Last week, Comic Con Africa – in partnership with JETRO Johannesburg and Japan Street – hosted the first Japan Pop Culture Connect webinar which was well received by South African companies that offer pop culture merchandise to various fandoms.

The first session of the day saw Kazuo Rikukawa – MD Character Branding and Licensing Association and President of CHARACTER DATABANK – present the current situation of the character product market in Japan, diving deep into data that displayed pop culture characters and their popularity by age group.

Rikukawa offered local firms the advice of fully understanding a character and its world before acquiring the licence when commercialising on pop-culture characters. 

Rikukawa also added essential advice for guiding South African companies to clearly define their company’s objectives and select a character to make effective use of the firm’s strength.

The second session saw Riaan le Roux – Chief Director and Economic Advisor to The Department of Trade Industry and Competition (The Dtic) based in Tokyo – give a presentation on etiquette when doing business with Japan while offering interesting statistics relating to Japan and South Africa’s trade relationship.

As a hot topic when coming to licenced goods, Christiaan Steyn, from STEYN IP, gave insight into the fine line between fan art and copyright infringement – ultimately concluding that enforcement on infringement is the IP owner’s decision. Steyn offered South African businesses the advice to rather not take a risk of infringing, and rather pursue licensing through the correct channels should they wish to commercialise or gain profits from a character that is already owned.

To wrap up the session – a panel of 5 speakers, from distributors to lawyers, had a further discussion around counterfeit goods, how to spot a fake item, and how the cycle of purchasing authentic products ultimately highlights South Africa as a supporter of the industry resulting in larger scale investment from Japan.

The online seminar is available on demand for those interested on the Comic Con Africa YouTube channel, and can be found at this link:

Content Director for Comic Con Africa, Rene Staack, concluded the event saying that “[Phasing out counterfeit goods across the country and at events like Comic Con Africa] is not an overnight event, and as Comic Con Africa, we want to work with exhibitors across the show to increase access to official licenced goods by tapping in to all our stakeholders.”

Staack added that “This online webinar was the first step in making the right connections and along with JETRO Johannesburg we are excited to facilitate and guide local firms on making more connections.”

So, what is the next step for South African businesses looking to connect with Japanese Pop Culture firms? Interested companies can now register to have virtual meetings with companies in Japan that operate in pop culture and character licensing by creating a profile and secure their sessions by

These meetings will take place from 5 to 20 September 2023 with no fee attached for registering. For more information, and a walkthrough on how to register, please see the final 10 minutes of the YouTube video above, or simply visit this link:

You can find clear steps on how to register at Comic Con Africa’s website:

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