Find out what it takes to suceed from people working in the interconnected global business community.
January 19, 2011
Botswana Embassy works to promote republic's rich vein of investment opportunities
Building bridges of understanding
By CHIHO IUCHI
Jennifer Sakaguchi, the marketing officer at the Embassy of the Republic of Botswana in Tokyo since February 2010, came to her position through a series of experiences around the world.
|Bridge builder: Jennifer Sakaguchi from the United States is the marketing officer of the Embassy of
Botswana in Tokyo.
Born in the state of New York, her global adventure began when she was in high school, spending one year in Malaysia as an exchange student.
"It was a chance destination, but the experience there made me a fan of Asia, so I wanted to study an Asian language," Sakaguchi said in Japanese.
She learned Japanese at Georgetown University and studied one year in Tokyo. After graduating, she returned to Japan, getting a job for a year in Hiroshima with a program of the then Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. Then she moved to Tokyo and worked in Sony's legal division, where she met her future Japanese husband.
After two years at Sony, she entered the marketing field by joining a small Japanese advertising agency.
"Until then, I did not know anything about marketing, but I found it quite interesting," Sakaguchi said.
From there, she joined Grey Advertising, working in its Tokyo office and at its headquarters in New York for a total of 18 years, becoming senior vice president of Grey Worldwide.
"I really enjoyed bridging cultures to build brands: finding ways to adapt a brand's global equity to make it relevant to local markets," Sakaguchi said.
In 2005, she received the opportunity to work for diamond company De Beers Group's marketing arm, the Diamond Trading Company (DTC).
"Working with diamonds surely must be every woman's dream. I learned that not only are diamonds beautiful, but they contribute to people's livelihoods around the world," Sakaguchi said.
It was through DTC that she formed connections with South Africa and Botswana, both key diamond producing countries.
Sakaguchi became involved with the South African Chamber of Commerce in Japan. Then a year ago, the then ambassador of Botswana asked her to help out with marketing at the embassy.
"The ambassador was very convincing. He told me that the embassy needed me, saying, my work would be 'for the country of Botswana.' I was not sure if I could be helpful to them, but when he put it that way, I was inspired," said Sakaguchi. "Also, I thought it would be good to introduce to the embassy the marketing methods of private companies, where I had worked throughout my career."
Her mission is to build awareness of and promote Botswana as an investment destination for Japanese companies. Botswana is the world's largest producer of gem-quality diamonds and the country has prudently managed the revenue from this resource to the benefit of its citizens, thus making Botswana one of the top three economies in Africa today. However, since diamond resources are finite, it is critical for Botswana to develop its private sector and diversify the economy. Foreign direct investment is an important way to achieve this goal.
According to Sakaguchi, three major sectors that Botswana intends to promote to Japanese companies are mining, infrastructure development and information communication technology. Besides diamonds, the country is rich in mineral resources, including copper, nickel, uranium and coal. Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp. is currently exploring for other rare metals as well through its remote sensing center in Botswana.
"For the moment, there is no Japanese private-sector company that has established branches or bases in Botswana yet," Sakaguchi said. In order to promote investment, Sakaguchi has recently launched regular newsletters. "We're just waiting for the first company to take the first step."
Surely it is a rare case that an American works as an officer for the embassy of an African country. Sakaguchi explained her situation by describing Botswana's flag. "The blue part is water, which is very important, especially for a country with a huge desert like Botswana. And the black and white parts represent the racial composition of the country, where black people and white people live together in harmony," Sakaguchi said.
"Traditionally, Botswana people have an idea of democracy that is much older than modern democracy, and that's one of the reasons for the country's political stability," she said. "As they do not brag about themselves much, it is part of my role to publicize the country's culture."
"I am happy if there is any way I can help people from different cultures better understand one another," Sakaguchi said.
For more information, visit www.botswanaembassy.or.jp
This monthly feature, appearing on the first or second Mondays of each month, aims to provide readers with career advice for the international job market via interviews with professionals in relevant fields.
|President of Botswana H.E. Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama engaging the Japanese business community at the Investment Roundtable held on Oct. 19, 2010 at the Keidanren office in Tokyo, on the occasion of his visit to Japan.