Ms. Akie Abe


So TICAD VI, multi-lateral conference between Japan and African countries just completed. As a participant of the official side event, Japan Fair expo organized by JETRO, we were generally excited to showcase our work as the only design company along with other 100 (mostly-established) Japanese companies. I also participated in another side event, the business conference that took place in the same venue. As a non-delegate person who were obviously out of the official diplomatic conversation and MoUs, I just want to share 3 points from my experience and observations through my eyes:

  1. Different definitions of Africa’s future
  2. Africa’s ownership versus Japan’s leadership
  3. Elitism, exclusivity, and entrepreneurship

First, it seemed that there was quite a huge gap between people who are already been involved in African businesses and those who are here for the first time regarding how they see the market here. This could just be obvious, but also showed that how there was a gap between the information you get inside and outside Africa. What was distinctive was that the former group of people has a commitment in African right in a specific field or industry as opposed to the latter talks about Africa’s broad opportunities… For us, we still see creative sectors are our opportunities and related industries that we want to research more are textile/garment industries that no one seemed to be talking about. We focus on creative sectors because that where 0 to 1 innovation happens, and this leads to the competitiveness of the economy.

Second, I felt that the challenge moving forward for foreign (Japanese) companies including ours to do business in the continent would be how we balance African ownership versus Japanese leadership. I kept hearing the word partnership here and there, but how does that look like for each business? For us, Africa’s perspective has to be the forefront. That is why it is important for me to position myself as a bridge between Africa and the rest of the world (not necessarily just Japan), and to leverage skills, ideas, and creativity of Africans. At the booth, I generally tried to have dialogues led by Africans and let Africans talk amongst each other.

Third, just as I feel at any kinds of large events with lots of VIPs, I felt the entire thing was about a reunion of elites, which was not necessarily a bad thing, but I sometimes felt something was missing. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see entrepreneurs inside the red taped zones. Some of the most creative, entrepreneurial, and talented people were the ones I met at the Massai Market zone where vendors were sort of pushed away outside the exhibitor pavilion. I understand the security concerns, but I really think that they should have been inside the pavilion…

Putting all the negatives and challenges aside, we were glad that TICAD VI was actually held in the African continent, and we definitely feel really positive about setting up a Nairobi office soon!!!

TICAD6が閉幕しました。ジェトロ主催のJapan Fairの出展企業として、100社(多くは大企業)の会社とともに、唯一のデザイン会社として我々のコンセプト・プロダクトを紹介できたのは非常に有意義な経験でした。また、同時に開催されていたビジネス会議の一部にも参加することができました。もちろん本会議に参加していた代表団ではないのですが、その場にいた1参加者として私なりの経験や考察に基づいたことを3つ共有します。

  1. アフリカの未来に関する異なる定義
  2. アフリカのオーナーシップと日本のリーダーシップ
  3. エリート、特権、起業




少しネガティブな見解が多くなってしまいましたが、全体としては、そもそもTICAD VIがアフリカ開催されたことは非常に有意義だったと思います。我々としても、今回協力してくれたABEイニシアティブで留学中のMBA生などとも連携して、ナイロビオフィスを設置する準備を進めていきたいと強く感じました!



デザイナー、Mpho [ムポ]



Mpho Muendane, a U.S-born Mozambican-Zambian-Tanzanian-South African, is the Creative Director of Maki & Mpho and an award-winning textile designer.  She was born to refugee parents in Manchester, NH and when she was 13 she moved to South Africa with her family.  She recently returned to the U.S. as a newly appointed adjunct lecturer in Fashion and Sustainability at Southern New Hampshire University.

Her role as an artist is whereby African arts have equal importance to non-African arts on a global spectrum. And her approach to this is by means of hybrid modernity and that is not to create or recreate primitive arts and design but to infuse contemporary culture with the presence and the past.

She believes that building a globally-successful brand and business with her textile arts can inspire other Africans to be creative, to be entrepreneurial, to be motivated and most importantly to be proud of their own heritage. She also hopes to inspire non-Africans: She wants to excite and surprise Africans and non-Africans around the world through her bold and vibrant designs, which are reflective of Africa’s rich and diverse culture.

Our brand strives to become a role model of the African renaissance and the driver of the empowerment of creators and entrepreneurs in the African continents.

Maki & MphoのCreative Directorであるムポは、モザンビーク、ザンビア、タンザニア、南アフリカのクオーターで、様々な受賞経験をもつテキスタイルデザイナーです。アパルトヘイト時代、南アフリカからの難民として渡米した両親のもと米国で生まれ、13歳で南アフリカに家族で帰国後、現地でデザインやテキスタイル技術のマスターコースを卒業。グラフィックデザイナーとしての勤務経験、テキスタイルデザイナーとしての実務経験や受賞経験をもち、2013年に、米国南ニューハンプシャー大学での非常勤講師として教鞭をとり、それ以降、米国東海岸を拠点としています。





FullSizeRender (6)


I was in Shanghai recently. It was a brief visit just to get some market vibes, but I really felt the energy that I wouldn’t get in Tokyo. Those vibes and energy reminded me how I got interested in understanding more about Africa’s development: Observing China’s change back in 2006-07 when I lived in Shanghai was one of factors why.

I was working in Shanghai as a consultant. It was my first time traveling to China. That time was right before Olympics and Expo so Shanghai was in the middle of fast changes. I would walk down the streets every morning to my client’s office experiencing the street vibes, scrap and build cycles of shops, new buildings emerging, and new subway lines being contracted at a quick pace. And most importantly, I felt the energy from the people – that hustling energy.

And almost after 10 years, I just saw Shanghai again. While China’s growth rate went down, I still felt the similar vibes and energy, but there are also many signs of prosperities and the peacefulness that comes from the successful economic development.

Then I thought of Nairobi. Nairobi and other African cities will continue to change and become more prosperous. People there and their energy can drive change. I shall be one of the witnesses.





ケニアTICAD6 ジャパンフェアに出ます!

TICAD VI Japan Fair


In 2 weeks, one of the most anticipated events that signify the relationship between Japan and African countries begins: TICAD VI – The Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) Summit will be held at Kenyatta International Convention Center in Nairobi, Kenya on 27th -28th August 2016.

And during TICAD VI, JETRO is organizing a Japan Fair (trade expo) as an official side event that takes place at the same venue where 100 Japanese companies are participating to showcase their products and services to government officials, industry professionals, and media of Japan and African countries.

While many companies are large and established companies, we also decide to take this opportunity to join the Japan Fair together with a Hyogo-based design company. It is exciting because this TICAD is the one that will happen in the African continent for the first time. I always love the opportunity like this – I also went to the World Cup in South Africa the first World Cup held in the African continent. It is also important for us to be present at the event because we believe that establishing strong creative economy can also contribute to many African countries to prosper and build competitiveness. Africa’s creativity can strengthen Africa’s nation branding as well. We are really excited for the opportunity to build a new kind of diplomatic relationship with Africans at the event!

あと2週間で、日本とアフリカ各国の関係を物語る上でとても期待されているイベントである、TICAD VI、第6回日本アフリカ開発会議が、8/27-28の期間ケニヤのナイロビのケニヤッタ国際会議場で開催されます。


参加企業の多くが大企業ですが、私の会社Maki & Mphoも兵庫県ベースのデザイン会社シーラカンス食堂と共同で出展することにしました。今回はTICADが初めてのアフリカ開催ということもあり非常に楽しみです。初のアフリカ開催というのは、ちょっとワクワクします!(私は初のアフリカ開催だったワールドカップの南アフリカ大会にもいきました。)加えて、こういうイベントへの参加は結構重要視している理由があります。それはクリエイティブエコノミーの強化も、アフリカの経済繁栄と競争力の強化につながるものだと信じているからです。アフリカの創造性は、アフリカの国のブランディングの強化にも影響します。TICADのジャパンフェアでどんな新たな外交的関係が構築できるか、非常に楽しみです。




I was in Miyagi and Iwate for the first time after the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami. It was completely a private trip that I had to take due my family’s plan, but I had this weird feeling that “I have to DO SOMETHING.”

I always have a self-conflicting moment wherever I have this feeling. A philanthropic and altruistic self is on this suddenly-emerging unknown mission to “help” people who are still recovering from various challenges aftermath the earthquake. On the other hand, rather sarcastic and practical self is hating my other self “trying to help.”

I am quite familiar with this feeling. Since I began to be aware of the professional field of international development (probably in high school), I’ve always had this feeling that I want to do something to address challenges in less developed countries especially when the motif of action comes out of sympathy. And I do not like it because sympathy does not last. Sympathy is not sustainable.

One thing that I am absolutely confident about my business Maki & Mpho is that this will sustain at least so long as founders live. It will sustain not because of our business model, because such thing will change, but because our premise is about creating more happiness rather than mitigating sadness or misery.

We focus on creativity and multiply that positive energy to bring social, economic, and cultural prosperity. We focus on entrepreneurs who already see the positive side of things because we believe that is more effective and efficient. We want to create a model that is similar to what Endeavor does: They focus on high-impacting entrepreneurs who are already making a difference to multiply the impact.

I personally focus on and work with African creators and innovators to share more positive stories from the African continent. I focus on the positive side not because I don’t see any problems but I believe that positive stories can bring a virtuous cycle to attract more people, capital, and other resources to the African continent.




今取り組んでいるMaki & Mphoのビジネスに関して、一つ確信をもっていえるのは、我々創業者が生き続ける限り継続性があるということです。ビジネスモデルなどは変化に対応していくので、それは本質でなく、アフリカビジネスにおける前提的なコンセプトが、それを可能にすると考えています。つまり、私たちは悲しみや困難の解決ではなく、幸福感の増大に焦点をおいていることが重要なのです。






I believe that the bright future of the African continent is summarized into one word: Leapfrog. It is not just The Economist that talked about Africa as “The leapfrog continent“: I came across a number of examples where African innovators do leapfrog when I was researching emerging market businesses in the grad school in the US.

The leading example is the mobile phone technology. According to GSMA Intelligence, the unique mobile penetration rate in African as of 2015 is 46% and is expected to grow by 54% by 2020. You may think that the rate could be higher, but the power of mobile phones is beyond communication: Mobile phone technology is delivering financial inclusion to the unbanked populations in 42 countries in Africa via 157 service providers as of June 2016 according to the same source. This means that some Africans can go directly from cash transaction to mobile money by leveraging the latest and affordable technology.

Leapfrogging, I believe, can apply to Africa’s creative class as well. By leveraging the latest and affordable technologies such as digital printing, social media, and internet (yeap, no more capital I), Africans can realize their creative ideas without much infrastructure or can easily access to infrastructure elsewhere.

Africa may still luck key infrastructures to address basic human needs, but by means of leapfrogging, I believe that Africans can rather quickly build globally-competitive businesses. And that’s what I’m trying to realize with Mpho and fellow African creators, and that’s why it is absolutely crucial for us to create an African business that is born global.








The African Renaissance: It is time for Africans to take ownership of their own culture and bring it to the global audience.

This is the fundamental philosophy of my business partner, Mpho Muendane. Often portrayed as the last frontier, some people see the African continent as the place where things are lacking. But it is not necessarily true.

Africa is about abundance. It is about richness. That’s what Mpho wants to show to the world using her artwork. And more importantly, it is not just her who wants to do that – there are many creators who are expressing their voices to show the world the richness and diversity of the African culture.

Here’s a website where you can browse some of them! Enjoy!!!






Textile Afrika_Maki & Mpho

So let me start with WHY I do what I do.
I want to help people see Africa differently.

In order to do so, I focus on creators who can tell the stories of Africa’s modernity and its diverse culture using their creativity, art, design, and other forms of expression.

Together with African creators, I build a globally-competitive design brand that champions Africa’s creative talents and inspires the global audience.

I don’t help Africans. Africans don’t need help.
The world needs help from Africa to get inspired, educated, and excited.

Our company, Maki & Mpho, is just another catalyst, amongst others, to make it happen.
Let’s work together to make it happen!





私たちMaki & Mphoは、そういった未来の実現のための、いちプレーヤーにすぎませんが、皆様ぜひ一緒に、アフリカ、日本、そして世界のわくわくするような未来を実現していきましょう!



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