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Rakuten Group and AAIC Launch the AAIC-Rakuten Africa Innovation Project

October 30, 2020

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New project promotes addressing social challenges in Africa by mentoring local startups for further business growth.

Tokyo, October 29, 2020 – Rakuten Europe S.à r.l., Rakuten’s European headquarters, and Asia Africa Investment & Consulting Pte. Ltd. (AAIC), a Japanese growth equity fund and consulting firm based in Singapore, today announced the launch of the AAIC-Rakuten Africa Innovation Project. The project will drive solutions to social challenges in Africa through technical and management mentoring designed to promote business growth for African startups.

As countries and regions across Africa are achieving remarkable economic growth, many local startup companies are actively aiming to “leapfrog,” a process that seeks to use innovation to solve social challenges such as infrastructure, agriculture, nutritional improvement and the provision of clean drinking water.

With this project, startups from Africa participating in the AAIC-managed Africa Healthcare Fund and Rakuten will share information and expertise with an aim to realize practical countermeasures that efficiently solve social challenges. As startups share information about the challenges they face locally in their industries as well as those in wider society with Rakuten, based on this intelligence, Rakuten will make use of its expertise in technology implementation across a wide range of fields from e-commerce to fintech, digital content and communications to support and help grow these local businesses through active mentoring.

Rakuten has expanded to offer more than 70 services around the world based on its mission to empower individuals, communities, businesses and society. From April 2019 to June 2020, Rakuten participated in the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)’s SDGs Business Supporting Surveys program for partnering with private enterprises, working in Rwanda to overcome social challenges through Rakuten’s technological expertise by building an insurance system using blockchain technology and harnessing drones for agriculture. In May 2020, Rakuten announced an agreement with the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) to work together to train the African tech community by providing students with cooperative research opportunities and further develop an ecosystem of innovation.

Toby Otsuka, CEO of Rakuten Europe, commented, “Since the day Rakuten was founded, we have always believed in the power of innovation, and throughout its history, our company has always been dedicated to contributing to society. In recent years, many startups in Africa have achieved tremendous growth and are using technology to change people’s lives in significant ways. By collaborating with AAIC and engaging in dialogue with startups that are confronting local challenges head-on, we hope to solve social challenges with our partners as a team leveraging Rakuten technology and business assets.”

As a growth equity fund with operations in Africa, AAIC aims to achieve sustainable growth for developing countries by harnessing Japan’s strength across three pillars: strategic consulting, funds and human resources. In 2017 it established the Africa Healthcare Fund to invest in fast-growing companies in the African healthcare sector. As of September 2020, it has investments in 21 companies that bring innovation for healthcare services that include healthcare e-commerce, fintech for international money transfers, an ambulance dispatch platform, online mental health counseling, teleradiology platform and advanced imaging centers, dialysis centers and maternity hospitals.

Shigeru Handa, Director of AAIC, commented, “Scaling up for further growth is a big challenge as we invest in and support companies that are driving innovation in the healthcare sector, which is one of Africa’s social challenges. We expect this collaboration with Rakuten to provide opportunities to promote synergies and business growth for startups, particularly in the area of technology.”

Rakuten and AAIC aim to contribute to solving social challenges in Africa through the acceleration of innovation.

Overview of the AAIC-Rakuten Africa Innovation Project

  • Overview and purpose: This project aims to realize practical countermeasures that efficiently solve social challenges in Africa through mentoring local startups participating in AAIC’s Africa Healthcare Fund and sharing knowledge and expertise.
  • Period: October 29, 2020 – December 2021 (dates subject to change)
  • Examples of initiatives: Initiatives include improvements to apps and other products and services provided by startups in Africa, and mentoring to support business operations and new service launches. Some initiatives are subject to change going forward as details are currently under consideration.

About AAIC

AAIC Group aims to create new business growth models by offering support mainly in emerging markets, as well as new businesses in Japan. As a fund management firm, AAIC in Singapore manages the African Healthcare Fund to support innovative startups and companies in growth in the healthcare industry in Africa, which provide innovative and sustainable solutions to social challenges in Africa.


About the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS)

Established in 2003, this higher education and research institute aims to foster high-level human resources for the science and technology sector. Attracting excellent scholars and instructors from 43 African countries to its centers in several African countries (South Africa, Senegal, Ghana, Cameroon, Tanzania and Rwanda), AIMS is raising the level of Africa’s science and technology through postgraduate education, teacher training, blue sky scientific research and research in partnership with business. With the cooperation of companies like Facebook and Google, it is running a number of advanced projects in areas such as the provision of AI and machine learning courses.  

About Rakuten

Rakuten, Inc. (TSE: 4755) is a global leader in internet services that empower individuals, communities, businesses and society. Founded in Tokyo in 1997 as an online marketplace, Rakuten has expanded to offer services in e-commerce, fintech, digital content and communications to approximately 1.4 billion members around the world. The Rakuten Group has over 20,000 employees, and operations in 30 countries and regions

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