In my previous blog post, I talked about how it took forever to get the contract with South Africa’s Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) settled, and how we began. Today I want to share a bit more about the scheme.

The proposed project with the DAC is a design competition to discover and nurture emerging young textile artists in South Africa. The problem we wanted to address was that there are talented students graduating with the design degree, but these students barely have opportunities to pursue their career in the design field. Unfortunately, students are often even discouraged by their own design professors not to pursue such career.

So we work directly with the students to encourage them to keep creating and to be entrepreneurial. We had a workshop at the Textile Department of the Tshwane University of Technology where Mpho graduated from to introduce the design challenge project. There were 17 students who showed interests and Mpho went over the work of each student. Each of them has an interesting point of view. To participate in the design challenge, each student will be sending a collection of six designs which tell stories from the African perspective. And the winner (or winners) of the design challenge will have an opportunity to work with our brand and realize their design into products. We also hope to hire many talented students down the road…

For the realization and distribution partner, we identified a well-known company in South Africa that has historically been supporting local artists and designers. We cannot share the name of the company yet, but if everything works out, this will be a great platform for us to share our brand stories as well as featuring many more young artists because companies have physical stores not only in South Africa but also in other regions including Europe and North America.

Throughout these processes, we value partnerships. Like many countries that are economically rising, engaging the public sector in South Africa is inevitable. As they are often working together with large companies, schools, and other organizations, working with the public sector gives us new opportunities to partner with other players in the ecosystem. In the case of the creative sector in South Africa, DAC sponsors or supports major art and design programs including Africa’s biggest design platform Design Indaba.

So this partnership with the DAC is basically a key milestone for us to operate in South Africa and beyond!



だからこそ、私たちは大学と連携することで、そうした学生に直接アプローチをし、デザイン業界で活躍する可能性やアントレプレナー精神の醸成を目指しています。最初のアプローチとして、私のビジネスパートナーのMphoの母校であるTshwane University of Technologyのテキスタイルデザイン学科でワークショップを行いました。17名の学生が参加し、Mphoが一人一人のワークを見て回りました。それぞれの学生がユニークな視点を発信しています。デザインコンペへの参加方法は、6つのデザインで形成されるコレクションを作成し、アフリカの視点からの自身のストーリーとともに、提出することです。最終的に選ばれた学生のデザインを、私たちMaki & Mphoのカプセルコレクションとして展示や商品化の機会する予定です。将来的には、こうした優秀なデザイナーたちにMaki & Mphoチームに参画してもらいたいと思っています。


こういったプロセスにおいて、パートナーシップを非常に重視しています。いわゆる新興国市場におけるビジネスであれば同様のことが言えるかもしれませんが、南アフリカにおいて、政府機関との連携は不可欠です。政府機関は当然、現地の他の主要機関や大企業などとの連携があるため、彼らとうまくパートナーシップを組むことで、そういった他の機関との連携が可能になるためです。南アフリカのデザイン業界という文脈においては、DACは、アフリカ最大のデザインプラットフォームであるDesign Indabaを含む、アートやデザインの主要な取り組みをサポートしています。






Our key long-term mission is to create a new global market for African creators who tell stories from the African perspective mainly using surface (textile) and product design.

One can argue that entering the global design market, for example, NYC or London means that you are in the red ocean. But I would argue that promoting and selling contemporary African design is about venturing into a blue ocean because it is about sharing a new type of cultural experience.

As I go travel around the world for the past 20 years since I first traveled to the U.S., I have been noticing how Japanese food products have been expanding to the overseas’ market, and how companies have been making efforts to educate consumers as they promote their products. Consumer education takes efforts and time, but definitely, an important aspect to venturing into a blue ocean!

Now this is Africa’s turn!






A Continent of Contemporary Design!

A Continent of Contemporary Design!


The other day, I talked about the African print, but wanted to share some follow-up today as I visited the exhibition and dialogues of “Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design” yesterday in Netherlands. I have already talked about the company Vlisco, but I thought it would be worth sharing what these words they presented in the very context in Netherlands.

A key role is played by Africa’s centuries long history of colonialization and, in particular, a type of textile that erroneously became a symbol of (West) African tradition: Dutch Wax also called Ankara. In the mid-nineteenth century, several Dutch and English companies commenced industrial production of Indonesian batik fabrics, among which Vlisco soon became the market leader (and remains so to this day). How the textiles made their way to Africa is subject to dispute, yet the colourfully patterned wax prints quickly grew so popular on the continent that they never really took hold in the originally intended Dutch market. today many designers and artists make use of Dutch Wax for their creations. At the same time, an increasing number of critical voices have questioned the embrace of this colonial commodity.

In the exhibition, there are many more of sharing educational and fresh stories from African perspectives via different creations of entrepreneurs, designers, and artists. More and more people get educated through learning these stories, more opportunities Africa’s creative entrepreneurs have to grow their businesses while maintaining their cultural heritage and nurturing their pride in their African identity.





The Alchemist is a good place, but is less integrated...

The Alchemist is a good place but is less integrated…


I generally don’t stay in a hotel in Nairobi, but I stayed in one during TICAD Nairobi as Mpho and I needed a place to stay near KICC where the TICAD VI was held. And we actually did stay in a hotel in CBD where is considered not the safest place in Nairobi (don’t tell anyone!). Actually, the hotel itself was decent (value-for-money), and staff was quite friendly while I am quite certain no Japanese businessmen or diplomats had ever stayed there because of the location.

Obviously, we did all we needed to do to make sure we are safe (which is basically not walking around at night) and we were safe and all. But being in the sketchy neighborhood for several days made me think of new business ideas to create a safer neighborhood.

I am in no way professional in this area, but I believe that the keys to increasing safety in a neighborhood are increasing diversity and decreasing anonymity. In other words, an integrated community may create a more peaceful and secure neighborhood. Instead of gentrifying an area by renovating and creating buildings, we need to design a space around people who already exist there to nurture interaction among themselves.

I wonder if we can create a space, ideally, a multi-purpose creative open space that houses hotel/restaurant/coffee shop/event space/workshop space in the middle of CBD where there are already constant traffic, but no one really stays. I know few places similar to what I have in my mind is popping around the world. They are mostly accommodations but the space is open to the local community. What if Maki & Mpho can create a space like that where we can share our brand stories using multiple media while making the community safer!

As I was thinking about how we can create a space that is not just for richer locals and foreign tourists, I thought of the Hostel Village in Yokohama’s rather ghetto-like space where former day laborers on welfare are gathering. An entrepreneur, Mr. Okabe, created a hostel to bring in young people and budget tourists to the area and changed the atmosphere and environment. Together with a group of friends, I used to go there to test some projects together with Mr. Okabe to bring in more diverse people.

This idea has to be explored with my Kenyan partners…

ナイロビでは、普通はホテルには滞在しないのですが、TICAD VIの際は、会場のKICCに近いところにデザイナーとステイする必要があったので、ホテルに滞在しました。(内緒ですが)ホテルといっても、実はCBDの中でも、エリアとしてはあまり治安がよくないとされている場所にステイしていました。実際は、ホテルは悪くなく、スタッフもよく対応してくれたのですが、場所が場所なので、日本のビジネスマンや外交官は絶対に宿泊しないだろうなと思います。



ちょっと思ったのは、すでに通行人の行き来が多いけれど、そこに留まっている人は多くないようなナイロビCBDのど真ん中に、クリエイティブな空間を創れたらどうなるだろうかと妄想してみました。ホテルやカフェ、ワークスペース、SHOP、イベントスペースやワークショップなどが一体したような空間。こういったオープンなホテル的なコンセプトは、世界各地で今注目されてきているコンセプトな気がします。宿泊施設がコアですが、地域に対してオープンなようなスペースです。Maki & Mphoがナイロビでそういったコンセプト空間をプロデュースできたら、ブランドストーリーの発信拠点として活用しながら、地域の治安改善にも貢献できるのでは!?(妄想が続きます)




アフリカ連合Agenda 2063とAfDBのFashionomics

アフリカ開発銀行のFashionomics! (Fashionomics executive summaryより画像抜粋)

アフリカ開発銀行のFashionomics! (Fashionomics executive summaryより画像抜粋)


Can you imagine the world in 2063? What would the world be like half a century from now? What Africa wold look like in 2063?

Enter African Aspirations for 2063 transcribed in Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want – shared vision and priorities to build Africa that Africans want.

Here are the 7 aspirations:

1. A prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development;

2. An integrated continent, politically united, based on the ideals of Pan Africanism and the vision of Africa’s Renaissance;

3. An Africa of good governance, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law;

4. A peaceful and secure Africa;


. An Africa with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, values and ethics;

6. An Africa whose development is people-driven, relying on the potential of African people, especially its women and youth, and caring for children; and


7. Africa as a strong, united, resilient and influential global player and partner.

For us, bolded 3 topics are especially relevant. And we are not the only one who are working toward those agenda and aspirations.

At TICAD VI in Nairobi, we were fortunate enough to have a chat with Ms. Emanuela Gregorio of African Development Bank (AfDB) who is leading a new AfDB initiative called Fashionomics: Investing in the African Creative Industries, and were invited to take part in the initiative. According to AfDB’s report, “[w]ith Fashionomics, AfDB aims to invest in the fashion sector, to provide access to finance for entrepreneurs,and to incubate and accelerate startups by identifying and financing projects.” They did some pilot projects in Cote D’Ivoire and Kenya investing on some projects while building a digital database of companies and designers.

Based on my own experience, this identifying part is a really first important step. Without identifying who exist in the value chain, it is impossible to quantify the economic impact that they generate.

It is very important to note that AfDB sees a big potential in growing fashion (designing, crafts, textile & garment manufacturing, retailing and trading) industry (currently, textile/clothing industry is the second biggest industry in Africa after agriculture) for job creation, but they also believe that “[u]sing African culture and creativity as a unique selling point” is a key driver for economic growth.

We are quite excited to be part of this larger Pan-African initiative to bring African culture and creativity to the global audience!!


アフリカ連合が、アフリカ各国の独立から半世紀を経たことを機に、過去50年間を遡るとともに、未来50年間を見据えて発表したのが、Agenda 2063: 私たちが望むアフリカ。 そして、その中には、以下、7つの野望、Aspirations for 2063が明記されています。

1. 包括的な成長と、持続可能な開発に基づいた豊かなアフリカ;

2. 汎アフリカ主義と、アフリカのルネサンスというビジョンに基づいた、政治的に統一された一つのアフリカ大陸;

3. きちんとしたガバナンス、人権尊重、公平さ、法の支配の下でのアフリカ;

4. 平和で安全なアフリカ;


. ゆるぎない文化のアイデンティティ、共通のヘリテージ、価値観、倫理観をもったアフリカ;

6. 特に、女性、若者が手動となったアフリカ人の潜在性を最大限生かし、子供たちを育むような、人間中心の開発を進めるアフリカ;

7. 力強く、まとまりがあり、しなやかで、影響力のあるグローバルプレーヤーであり、パートナーとしてのアフリカ


ナイロビでの先のTICAD VI会議の場で、アフリカ開発銀行(AfDB)のエマヌエラ・グレゴリオ氏に出会うことができました。彼女は、今AfDBで、Fashionomics(Fashion + Economics)という、アフリカのクリエイティブセクターへの投資を促進させる、新しいイニシアティブを進めており、私たちもそれに参加するよう勧めてもらいました。AfDBのレポートによると、「Fashionomicsを通じて、AfDBは、ファッションセクターへの投資を拡大し、起業家への資金調達の支援を行い、関連する様々な動きを把握し、財務的なサポートをすることで、スタートアップのインキュベーションとアクセラレーションを行うとのことです。」彼らは、コートジボワールとケニアにおいて、昨年からパイロットプロジェクトを実施し、各関連企業やデザイナーのデジタルデータベース化をすすめています。





Table for Twoモデルを(密かに)採用しています

Pure bliss! Amazing lady who can rock the world!

Pure bliss! An amazing lady who can rock the world!


Table For Two (TFT) is a non-profit organization that simultaneously addresses malnutrition developing countries by offering school meals and obesity in developed countries by offering healthy meals. Every time someone purchases TFT supervised healthy meal a portion of the profit is contributed to serve a school meal for kids.

TFT was an idea initiated at the World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders Conference in 2006 in Tronto and has been expanded since then accelerated by the team led by Masa Kogure. I personally know many people who have contributed to the expansion of the TFT including Mr. Kogure while I also got involved briefly back then around 2008, and I have always been thinking about creating a model applying key aspects of the TFT model. There are three key aspects that I think that the TFT model is uniquely brilliant.

1. Framing the global challenge in a way that everyone can easily relate to.

Buy one give one model itself is not a unique model now with some American companies like TOM’s shoes or Warby Parker being quite successful. What I like about the model is that TFT addresses issues both in the developed and developing economies. While we are not a non-profit organization that directly addresses social issues, we are offering solutions to the problem where creative talents in the developing economies (like South Africa or Kenya) and craftsmen in industrialized economies (like Japan) can combine each of their strength to offer new innovative products for the global audience. Emerging creative talents in the developing economies are lacking infrastructures to realize their creativity into tangible items while craftsmen in industrialized economies have little capability hire young people to modernize their crafts for the modern and global audience. Thus, the marriage of two can work very well.
2. Branding and marketing communication that create cool and fun vibes.

Another brilliance is branding. The success may be due to one brilliant PR manager who I have personally known to learn her work; however, I also believe that their branding and marketing communication strategies are really embedded in their operational strategy. They’ve not only been working together with the firm like Dentsu, but they have also been successfully engaging with mass media and celebrities to create fun and exciting movement that everyone wants to join. This was especially quite innovative at the time where NPO activities were considered rather as obligations or responsibilities: something that people need to do.

For us, branding is extremely important, especially because the word “Africa” or “African” can evoke certain negative to some people. We do not want “support” instead, we want “LOVE.”  We must make people fall in love with our brand. We must make people fall in love with (our) African design. We must make people fall in love with Africa’s diverse culture and stories through our brand.
3. Aiming to expand globally from the get-go by partnering with international organizations and large corporations.

Last but now least, what I love about the TFT model is that their scope has always been global. They were born global. They were not just thinking about advocating people in Japan. The name of the organization has been TFT “International” from the get-go, and I have learned that this name was reflective of TFT management’s aspiration to go global. They’ve also leveraged platforms like the World Economic Forum while aggressively involving national governments and large companies like Toyota. And they now operate in 20+ countries with various local networks of supporters while their head office members remain relatively small.

And we aspire to do the same. That’s why I take part in business competitions across the countries and get buy-in from multiple governments including Japan and South Africa. That’s why we participate in TICAD in Nairobi while presenting our work at the cultural embassy in Amsterdam.

And that’s why we are really excited about this very platform to communicate why we do what we do! (And hope you have good questions and learnings!!!!)

Table For Two(TFT)、ご存知の方も多いと思います。TFTは途上国の栄養不足を給食によって、先進国の肥満の問題を低カロリーな食事によって、同時に解決しようと活動している非営利団体です。TFT監修の健康な食事を購入することで、その利益の一部を1食分の子供の給食に回すというモデルがコアになっている活動です。



1. グローバルレベルの課題を、すべての人が自分の課題として考えられるようなしくみとして提案している点

1つ商品を購入すると、1つ寄付されるというようなモデル自体は、アメリカのTOM’s shoesやWarby Parker(眼鏡ブランド)などの成功にもみられるように、珍しくはありません。ただTFTがユニークな点は、いわゆる先進国経済と途上国経済の両方の課題に着目している点です。Maki & Mphoは、非営利団体として、特定の社会問題を直接的に発信しているわけではありませんが、私たちも同様に途上国経済(南アフリカやケニヤ)のクリエイターと、工業化した成熟経済(日本など)における職人や伝統産業が、協業することで、グローバル市場に新しい価値を提案しているという意味において、双方の課題解決に貢献しています。途上国経済の新興クリエイターたちは、そのクリエイティビティーを形あるものにするためのインフラ不足に悩んでいる一方で、工業化した成熟経済における職人たちは、伝統ある工芸やものづくり技術を、グローバル市場に対応してアップグレードするために、若者のクリエイティビティを取り入れていくキャパシティが不足しています。だからこそ、その2つの掛け合わせがうまくいく可能性を秘めています。


2. ブランディングとマーケティングコミュニケーションでクールで楽しいイメージを醸成している点


3. 設立当初からグローバル展開を前提とし、国際機関や大企業とパートナーシップを形成している点

そして最後に、TFTの好きなところは、最初からグローバル展開を前提に始まっているところです。誕生時から、グローバルで、日本人のアドボカシーだけを考えていた訳ではないという点です。組織名は、最初からTFT “International”という点も、TFT経営陣のそういったアスピレーションが繁栄されているものだそうです。また、TFTは世界経済フォーラムのようなプラットフォームや、各国政府やトヨタのような大企業を積極的に巻込んでいます。今も、本部のチームは決して大きくはなさそうですが、ローカルのサポートパートナーのネットワークは強固で、20カ国以上で展開しています。




This place has EVERYTHING!

This place has EVERYTHING!


When you are selling products, generally speaking, you first have to figure out who you are selling to, what products you are selling, how to make them, how much it costs/how long it takes to make them, and how/where/when to sell them at how much.

But that’s obviously from the perspective of the seller.

From the customer’s perspective, there’s only one thing that matters: WHY. The buyer only asks one question: Why do I have to care enough about this product to keep it as mine in exchange for my hard-earned money (or for the limited budget, in b2b cases)?

So that’s why we are focusing on the WHY. Why in the context of our business, it is about really understanding the needs/wants, sharing stories of making things, and engaging people to nurture mutual trust. So by the time we have products, it becomes irresistible… And customers can tell you how much they would pay for it: The perceived value.

You think it is just a dreamer’s ideal? Well, maybe not. Look at all those crowdfunding projects that are succeeding. We started a new project with a business client in South Africa just by telling stories. So I guess this is starting to work…

I am taking this approach because we are not about making trends. We care about the longevity of the business. I am taking this approach because I used to work for consumer goods companies that accumulate years and years worth of stocks that are impossible to sell out (or even to give away!). If customers can’t find the reason to own it, they don’t take it even if an item is FREE of charge!

Let me bring you back to the context of the African business. I don’t (want to) believe Africa will become the next China – the manufacturer of the world, the next source of CHEAP labor. I am presenting the opportunistic views but consumption behavior will change. When people stop buying lots of cheap goods and start buying less valuable goods, Africa should be ready to offering high value rather than low price. N’est-ce pas?








On Strategy / ビジネス戦略っぽい話

She takes the ownership of her own culture and brings it to you.

She takes the ownership of her own culture and brings it to you.


What is a strategy? When I do strategic planning for my company at this stage, I am thinking of three vectors: core value, cost allocation (investment), and competitive advantage (which is the combination of the former two). Deliberately I am not focusing too much on sales target or timeline even though I realize that they are important. I am not focusing on them because I know I can do a spreadsheet when I know it makes sense.

I am focusing on core value which is the philosophy of the African renaissance: It is time for Africans to take ownership of their own culture and bring it to the global audience. That’s la raison d’etre of why we exist and that’s my commitment to Africa. Specifically, I highlight and respect the stories that Mpho and other African creators share: That’s where I invest on and the risk I take. Others may criticize that I need to take ownership as the managing director, but I don’t because I want to take a different approach from what’s been than with (particularly art/design/fashion related) businesses in the continent. Oftentimes outsiders take ownership and advantage of the Africa’s creativity and ownership.

The second vector is cost allocation. At the moment, instead of making tangible products, we are focusing on creating intangible assets. We are investing on intercultural dialogues (or generally known as market research) and creating soft contents including visuals and stories through travels and exhibition offering unique experiences to the global audience.

And these first two combined creates the third vector of competitive advantage. We are creating a new discourse and dialogues of the African renaissance, which means we are not a fad. We are not about trends and hype that come and go. We have longevity. In addition, intangible assets are hard to be copied while tangible products like prints and products can easily be copied. We want to make connections with our audience (customers) not via our products (like fashion accessories) but via our stories and brand identity.

Oh, but don’t get me wrong. AWESOME, BEAUTIFUL, and IRRESISTIBLE items are in making… We just make people wait a bit more because we know they can!!

戦略とは何か。Maki & Mphoの戦略については、コアバリュー、コスト配分(投資)、コンペティティブアドバンテージ(最初の2つの組み合わせの結果)の3つのベクトルと考えています。重要であることは認識していますが、あえて、トップラインとタイムラインを入れていません。スプレッドシートでのシミュレーションは、いつでもできることです。






Newly published book on dialogues on the African perspectives.

Newly published book on dialogues on the African perspectives.


One of my undergraduate majors was American Studies. Two topics were especially interesting to me: One was about the discourse around race (especially black and white tensions) in the U.S. and the other was soft power. Soft power is a concept first presented by Prof. Joseph Nye whom I interacted directly with at UC Berkeley while doing my exchange year. Soft power is about culture and soft content and is alternative to hard power which includes military or economic forces.

So why is soft power relevant?

African countries haven’t been able to leverage the full potential of their soft power. Furthermore, African narratives have often been told by non-Africans or western media. We have seen many images of “African” children coupled with NGO addressing “issues.” We also see overpowering images of animals and natures. We have seen images of “tribal” masks and artifacts collected by anthropologists or showcased in the British Museum. Other images may feature different tribes like the Omo Valley tribe in Ethiopia or the Maasai in Kenya.

I don’t mean to say these images are not factual, but these images do not really tell the stories of urban, global, and modern Africa. These images don’t reflect the voices of young, entrepreneurial, and aspirational young Africans. These images create distance rather than familiarity.

We focus on creators because they are more vocal than the general public. We focus on contemporary culture that includes visual arts and narratives because we believe that they bring Africa and the global audience together. They are aesthetically attractive and intellectually stimulating that can inspire the well-educated global creative class. These are Africa’s soft power that can ultimately bring more people and capital to the continent.

私の学部時代の専攻の一つはアメリカ研究でした。関心の中心は、特にアメリカ合衆国の人種関連の話(特に白人、黒人の関係性)と、ソフトパワーについてでした。ソフトパワーは、日本人も好きなジョセフ・ナイ教授が提唱した考え方です。UC Berkeleyに留学中に直接話をする機会もあり、個人的な思い出もあります。念のため説明を加えると、ソフトパワーは、武力や経済力の行使ではなく、文化などのソフトコンテンツを活用して、他国に対する影響力を強化する外交手法です。






SA Art Fair


One of the most exciting creative events in South Africa, FNB Joburg Art Fair took place in Johannesburg last weekend from 9-11 September. According to their website, the fair this year exhibited “90 exhibitions within 6 categories including Contemporary and Modern Art, Special Projects, Gallery Solo Projects, Limited Editions and Art Platforms” from 12 countries across Africa, Europe, and the US.

Some people may think that art is not important while others may think that art is everything. I don’t think that art is everything, but I believe that art, especially in the context of modernizing globalized Africa, is extremely important.

So what is art?

In my own definition based on my observation, understanding, and interpretation of African arts, art is identity. Identity in the African context means that each artist is celebrating his or her individuality from the African perspective. Each of them presents (NOT representing) Africa in his/her own way.

That’s why I believe that nurturing the creators of art (and design) is essential for the global audience to understand diverse voices of Africa using this brand business as a platform.

南アフリカのクリエイティブなイベントの一つである、FNB Joburg Art Fairが、先週末9月9−11日に開催されました。ウェブサイトによると、今年のフェアはアフリカ各国、ヨーロッパ、アメリカから「コンテンポラリー・モダンアート、スペシャルプロジェクト、ギャラリー単独プロジェクト、限定エディション、アートプラットフォームの6つのカテゴリで、90の出展者が参加した」とのことです。





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