Japan’s Corporate Venture Capital Sets Sights on Africa

Published 10 April 2024
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We explore Japan’s growing interest in African venture capital. We’ll share insights from our Founder, Toby Hanington, who was recently invited to Tokyo for the Uncovered Fund Africa Showcase. We’ll also focus on Uncovered Fund’s role in Japanese-African VC funding, alongside Baobab Network’s efforts to foster collaboration between Japanese investors and African startups, exemplified by Terminal Africa in our portfolio.

While Japan may not be the first country that comes to mind in the context of venture capital in Africa, recent trends indicate a growing interest from the Land of the Rising Sun in the opportunities presented by the African continent. Our Founder, Toby Hanington, spent some time in Japan last month following an invitation to attend the Uncovered Fund Showcase in Tokyo, which aimed to shed light on this evolving narrative. 

Japanese corporates are taking the lead 

Historically, Japanese interest in African venture capital has been limited due to factors like geographical distance, language barriers, and historical trading patterns, which have seemingly deterred investment.

What many may not realise however, is that Japan boasts the second-largest market for corporate venturing globally, following the United States. More than 50% of the world’s top 10 most active corporate venture capital funds hail from Japan, with new corporate venture capital arms continually emerging. Funds like NVCC and SMBC Venture Capital have a remarkable history of startup investments, indicating a strong appetite for innovation and technology. 

In the coming decade, numerous Japanese companies will seek to establish and grow their footprint in African markets, aiming to harness the continent’s economic opportunities. Players like Softbank Group, Mitsubishi Corporation, and Sony Corporation just to name a few, are quickly realising that Africa’s growing market opportunity is officially too big to ignore, with one in four people on the planet estimated to be African by 2050. 

A notable recent deal was Andela’s $200M Series E in 2021, which was led by Softbank Vision Fund 2. Andela helps companies build remote engineering teams by providing them with access to the best software engineers in the world. Launched in Africa in 2014, the Andela network today represents engineers from more than 80 countries and six continents.

Who are Uncovered Fund? 

Founded in 2019, Uncovered Fund is one of the first Japanese-African VC funds to have started actively investing on the continent, across various sectors. It is led by Takuma Terakubo, who had previously worked as CEO of Leapfrog Ventures and at Samurai Incubate Fund – both of which continue to have ties on the continent. 

After some notable investments in Francophone (French-speaking) Africa mobility startup, Gozem; Kenyan fintech business LipaLater; and YC-backed Nigerian digital freight startup, SEND Technologies – Uncovered Fund have since used their annual Showcase as a physical platform for over 300 guests from Japanese corporates and funds to connect, collaborate and explore the potential of African markets.

Baobab in Japan 

Against the backdrop of the 2024 Showcase theme, “Decarbonisation and Economic Growth,”, Toby was invited to join a panel of notable local VC Funds such as Catalyst Fund, to discuss “The State of VC & Tech in Africa”.

After Toby’s inaugural visit to the country in 2019 led to AAIC investing in Baobab, he was excited to return and go on to meet the Uncovered Fund team. The invitation was particularly special given Uncovered Fund has also followed Baobab on the cap table of one of our early investments, Terminal Africa.  It was, therefore, fitting that Nnamdi, CEO of Terminal, was also present at the Showcase to share the company’s impressive growth story over the past 3 years. Based in Nigeria, Terminal builds technology infrastructure that streamlines the global shipping process for offline 3rd party logistics businesses in Africa.


It is safe to say that Japan’s growing interest in African venture capital is a testament to the continent’s untapped potential and the increasing globalisation of investment ecosystems. The combined support of local VC’s and Japanese corporates is becoming an increasing powerful in providing the capital, expertise and networks for startups like Terminal to excel.