Kaizen, the business philosophy which means continuous improvement in Japanese, was at the heart of discussions at a seminar held on Tuesday, and co-organised by JICA and NEPAD on the sidelines of the 7th Tokyo International Conference on African Development, TICAD7.
The seminar, under the theme: “Africa’s Socio-economic Transformation through innovation,” discussed the role of Kaizen, in improving quality and productivity as well as human resource development on the continent.
Panelists included Assane Mayaki, CEO of AUDA-NEPAD; Bezabih Gebereyes, Commissioner of the Civil Service Commission of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia; and JICA Research Institute Director General Toshiyuki Nakamura, of the Industrial Policy and Public Policy Department.
“The Kaizen approach is more than a technique…it is an approach to economic development, and it’s been yielding tremendous results,” African Development Bank’s Chief Economist and Vice President, Economic Governance and Knowledge Management, Dr. Celestin Monga, said.
Monga underlined the need for incremental innovation in each African country, but also called for increased support to small and medium sized enterprises as a starting point to scaled up industrialization.
Africa needs to create production lines because “ even with low-skilled labour we can do tremendous things,” he said.
JICA and NEPAD have been promoting incremental innovation through the Africa Kaizen Initiative, launched in 2017.
“Kaizen is about mindset changes. It will be a formidable tool to enhance productivity of SMES…We have rolled out projects and training programs in 10 countries,” Mayaki said in his welcome remarks.
Acknowledging two Africa Kaizen awardees, also in attendance, Makayi told the packed room “They are the exact product of how Kaizen should be implemented.”
Fikreselassie Ambaw, General Manager of MAA Garment Factory in Ethiopia and Ruben Zebedayo Lyanga, head of Atoz Textile Mills (Tanzania), who won the Africa Kaizen Award in 2019, made presentations on how the business approach radically transformed their enterprises and boosted productivity, employee commitment and creativity.
Sharing Kaizen’s contribution and achievements in Ethiopia, Gebreyes explained how Kaizen and the subsequently transformed mindset have led to increased efficiency in spare parts production lines. “In the sugar cane sector, the Kaizen model has led to a 43% hike in productivity,” he noted.
Answering questions on the capabilities needed for entrepreneurs and firms to promote radical, disruptive innovation in Africa, Toshiyuki Nakamura, Director General of Industrial Development and Public Policy Department said: “the common thread between GAFA, (Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon), is the implementation of Kaizen. Incremental and radical innovation, are one of the most important messages for the continent.”
Through JICA, the Kaizen approach has expanded its outreach to 25 countries on the continent; touched 18,096 enterprises and 301 public institutions.
The African Development Bank President, Akinwumi Adesina is leading a high-level delegation to TICAD7 which is being held in Yokohama city from 28-30 August.
The Tokyo International Conference on African Development, led by Japan, started in 1993. African heads of states and key business leaders are scheduled to attend from around the world, providing an opportunity to explore investment opportunities. The event, held every 3 years, has been convened alternately in Japan and Africa since 2016. The last TICAD was held in Nairobi, Kenya.