The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd, Japan's largest bank, have signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on increasing Japanese investment into South Africa.
The agreement also seeks to increase South African-Japanese cooperation in various areas, including platinum beneficiation and transport infrastructure.
The signing follows a visit to Japan by Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies last year, and comes ahead of President Jacob Zuma planned state visit to Japan in June.
The agreement was signed in Pretoria on Tuesday by Trade and Industry Deputy Director-General Pumla Ncapayi and Muneo Kurauchi, senior managing executive director at the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd.
Kurauchi said it was "a pleasure to sign the agreement", adding that Africa was "a promising area for Japanese companies".
Taking SA, Japan relations 'to the next level'
Speaking to SAnews after the signing, Trade and Industry Director-General Lionel October said the agreement, which would be assessed on an annual basis, was key to taking the relationship between South Africa and Japan to a higher level.
He said South Africa had seen an increase in Japanese investment into the country, citing Toyota as an example of one of the companies that had invested and grown its business in the country.
"We now want to expand, using South Africa as the base into the African continent," October said. "We want to cooperate in terms of exports into the continent as a joint venture between South Africa and Japanese companies."
Platinum beneficiation projects
Regarding cooperation in platinum beneficiation, October noted that the government was looking to set up two new Special Economic Zones (SEZs), one in North West and one in Limpopo province, "to beneficiate platinum into fuel cells, platinum coins and jewellery, etc.
"The Japanese are the world leaders in platinum beneficiation, so we are hoping to cooperate on that."
Feasibility studies on the two SEZs would begin in the next few weeks, October said.
The agreement also looks at technical assistance and financial support for rail and infrastructure projects.
This comes as President Zuma takes the lead in championing the African Union's North-South Corridor Project, which is a road and rail link from Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania to Durban.
"There are about 350 projects in there," October said.