Message from the Founder

As a lawyer and strategic advisor in the international field for nearly 30 years, I have had the privilege of leading successful businesses in more than 100 countries, supported by a team that is trusted by top Japanese and international companies, as well as local governments.  In particular, I was stationed in Cairo more than 10 years ago, and through my business experience in various countries in the Middle East and Africa, I saw the potential and energy of the region.  Ever since, I have been exerting efforts to encourage more investment towards the region.

 

Why Japan, the Middle East and Africa?

As an advisor to the embassies of the Middle East and Africa, I have had the opportunity over the past ten years to see the needs and challenges of these countries from a local perspective. In the Middle East and Africa, everyday life is full of challenges, and trying to solve these challenges in and of itself is creating businesses.  This is in contrast to Japan, where the relative affluence of the people makes it difficult for them to find business opportunities and to innovate.

At ZENMONDO, we believe that innovation is the key to solving social issues in Japan, the Middle East and Africa.  Japan is facing the challenges of a “lost 30 years” and “declining international competitiveness”, whilst the Middle East needs to “break free from oil dependency and develop next-generation industries”, and Africa is experiencing a “leapfrogging phenomenon due to the still developing local infrastructure”.  Although the three regions are very different in terms of resource wealth, social maturity and challenges, they are in a win-win situation, complementing each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

 

How ZENMONDO was set up

Through our profession, we have seen a lot of risk behind our clients’ successes. It is our job to face the challenges, unravel the complexities of the facts and find solutions.  In order to produce as many companies as possible that can face risks and find opportunities within them, we have decided to launch a “Global Innovation Ecosystem” with the mission of finding solutions to social issues in Japan, the Middle East and Africa, with the aspiration of “challenging a world without answers” – as embodied by the name ZENMONDO.  We were fortunate to receive the support of the then Egyptian and UAE Ambassadors to Tokyo, and in July 2018, we held a reception with both embassies to celebrate our founding.

 

What ZENMONDO Ecosystem aims to achieve

Today, the world is entering an era of uncertainty and challenges are becoming more complex. There is only so much that an individual or an organization can do on its own.  There is a need for like-minded members from government, academia, business, venture companies and experts, regardless of industry or nationality, to work together to solve problems and create value as a whole by bringing together technology, know-how and knowledge in their areas of expertise.

To pursue this, ZENMONDO will connect startups from Japan, Middle East and Africa, large Japanese companies and investors from Middle East and Africa through an “ecosystem” consisting of (1) Like-Minded Community, (2) Dojo Academy and (3) Investment Fund through open innovation.  Our vision is to “build a bridge of innovation” between Japan, the Middle East and Africa by nurturing the next generation of leaders and creating businesses with growth potential.

 

Why now is the best time

The situation in the Middle East and Africa has changed remarkably over the last decade or so.  It is similar to the stage of the times in South East Asia about 30 years ago (when I was stationed there), which has developed faster than we could have imagined.  The global market is becoming a “red ocean” – a highly competitive market – with money and talent concentrated on innovation in developed and emerging countries.  ZENMONDO, with its unique ecosystem strategy, can become a pioneer in the Middle East and Africa, the last remaining “blue ocean” in the world, by leveraging the financial power of the Middle East and the technical capabilities and human resources of Japan.

 

Japan’s role to play

As a resource-poor country, Japan has developed by focusing on technology, organization and human resource development.  Now, as the world seeks sustainable growth under the SDGs, the know-how that Japan has developed over many years is sought after.  In the Middle East and Africa, where there are many pro-Japanese people, ZENMONDO aims to find the seeds of innovation from local business needs, create businesses in fields where Japan is strong, and pursue both economic and social returns with our business partners.  ZENMONDO aims to “connect the world, create the future, and unify our spirit”.

HISTORY

Members (Advisers)

H.E. Ayman Kamel

Ambassador-Designate of Egypt to Japan

・In addition to his current position as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Arab Republic of Egypt to Japan, he has also served as Consul-General in Sydney (Australia) and Deputy Ambassador in Amman (Jordan).

・He has more than 32 years of public service as a diplomat and in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and has been involved in various Egyptian missions abroad, as well as in important international conferences on interfaith dialogue and regional development.

・He has also been involved in volunteering for charity organizations including the International Red Cross.

Comments:
I would like to express my respect and gratitude for this breakthrough initiative which means so much to us in the Middle East and Africa region, and I am delighted to have been involved in the early stages of its launch and to share my thoughts with its members. I believe it will make a significant contribution to raising awareness of the Middle East and African countries through reliable and fair information, news, advice and sharing of mutual experiences. I wish ZENMONDO success in its important role of social and cultural exchange between the Middle East and Africa region and Japan and I am honored to be associated with its activities.

Mieko Ikegame

Special Advisor to AUDA-NEPAD President,
visiting professor at Yokohama City University,
visiting lecturer at the University of Tokyo, etc.

・She has worked for the United Nations for 33 years (United Nations Secretariat, United Nations Development Program, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Food Program of the United Nations) and is currently a special advisor to the AUDA-NEPAD President, visiting professor at Yokohama City University, visiting lecturer at the University of Tokyo, representative of the Japan Association of Friends of the United Nations in New York, advisor to the Africa Society, informal advisor to the Africa Committee Council of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives, and judge for the Japan Africa Entrepreneurship Consortium.

Comments:
The days of Africa being far away are long gone. When the world’s population reaches 10 billion, Africa’s population will be 4.7 billion, according to the United Nations Demographic Division. This means that the political and economic center of the world will soon be shifted to Africa. The African continent is rich in natural resources and agricultural land. On top of that, it has a dynamic labor force, with over 70% of the population under the age of 25. At least one in two people has a cellular phone, and mobile banking is a pervasive part of their lives. The middle class also accounts for more than a third of the population, and their purchasing power has increased significantly. If you firmly grasp this situation, you will realize that Africa is the future of the world. Africa is the key to future markets and business expansion.

Kazuo Nishitani

Executive Director, Japan Committee, International Chamber of Commerce

・He has worked for the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) for many years and is responsible for international business promotion, promotion of private economic diplomacy, support for overseas business expansion and dispatch of overseas inspection missions.

・He is also currently the Executive Director of the International Chamber of Commerce Japan (ICC JAPAN).

Comments
It is a great pleasure to be a part of the ZENMONDO team. I hope to provide you with timely information and expertise to help you solve your questions and challenges.

Masayuki Tamagawa

Specially Appointed Professor, Kogakuin University

・After joining the Ministry of Finance in 1981, he worked in the Securities Bureau, the Customs Bureau, the Financial Planning Bureau, the National Tax Agency (NTA), the Middle East and Africa Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Permanent Mission of Japan to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). He retired in 2016 after serving in numerous positions, including Deputy Director at International Monetary Fund (IMF), International Affairs Division Manager / Planning Division Manager at NTA, Sapporo National Tax Bureau Director, Director of Budget / Personnel / Management Systems Bureau at Asian Development Bank (ADB), the first Asian Representative Office Director at , African Development Bank, etc.

・He is currently a Specially Appointed professor at Kogakuin University, where he lectures on “Introduction to Japanese Economic Analysis” and “Basic Knowledge of Business Management” and is also the managing director of the school.

Comments:
I hope that ZENMONDO will become a place for exchange and mutual empowerment of people who are involved in SDG and economic and social development projects in Africa and the Middle East.

Masanobu Taniguchi

Professor, Professional Graduate School of Global and Community Management, University of Fukui

・He worked for Mitsui & Co., Ltd. for many years, retiring in March 2019. During his tenure at the trading company, he experienced in sales role in the textile, consumer goods and healthcare sectors.

・He has lived in four countries (Singapore, Indonesia, Egypt and Malaysia), and during his time in Egypt he was the Vice Chairman and later Chairman of the Japanese Association in Cairo, where he experienced the social turmoil of the Arab Spring and the subsequent coup d’état in Cairo, including the ouster of the President.

・He is currently a professor at the Professional Graduate School of Global and Community Management, University of Fukui, where he is engaged in educational activities leveraging his experiences.

Comments:
The Middle East and Africa is a region that is not well known due to lack of knowledge and information about Islam, but it has a lot of potential and is attracting attention as a region with a rapidly growing population. I would like to discuss with you how we can develop and expand our business in this region.

Susumu Tsubaki

AAIC Director, CEO

・As a Partner and Managing Director of the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), he has been involved in business strategy, M&A strategy, new business start-ups, and globalization projects in the high-tech, telecommunications, internet, media contents, and healthcare sectors. In 2006, he was appointed as President of a listed company. In 2008, he founded Asia Africa Investments and Consulting (AAIC), where he is currently the President and Representative Partner. In addition to providing consulting services in emerging markets, including new business development, M&A and partner search support, he established Japan’s first fund dedicated to Africa in 2014, and is currently managing a second fund. He is a professor at Business Breakthrough University and the Graduate School of Business Administration (MBA) at Business Breakthrough University.

Comments:
The future of Japan lies abroad. Japan’s domestic market will begin to shrink drastically due to the rapid decline in population. Japan’s future lies overseas, particularly in the emerging economies of Asia, the Middle East and Africa where growth is expected.
The key to realizing this is to create a human resources that can thrive in these countries. Please join ZENMONDO to learn the necessary skills, know-how and experiences from ZENMONDO advisors, mentors, and team members. We look forward to working with you in the emerging countries!

Yasumitsu Himeno

Baryon Partners, CEO

・Prior to establishing Baryon Partners, where he acts as the CEO, he has nearly 30 years of experience in starting up new businesses for a wide range of companies, from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to large corporations, including strategic planning, hiring, budgeting, financing, obtaining permits and approvals, and risk management. He has also worked in business investment and finance in emerging markets. He has also worked for the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) at World Bank Group, Morgan Stanley (energy), Nissho Iwai (machinery and plant business) and other companies. He is currently establishing an investment company, Centrix Group Ltd. in Seychelles, investing in three businesses in Africa: Rwanda, Tanzania and Namibia.

Comments:
I hope that we can help even more Japanese companies and entrepreneurs to be active in the Middle East and Africa. I take the utmost pleasure in supporting people, regardless of gender and age, who are willing to take on new challenges, by investing and sharing experiences. We know that even if a business is small at first, the experience of a success is invaluable. Let’s give it a go.

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