History of Sumitomo

Monjuin Shiigaki
(Source: Sumitomo Historical Archives)
Sumitomo Corporation Africa is a wholly owned subsidiary of Sumitomo Corporation. While our establishment in Sub-Saharan Africa dates back to August 1961, the origin of Sumitomo Corporation dates further back to the 17th century. Sumitomo Corporation Africa benefits tremendously by tapping into the reservoir of time-tested business philosophy, values as well as business expertise of Sumitomo Corporation. Sumitomo Corporation Africa embraces the Sumitomo Corporation’s Vision, Management Principles, and Activity Guidelines wholeheartedly and applies them to our day to day business activities.

Sumitomo’s Business Philosophy
Wooden Statue of Masatomo Sumitomo
(Source: Sumitomo Historical Archives)
The origin of the Management Principles lies in Sumitomo’s business philosophy, which has been inherited and adhered to by the Sumitomo Group for more than 400 years since its foundation. In essence, it tells us that “We should place prime importance on integrity and sound business activities, and should never be moved from joy to sorrow by daily market fluctuations. But, when faced with a paradigm shift, we must take the lead in striving for structural innovation. In this way we can and should create meaningful values not only for ourselves but for society as well.” It implies a universal value valid enough even now though over 400 years have passed.
The history of Sumitomo dates back to the early 17th century, when Masatomo Sumitomo (1585-1652) opened a book and medicine shop in Kyoto. Later in life, he created his Founder’s Precepts, which laid out his business principles. The “Sumitomo Business Philosophy,” stressing integrity and sound management, was originally based on Masatomo’s precepts and has been a central force shaping the spirit of each Sumitomo company for almost four centuries. Sumitomo’s initial mainstay business was copper mining. It later diversified into a variety of fields, including finance, insurance, iron and steel, and real estate, and is now one of Japan’s respective business groups.
Early 1900s
Birth of Sumitomo Corporation
Sumitomo Corporation traces its roots to 1919, when The Osaka North Harbour Co., Ltd. was established to undertake a land reclamation project in Osaka Bay. In 1945, the Company decided to enter the trading business. It set up its first overseas office in Bombay, India, in 1950, and stationed a representative in the United States the following year, marking its incarnation as the trading arm of the Sumitomo Group.
Emergence as an Integrated Trading Company
Against the backdrop of the tremendous expansion and internationalization of the Japanese economy, and spurred by heavy industry in such sectors as steel and chemicals, Sumitomo Corporation evolved into an integrated trading company. Accordingly, it diversified its product range to include iron and steel, nonferrous metals, electrical and electronics products, machinery, agricultural and marine products, chemicals, textiles, natural resources and real estate. The Company also expanded its businesses to cover such sophisticated areas as resource development, plant construction, joint venture formation, financing and investment.
2000s to present
A Growth Scenario on a New Stage
In 2001, Head Office functions were centralized at the Harumi district of Chuo-ku, Tokyo to enhance efficiency and promote knowledge sharing. By maximizing our integrated corporate strengths, with earnings drivers encompassing both trade and investment, we are actively working to conduct businesses that truly contribute to the growth and development of various regions and industrial sectors. As set forth in its Management Principles, the Sumitomo Corporation Group will continue to embrace challenges in order “to achieve prosperity and realize dreams through sound business activity.”


Corporate Vision

We aim to be a global organization that constantly stays a step ahead in dealing with change, creates new value, and contributes broadly to society.

Management Principles

Corporate Mission

  • To achieve prosperity and realize dreams through sound business activities

Management Style

  • To place prime importance on integrity and sound management with utmost respect for the individual

Corporate Culture

  • To foster a corporate culture full of vitality and conducive to innovation

Activity Guidelines

  • To act with honesty and sincerity on the basis of Sumitomo’s business philosophy and in keeping with the Management Principles
  • To comply with laws and regulations while maintaining the highest ethical standards
  • To set high value on transparency and openness
  • To attach great importance to protecting the global environment
  • To contribute to society as a good corporate citizen
  • To achieve teamwork and integrated corporate strength through active communication