’s development.
Japan remains an important trading partner for our country and our people.
It is also an important partner in development.
The business environment in South Africa is stable, vibrant and conducive to increased trade and investment.
There are more than 130 Japanese companies in South Africa.
They provide employment to approximately 150,000 people.
They contribute to skills development, technology transfer and improved livelihoods.
They are leading the way.
We encourage others to follow.
I thank you.