Africa underestimating the size of Japanese wallets, says Imara CEO

While Africa is focusing on attracting investment from China and India, the continent is in danger of neglecting an important investor – Japan.

Mark Tunmer

So says Mark Tunmer, CEO of pan-African financial services firm Imara. According to Tunmer, Japanese companies are currently on an international buying spree.

He says that the Indo-China obsession is understandable, as companies from these countries constantly make headlines as buyers of African assets.

“But Japanese buying activity also warrants attention … Africa seems to underestimate the strength of Japanese companies and the size of their wallets,” explains Tunmer.

Japanese companies reportedly sit on more than US$2.6 trillion in cash. Some recent potential and completed deals initiated by Japanese companies include:

  • According to reports, Takeda Pharmaceutical is looking at a major acquisition in Brazil.
  • Astellas Pharma, another Japanese drug company, has already bought OSI Pharmaceuticals in the United States for $4 billion.
  • Last year, Tomy Co. (maker of Pokemon toys) bought US toymaker RC2 for $640 million.
  • Marubeni Corp (a Japanese trading house) is finalising a deal to buy Gavilon Group (a Nebraska-based grain merchandiser).
  • Japan Tobacco (maker of Camel) recently agreed to buy Belgian tobacco company Gryson NV for about $595 million.

Last year How we made it in Africa reported that Tokyo-based Japan Tobacco has bought Sudanese cigarette manufacturer Haggar Cigarette & Tobacco Factory (HCTF).

Tunmer says Japanese companies are looking at international investments because its own economy is not growing and its population is ageing. “This is very good news for well-run African companies eager to grow. Africa is aware of the Indian and Chinese opportunity, but that’s no reason to let the Japanese opportunity slip,” he notes.