Mark Weeks Discusses Japan's Growing Focus on Investing in Africa

Global Lawyer News | January.18.2017

Mark Weeks, leader of Orrick’s Tokyo office and co-leader of the firm’s global Japan practice, recently spoke with ALM’s Global Lawyer News regarding Japan’s growing interest in investment opportunities in Africa.

So far, much of the Japanese investment in the region has focused on infrastructure projects. However, Mark noted that greater involvement from organizations such as the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), a major financier of Japan's overseas projects, will expand the scope of interested Japanese investors beyond the infrastructure sector.

"The trend is that you are going to see companies that weren't historically investing in Africa—for example the B2C companies—starting to look at Africa," Mark said. He added that clients in the food and pharmaceuticals industries have shown interest in opportunities in Africa.

Mark also noted that some of the firm’s renewable energy clients in Japan, who have historically focused on wind farms and solar projects in Western Europe, are now looking at places such as Morocco and also West Africa for possible investment opportunities.

"It's going to take a while for the level of Japanese investments in Africa to ramp up to levels similar to those in Southeast Asia, which is closer geographically and culturally to Japan," said Mark. "But Japan demographically has a declining [and aging] population; the middle class is not getting larger. Companies have to go out."

While Orrick boasts an affiliated office in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire and an office in Tokyo, Mark noted that Orrick’s Japan-to-Africa work involves partners in the firm’s offices across the globe. The head of the firm’s Africa practice, Pascal Agboyibor, is based in Paris, and Paris partners George Rigo, Simon Ratledge and Jean-Pierre Martel and London partners Colin Graham and Shawn Atkinson are all active in both Japan- and Africa-related matters.