May 25, 2017
OITA- With its population shrinking, Oita Prefecture has since fiscal 2016 ramped up efforts to help students from overseas who want to start businesses or work locally.
The southwestern prefecture has the largest number of international students per 100,000 population and hopes they will help revitalize the region's economy, officials said.
One such initiative is to offer opportunities for international students hoping to start their own businesses to meet investors.
The prefecture devised a system to select students with promising ideas at a contest to receive individual coaching from consultants and draw up business plans based on their ideas. They will then be introduced to investment funds.
Through the system, the prefecture aims to lower the bar to starting a company by helping international students to secure funding of at least 5 million yen needed to obtain an investor and business manager visa.
Abir Siddiky from Bangladesh, a senior at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, or APU, is considering the creation of a social networking site that connects high school students across the world who want to study in Japan with Japanese university students.
The idea is based on his own experience in Japan.
"It would have been much easier if I'd known beforehand from people at the school what it's like to study at APU," he said.
As a finalist in the contest, Siddiky joined a presentation before representatives from investment funds. Seven funds showed interest in his business plan. He negotiated with each of them and now expects to get funding for his initiative.
In November 2016, the prefecture also opened the Oita International Students Business Center, in the city of Beppu as a support base for international students.
The center is a shared rental space, offering cheap rents for those who want to build companies. It has a lounge where students can use Wi-Fi and a photocopy machine.
Not only is the business center an activity base, but it also hosts events such as consultation meetings with specialists on finding jobs and starting companies locally, and exchange meetings with local companies to boost mutual understanding.
Five companies in the prefecture that are considering employing students from abroad to expand their businesses overseas or serve foreign tourists, participated in an exchange meeting held in the prefectural capital of Oita in May.
"Local companies are very grateful for such events," said the president of a company selling cosmetics online, who attended the event.
"Since more and more foreign tourists are buying cosmetics in Japan, we need employees who can help them," the president said. "Attracting potential workers, however, at joint company information fairs held by universities proved to be difficult because they tend to go to booths of major companies based in Tokyo." (Jiji Press)
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