It is well recognised that there is growing economic and political interaction between sub-Saharan Africa and states from the East Asian region. Investments and trade by the People’s Republic of China have become prominent in recent years, but other East Asian states, in particular Japan, have had economic ties with the African continent dating back a century. Yet this history of involvement by Japanese firms is underexplored, as is the nature of the current interests, underlying motivations and impacts of multinationals from Japan on the continent. This study aims to gain understanding of the past and present dynamics of Japanese industry in Africa focusing on the automotive and media sectors. It assesses how foreign investments in those sectors link Africa to global production and supply networks; how such sectors act as drivers of (or constraints to) globalization for the continent; and finally, how such dynamics help shape conditions of economic governance in today’s Africa.