Serving as a Bridge between Japan and My Home Country ―Emmanuel Ngomirakiza, a Student from the Republic of Burundi―


The Republic of Burundi is probably a country that not so many people are familiar with. Emmanuel Ngomirakiza, a judge at the Trade Court of the Republic of Burundi, came to Japan in 2019 as an ABE Initiative researcher and studied Law and Politics focusing on Intellectual property laws at Kansai University Graduate School of Law for two and a half years. Having completed his studies, Emmanuel is now gaining a variety of experiences as an intern at EIKO ENTERPRISE CO., LTD. in Osaka. In this interview, we ask him a variety of questions about his background and life in Japan.

Busy life with three professional jobs

——What kind of country is the Republic of Burundi?

「Burundi is a landlocked country in East Africa and is one of the countries that make up the East African Community,* established since 1999 and for which Burundi integrated in 2007. Within the East African Community, people can come and go and logistics can be carried out without cumbersome procedures at the border as a result of the free trade area, customs union, People in Burundi speak mainly Kirundi, French, and Swahili, and family ties are strong; it is not unusual, for example, for a family to live together even in the city. Oh, and yes... it is rich in mineral resources and is also an exporter of a high quality variety of coffee beans, Arabica, organic coffee.」

*East African Community: A community formed by 6 East African countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan. The membership of the Democratic Republic of Congo was approved on March 29, 2022 to make 7 member states.

Republic of Burundi, located inland in East Africa

——What kind of job did you do in Burundi?

「I studied law at the Université Lumière de Bujumbura-Burundi , and after graduation I joined the Ministry of Justice of Burundi. After serving as a district court judge, I was appointed in 2012 as a judge of the Trade Court, which specializes in business-to-business disputes. Apart from that, I was a member of an expert group to promote investment into the Republic of Burundi, and gave legal advice on various issues related to companies and investment while working as member of the Commercial Investigation chamber instituted in the Bujumbura Trade court since 2015.」

——You must have had a very busy life. What made you decide to study in Japan?

「As I progressed in my work, I began to think that I wanted to get out of the country and gain new perspectives. So I started looking for places to study around the world, and a colleague advised me that as I am a judge with a background in law, I should further my expertise in a field related to corporate law. I happened to come across the website of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and found the ABE Initiative Program.* This program allows students to earn a master's degree at a Japanese university and also to experience an internship. I felt that this program was perfect for me because it would also enable me to think about the state of business between Japan and Burundi.」


——Why did you choose Kansai University out of all the universities in Japan?

「I used a list of universities to look around and see what was on offer. The moment I saw Kansai University's website, I was excited. This is because Kansai University, which started out as a law school, is one of the oldest universities in the Kansai region, and seemed to have a strong focus on business and corporate studies. I knew at once that this was the place for me!」

Studying intellectual property legal affairs with the support of kind professors and fellow students at Kansai University.

——What exactly did you study at the Graduate School of Law?

「I enrolled in the Global Cooperation Course of the Graduate School of Law, where I studied corporate legal affairs. I had also studied intellectual property laws at a university in Burundi, but I had a very difficult time when I actually dealt with intellectual property-related disputes at the Trade Court, so I decided to study and research this field in more depth.

My master's thesis was entitled ‘Protection of Companies as an Investment Guarantee and Strategies on Intellectual Property in Africa with Special Reference to Burundi.’ Intellectual property laws are very important in terms of how to legally protect a company's investments. However, there has not been much research on this subject in Burundi. Therefore, I have compiled everything I learned here in Japan into a single pool of information, such as how to obtain intellectual property rights, how the Japan Patent Office works, and the dispute resolution system.」

Experiencing a variety of things despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Left: At Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto; Right: Making Shimenawa rope at Sugahara Tenmangu Shrine in Osaka

——Do you have any fond memories of your time at Kansai University outside of studies? For example, getting to know other students or anything else.

「Senriyama Campus is so big that I often got lost (laughs). But when I did, the students around me always kindly gave me directions and sometimes even escorted me to my destination. I learned at Kansai University that Japanese people are always on standby to help someone. In the Graduate School of Law, my advisor, Professor Mika Yamana, and all the other professors did not teach me in a one-sided way, but carefully guided me with the understanding of what I should learn in Japan and take back with me to my home country. While I was a student at Kansai University, I visited many places and was given opportunities to introduce Burundi to the world. Professor Yamana encouraged me by saying, ‘Since there is no Burundi embassy in Japan, you can play the role of ambassador for your country.’ I was very happy to have the opportunity to talk about Burundi and interact with many people as if I were the ambassador.」

Picture taken on the day of the graduation ceremony. From right to left: Professor Yamana, Mr. Emmanuel, and Dean Takasaku of the Graduate School of Law.

Working as an intern involved in importing coffee

——Having completed graduate school, you are currently (as of May 2022) interning at EIKO ENTERPRISE CO., LTD. in Osaka. What is your daily life like at your internship company?

「I was introduced to my current company by a friend of Professor Yamana's from the Japan Africa Asia Partnership Forum, a non-profit organization. Mr. Takesaburo Otani, the president of the company, accepted me with open arms because of the importance he places on relations with emerging countries.

At the company, I am learning about import/export practices. Burundi imports automobiles and automobile parts from Japan, and if any dispute arises in the course of transactions, the matter is brought to the Trade Court where I worked. I was not aware of some of the details of import/export practice when I was writing out my judgments, so I am glad to be able to learn about the details of this practice.

We have also now started an attempt to import coffee from Burundi to Japan. Coffee is one of Burundi's major industries, and Burundi coffee is ranked among the best in the world by international rating agencies. In some years, it is even ranked above Ethiopian coffee. And yet, the amount of Burundi coffee entering Japan is still limited. Burundi's union of coffee growers, Cooperatives Consortium "COCOCA" , is solely responsible for exporting Burundi coffee, and although the beans are exported and arrive quickly when shipped by container, the system does not work well when it comes to sending small samples. As a matter of fact, we found that sample products we ordered more than a month ago have not yet arrived, and that the transportation tracking system does not work well for small-quantity items. By getting involved in actual import operations, I have become acutely aware of the need to improve the transportation system for small-quantity samples as part of improving the investment environment.」

With staffs at EIKO ENTERPRISE CO., LTD.

Emmanuel says that time records are a culture that does not exist in Burundi, and he looks forward to punching his card every day.

——What are your plans after returning to Burundi?

「The time sure has flown by, and I will be returning home in about a month. Upon my return, I will first be reinstated at the Trade Court, and I believe that I have an obligation to provide feedback to the court on what I have learned. And at the same time, I would like to try to promote foreign investment in Burundi and help business to grow. Also, if I have the opportunity, I hope to be involved in the development of education for Burundi's children. In Japan, I visited a variety of educational facilities, from kindergartens to high schools, and was able to learn what kind of education Japanese children receive. I would like to share these experiences with children and teachers in Burundi.

At Kansai University Kindergarten. Not only did Emmanuel get to look around the kindergarten, but he also had the opportunity to interact with the children and teachers, a valuable experience! In Burundi, he was also a church pianist, so he performed a song for the children.

Introducing Burundi to the younger generation at various locations (at Chuo University Senior High School)

「I would like to help deepen Burundi's ties with Japan and eventually establish an organization that will be responsible for promoting investment by Japanese companies. But first... since neither Burundi nor Japan currently have mutual embassies, I think it is necessary to establish an organization that will enable direct exchanges between Japan and Burundi.」

———If anyone can do it, it's you, Emmanuel. Finally, do you have a message for those who are considering studying in Japan?

「I think Japan is an attractive country for international students, not only for its rich history and culture and advanced technology, but also for the kindness of its people and its low crime rate. Speaking of problems, in my case, it would be the Japanese language (laughs). I came to Japan not knowing a word of Japanese. However, looking back, the language barrier was not that much of a problem. I have been supported by many people both at the university and at my internship company, as a result of which my Japanese improved. I hope that more international students from Africa will come to Japan as well.」

A message to those considering studying in Japan, delivered in English, French and Kirundi (the main local language of Burundi)!

The African Business Education Initiative

The African Business Education Initiative for Youth (ABE Initiative) is a human resource development program designed to encourage Japanese companies to expand their business operations into Africa. Kansai University offers students on this scheme a six-month term as a research student, followed by two years in a master's program, and up to six months of internship experience upon completion of the master's program, allowing them to study and gain experience in Japan for up to three years.

Keeder Mondlane is currently enrolled at the Graduate School of Law as an ABE Initiative researcher. He worked as a consultant in human resource development, including for a U.S. government affiliated organization in his home country of Mozambique.