29 September 2012
Boston, USA

Hirofumi & Atsufumi Yokoi, Co-Founders and Presidents of Akira Foundation, were invited as guest speakers at the World Summit on Innovation & Entrepreneurship (THEWSIE) which was held on 26-28 September, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts.[1]

Atsufumi moderated the panel session titled, “Smart African Cityscapes: Evading the Hype,” which was convened by the African Centre for Cities (ACC) at the University of Cape Town and the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD).[2]

Hirofumi presented as a panelist in one of the interactive innovation mashups, “The Promise of Social Innovation,” the challenges and promises of innovative collaborations between Japan and Global Village toward realizing an inclusive business and society.

12 September 2012
Manila, Philippine | Tohoku, Japan

Mr. Cesar Santoyo, President of SEELS, which Akira Foundation funded and has supported as its first social enterprise, won two national honorable awards, one in the Philippines and the other in Japan.

Recognized for his great work in helping Filipino migrants in Japan, especially in east coast of Japan hit by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, Mr. Santoyo was awarded 2012 Gawad Geny Lopez Global Bayaning Pilipino Awards in July along with 6 other winners from all over the world. The Gawad Geny Lopez Global Bayaning Pilipino Award is the prestigious national award that celebrates outstanding Filipinos and their distinguished work.[1]

Furthermore, Mr. Santoyo and SEELS have been selected for the 1st Michinoku Entrepreneurship program in July, which is funded through the Social Incubator Fund that the Cabinet Office, government of Japan, has launched, and is led by Entrepreneurial Training for Innovative Communities (ETIC.), a non-profit organization. ETIC. commits its work to train young leaders whose entrepreneurship and initiatives will turn out to be catalysts to promote social change and impact.[2] Along with 2,500,000 JPY grant given to each program member, the Michinoku Entrepreneurship program is designed to train young entrepreneurs, help them through discussion with more experienced mentors, and develop a constructive network among them; so that their paths and ventures toward successful social entrepreneurs will lead to recovery of disaster-struck areas in east coast Japan.

Mr. Santoyo will keep working collaboratively with those members under the financial and non-financial supports of ETIC. in this program until the end of March 2013.

[1] Gawad Geny Lopez Jr. Global Bayaning Pilipino, available at http://www.globalbayaningpilipino.com/
[2] ETIC. Website, available at http://www.etic.or.jp/english/outline.html
13 July 2012
Tokyo, Japan


21st Century Education and Research International Liaison Project for Global Problem-Solving was inaugurated as part of Sophia University 100th Anniversary Project. The object of International Liaison Project is to explore the problems that mankind is facing today in th era of ongoing globalization. These problems are problems of conflict, poverty, environment, education on a global scale. How can they best be solved? The Project is the search, by scholars and other professionals, for clues to solve the basic questions that have been raised by glovavl scale crisis.

The Project brings together the knowledge and expertise of a wide range of specialists in universities, governments, corporations, international organizations, NGOs, and the media. By examining and analyzing the past experience and achievements, the Project team aims at bringing hope for the society.

In recent years, many and complex new problems that grew out of urbanization in Africa has made the global issues appear in an entirely new light. Thus they are creating a demand for interdisciplinary academic approach which would call for increased exchange of ideas and measures among scholars in various fields of study.

What type of integrated approach would serve to meet the rise of a whole new set of problems brought about by Africa’s urban development? This question will be addressed in the symposium. The speakers with differing points of view will examine the African issue in depth and join their efforts to find ways of coping successfully with this problem.


Urbanization in Africa and the Emergence of New Global Scale Issues
Date and Time:
Thursday, August 9, 2012 1:30pm – 5:30pm
Sophia University Conference Hall 2-1702
Keynote speech:
“Engaging Africa’s Urban Future”
Dr. Edgar Pieterse, Professor and Director, African Centre for Cities (ACC) at University of Cape Town
“Sustainability Principles & Frameworks”
Dr. Gary Kendall, Deputy Director, University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership: CPSL
Sophia University 100th Anniversary Project,
“21st Century Education and Research International Liaison Project for Global Problem-Solving”
Project organizers:
Professor Yoshihiro Oto, Faculty of Humanities,
Associate Professor Yuto Kitamura, Faculty of Human Sciences

Sponsor and support

Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)
United Nations World Food Programme (WFP)
Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Tokyo Center
Asahi Newspaper*
Akira Foundation

* Asahi Newspaper/Asahi Shimbun (Asahi, in short), established in 1879, is one of the largest and oldest national newspapers in Japan. The Asahi has alliance with the International Herald Tribune, which is owned by The New York Times and publishes the International Herald Tribune/The Asahi Shimbun together.
10 July 2012
Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan – Hirofumi Yokoi, Co-Founder & President of Akira Foundation (AFJ), has been accepted to attend a prestigious Harvard Kennedy School Executive Education program, “Financial Institutions for Private Enterprise Development” (FIPED). This accredited Executive Education program, offered at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, will be held Jul 29-Aug 3 at the Harvard University campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

This challenging FIPED program was launched in 1995, and since then, the highly intensive and professional nature of the program has “attracted an outstanding group of executives from financial institutions and government organizations in more than 100 countries.”[1] The program brochure also describes: “FIPED is unique in that it intentionally covers microfinance and SME finance in the same program and offers practical guidance in providing savings, credit, and payment services for unbanked and underbanked markets in a profitable and sustainable manner.”[2]

The John F. Kennedy School of Government is the graduate professional school at Harvard University dedicated to educating and empowering individuals for solving complex problems and creating positive social change. Executive Education at Harvard Kennedy School offers programs for senior executives and leaders from around the world. The programs bring together experienced professionals, a renowned faculty, and a dynamic curriculum in a setting where the common denominator is a shared commitment to the public interest.[3]

Yokoi, AFJ’s Co-President since its inception in 2009, is primarily responsible for exploring and developing business practices and educational programs of social innovation and entrepreneurship at AFJ. Prior to founding AFJ, Yokoi worked with Abdul Latif Jameel Foundation in Beirut, Lebanon. In this role he was in charge of market research and analytic solutions for social business programs, including the MIT Arab Business Plan Competition (Lebanon) and Grameen-Jameel microfinance joint venture (U.A.E.). He currently sits on the boards of several foundations and social enterprises, most of which cover microfinance investment and MSME finance across the Middle East and Northern Africa, and Japan.

[1] FIPED Program Brochure (Harvard Kennedy School, 2012: 5)
[2] ibid., 3
[3] Harvard Kennedy School, HKS Facts [Online] Available at: http://www.hks.harvard.edu/about/history/hks-facts

20 June 2012
Tokyo, Japan

Hirofumi Yokoi, President of Akira Foundation, was invited to deliver a lecture at Keio University, one of the top private universities in Japan, on trends and challenges in the microfinance sector in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Yokoi presented the lecture on Wednesday, June 20th, at 10:45 a.m. in the classroom of Development Economics, taught by Professor Satoshi Ohira, Keio University, at the Mita Campus of Keio University, Tokyo, Japan. His presentation was titled “Social Development in MENA region – Trends and Challenges in the Microfinance Sector,” and he spoke on the global and regional trends in microfinance and discussed the roles of private capital raised by microfinance investment vehicles (MIVs).

Yokoi also examined the microfinance credit crisis by presenting a couple of case studies in Morocco and Egypt, and explained to students how each case of credit crises had affected microfinance institutions and industries, entirely, and what kind of ‘paradigm shift’ has occurred in the areas of credit policy and risk management, governance and transparency, business operation and practice, particularly across MENA region.

Yokoi shared with Keio students his professional work and personal experience in the Middle East and overseas. During the Q&A session to follow, he enjoyed a lively exchange and discussion with students who raised insightful and thoughtful questions about SME financing in clean energy, the methodology and practice of social performance management, a shift of risk management from against group to individual lending, and the mechanism of microfinance funds among actors, and the like.