Aiming to Form a Bridge between Africa and Japan

Ethiopian Government Offi cial Experiences Business in "Textile Town Semba"

/Ethiopian Investment Commission (EIC) JICA "ABE Initiative" Trainee Mesay Woldesemayat Ejara

 The JICA "ABE Initiative" program invites young people who will play a role in Africa's future to Japan and provides them with the opportunity to obtain a master's degree at a Japanese university and to participate in an internship at a Japanese company. Mesay Woldesemayat Ejara is from Ethiopia and carries the expectations of his country. He graduated from the Kansai University Graduate School of Law with this program and is currently in an internship at a well-established apparel manufacturer where a graduate of Kansai University is the company representative.

Experience Japanese Culture and Explore the Possibilities of Trade with the Home Country

 "Before coming to Japan, I had heard the reputation of Japanese people that they are punctual, earnest, hardworking, sincere and well-disciplined. After actually working in a Japanese company, I have experienced those characteristics fi rsthand. This is not a culture unique to companies or organizations. It is the culture of Japanese society as a whole. I respect it greatly."

 At the headquarters building of Matsuo Co., Ltd., which is located near the Semba Center Building in Chuo Ward, Osaka City, Mesay Woldesemayat Ejara spoke about his feelings so far regarding Japanese people and Japanese companies.

 Mesay came to Japan from Ethiopia in September 2018, under the "Master's Degree and Intership Program of African Business Education Initiative for Youth (ABE Initiative)" offered by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Ethiopia is Africa's oldest independent country. It is famous for producing arabica coffee beans, but the textile and apparel industry is also one of the major industries in the country. UNIQLO has set up its fi rst production base in Africa there, and due to sustained economic growth for more than a decade, the country is attracting the attention of major apparel manufacturers from around the world.

 After completing the research student and master's course curriculum at Kansai University, he began a six-month internship at Matsuo Co., Ltd., from March 25 to learn about the latest developments in the apparel field. However, in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, there was a request from JICA, and the internship basically became remote working from the very beginning. He hasn't had many opportunities to meet other employees yet, but he has fitted into the workplace without feeling uncomfortable.

 The theme assigned to him by President Ryuji Matsuo during the remote working is to propose what kind of business relationship Ethiopia and Matsuo Co., Ltd. can build in the future. Although there are many restrictions due to the coronavirus crisis, Mesay has been in contact with Ethiopia and working on proposals for the project in a way that only he could.


Kansai University Offered the Studies Required

 After graduating from the School of Law at the prestigious BahirDar University in Ethiopia, Mesay worked at the Addis Ababa city Administration Justice Bureau. Since 2014, he has joined Ethiopian Investment Commission (EIC) and belonged to the department in charge of negotiating international investment agreements and treaties. He has been involved in bilateral investment treaty negotiations between Ethiopia and other nations. Among others, he had the experience of negotiating with the representative of Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. One important mission during the negotiation was to ensure Ethiopian interests whilst promoting and attracting investment from other countries, so that it contributes to the development of Ethiopia. Mesay got the opportunity to study abroad by applying the recruitment for "ABE Initiative" program at his work place. Before coming to Japan, he went to China for short term training through development assistance program, China has strong economic ties with Ethiopia.

In a bilateral investment agreement negotiation with the UAE when he was in Ethiopian government bureaucracy

 Japan's ABE Initiative is highly competitive due to the small number of people accepted and the fact that applications are received from all over Africa. However, Mesay decided to come Japan despite this and applied for the Kansai University Graduate School of Law. This was because he believed that studying at Kansai University would make it possible to conduct research in the fi eld of law that matched his own awareness of the problems.

 Mesay was selected as a trainee as he wished, and after attending Kansai University as a research student for six months, he passed the entrance examination for graduate school and entered the Graduate School of Law. He researched intellectual property law and corporate legal affairs on the "International Cooperation Course," which offers all subjects in English for JICA programs and government-sponsored international students. He published the results of two years of research as his master's thesis "Ethiopia's Accession to WTO/TRIPS and the Protection of Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge: A Study of the Legal and Regulatory Framework of Ethiopia." During his studies, Mesay chose to live in the Kansai University International Dormitory (KUID) and spent his time with students of Kansai University. The dormitory houses not only foreign students, but also Japanese students who support the daily lives of the international students as Resident Assistants (RA). "If I had a problem, such as at a hospital or regarding shopping, I could always consult with RA and get help. Although things were interrupted by the coronavirus disaster, there were various exchange events in the dormitory that enabled me to deepen my friendship with international students from other countries and Japanese students. I was also very grateful to the University communities as a whole and staff members of Law and Politics department in particular for the kind guidance and support in the university life as I had the language barrier communicating in Japanese ."

With Masahiro Takasaku, Dean of the Graduate School of Law (at that time), and Professor Mika Yamana

 Professor Mika Yamana of the Faculty of Law, who was his instructor, recalled the enthusiastic attitude of Mesay, saying that, "Mesay was an ambitious and inquisitive student. He also actively asked questions about things outside of his research field, such as regarding the Japanese constitution, politics and religion. Such international students are rare. He must have wanted to understand everything down to the fundamentals of Japanese culture and the mentality of the Japanese people."

At a Osakasayama Danjiri festival with his friends

To Japanese Businesspeople: Don't Be Afraid of Risks

 It has already been decided that Mesay will return to work at the Ethiopian Investment Commission after he returns to Ethiopia. Mesay says of his future that, "I would like to use my experience studying overseas on the ABE program to play a role in connecting Japan and Ethiopia."

 "I feel that Japan has a well-established system in every field. Transportation infrastructure is a good example of this. It is designed not only for transportation, but also so that everything moves effi ciently. The city is kept clean, and it is safe enough to walk alone at night, and these things are maintained without diffi culty. I found this surprising and very impressive. In addition to its technology, Japan is also a country with a wonderful culture. I would like to see these good qualities of Japan spread around the world.

 There are great opportunities in Africa, including in my home country of Ethiopia. I hope that the Japanese industry and business community will not be afraid of risks and will consider taking advantage of these opportunities." As he looked straight ahead as he talked, it seemed that he could already see a vision of his future connecting Japan and Ethiopia.

The Possibilities for Japan and Ethiopia Linked by Connections with Kansai University "The presence of Mesay is good stimulation for the company"

 /MATSUO CO.,LTD President Ryuji Matsuo (Graduated from Faculty of Economics in 1989)


 Actually, I didn't know anything about the JICA program until Professor Yamana consulted me and asked if I could cooperate, because all the companies that had announced their intention to accept internships had stopped accepting them due to the coronavirus crisis. However, since it was a consultation from a teacher at my alma mater, and this was also a chance, I accepted it because I thought it sounded interesting.

 Mesay is a nice young man. None of the employees are particularly confi dent in their language ability, including myself, and at fi rst, we were a little nervous when we approached him. However, everybody soon opened up and I think his presence has been a good stimulus for the company.

 At present, our company is an apparel group that consists of four companies. We are mainly engaged in the OEM manufacturing of apparel for women and children, the manufacturing, wholesale and shop management for own-brand products, and trade and distribution mainly in China. I wanted to take advantage of our company's network, which stretches from the upstream parts to the downstream parts of the apparel industry, and to show him around various sites so that he could broaden his knowledge and experience. However, this has unfortunately not been possible due to the coronavirus crisis.

 Instead, I fi rst got him to investigate if there were any products that Ethiopia could sell to Japan and, conversely, if there were any products that Ethiopia was looking for. I have decided on the contents of the internship program in consultation with Professor Yamana and the Ethiopian Embassy in Japan, and we have him engaged in the work of our company. It would be great if we could realize some trade with Ethiopia while Mesay is working here, even if it is just something worth 10,000 yen.

 The business of our company is becoming diffi cult to maintain with a sole concentration on China. African countries have great potential as both producers and consumers. I hope that in the near future, when Japanese companies aim to enter the market in Ethiopia, Mesay will play an active role as a very capable contact person.

With the staff of Matsuo Co., Ltd.
Message from Mesay

Source:KANSAI UNIVERSITY NEWS LETTER『Reed』No.66(September,2021)