The Japanese African Business Initiative for Youth (ABE initiative) is a master’s degree and internship opportunity for young persons from Africa. Launched by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and introduced at the 5th Tokyo International Conference on African Development, the initiative began in 2013. It was created to develop human resources in Africa’s public and private sectors, as well as bring Africa and Japan closer together.
The ABE Initiative is open to citizens of 54 African countries. Japanese universities partner with the private sector to offer educational and internship opportunities to a total of 900 African students. Applicants must be citizens of an African nation, have a bachelor’s degree, and be between the ages of 22 and 39 years of age. Participating students travel to various universities in Japan for education. They can spend up to six months as a research student, followed by one to two years in a master’s degree program and an internship of up to six months. All communication is in English. Admission began in 2014, with a set number between 100 and 350 students enrolling each year through 2017. The latest group will be heading to Japan in the coming weeks. Last year’s group consisted of students from 33 different countries in the continent.
The goal of the project is to support growth in Africa through teaching African students. Students visiting Japan will learn valuable skills to use in industries in Africa, and also discover the nuances of Japanese society. The relationships developed will lead to a network of contributors between Japan and Africa.
African students receive the immediate benefit of scholarships from Japanese universities, including payment for living expenses, books, and clothing. Japan benefits from increased diversity in their country. In the long term, businesses in Africa will benefit from the students’ expertise. Both Japan and African countries will enjoy a mutually-beneficial relationship.
The first students started in 2014, so the long-term benefits haven’t yet come to fruition. However, some benefits are already apparent. When asked about the impact of the program, a manager from one of the corporations currently employing several interns stated, “As an African, I do appreciate the ABE Initiative because it allows more Japanese companies to know about Africa. And it gives participants the opportunity to learn about the Japanese way of doing business. . . The ABE Initiative interns have built relationships that will allow them to become bridges between Africa and Japan, both at government and private-sector levels.” Students will enter the ABE program through 2017, but it is hoped that the relationships forged will last for many years to come.