In August, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took a delegation of over 1,000 Japanese business leaders to Nairobi, where they met with 30 African heads of state. Abe was there for the sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development, which was held this year in Africa for the first time in its 23-year history. At the end of the conference, known as TICAD, Abe pledged that the Japanese public and private sectors will invest $30 billion in African counties over the next three years—a promise that highlights Japan Inc.’s growing interest in tapping the continent’s enormous potential.

With 76 memorandums of understanding signed after the conference, the Nairobi meeting marked a high point for Japanese investment in Africa. But Japan’s focus on opportunities in Africa has been growing steadily in recent years. It just went largely unnoticed—until now.

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