September 8, 2014
The Japan International Cooperation Agency participated in the fifth annual AWEP International Visitor Leadership Program hosted by the United States Department of State, as a part of the ongoing Japan-U.S. development cooperation. The program was organized on the margins of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, which was held in Washington D.C. from August 4th to 6th.
This collaboration is referenced in the "Fact Sheet: U.S.-Japan Global and Regional Cooperation," which was issued when U.S. President Barack Obama visited Japan and met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan in April of this year. It is one way in which Japan and the United States are cooperating in the area of vocational development and capacity building of African female entrepreneurs.
Both Japan and the U.S. have been strengthening cooperation to support African women entrepreneurs as a key mechanism to foster trade, investment and development in Africa.
At a seminar entitled “African Women's Business Development Seminar” that JICA hosted from Jan. 26 to Feb. 6 by inviting 14 African women entrepreneurs and the government officials who provide support to them from seven African countries, a U.S.-Japan collaboration became reality when U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy gave a keynote address at a public symposium. This collaboration in the U.S. is a subsequent concrete achievement coming after the seminar in Japan.
Many African women entrepreneurs and other interested parties gather in the workshop.
On August 5th, JICA organized a special "JICA seminar" for 29 African women business leaders who participated in African Women's Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP). The seminar commenced with a participatory workshop on "Kaizen," featuring Koichi Ieki (1) as a trainer. The moderator of the seminar, Yasushi Naito, executive advisor to the director general, Africa Department of JICA, opened the workshop by introducing Kaizen as a system of practical methods and mindset developed by Japanese industry to improve productivity and product/service quality through bottom-up continuous improvement activities at the workplace. Naito explained the significance of sharing the Japanese knowledge of Kaizen with African entrepreneurs. He indicated that Kaizen is one of the central approaches used by the Japanese Government to promote robust and sustainable economic development in Africa as announced at the Fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD V). He noted that Japan's dissemination of Kaizen in Africa seeks to strengthen the basis of labor-intensive manufacturing industry throughout the continent.
Koichi Ieki, a trainer at the Kaizen Workshop, has worked with people in Jordan and Egypt from their point of view to tailor his advice to the locals, rather than simply imposing the Japanese way.
Ieki gave an introductory presentation on the concept and the importance of "5S (2) " which is the basis of all Kaizen methodologies. He then introduced the "self-grading evaluation table," which he invented through his experience training staff of SMEs in Jordan and Egypt, as a tool to promote 5S in workplaces. One of the participating entrepreneurs responded by announcing that she will start using the table as soon as she returns to her company because she was convinced that the use of this training tool can motivate employees to set goals, take actions and evaluate their achievements.
Even when playing a game, the participants had serious expressions.
The African women entrepreneurs who participated in the JICA seminar
The lecture on 5S was followed by a participatory 5S training session that included a simulation game using LEGO blocks. The entrepreneurs were divided into two groups and asked to come up with an ideal layout of an imaginary store house. This game enabled participants to experimentally learn how to maximize efficiency at workplaces.
Through a 3.5-hour Kaizen workshop, which provided not only the theoretical background of Kaizen but also incorporated a hands-on implementation method and a lively discussion among the participants on how to initiate Kaizen activities on the ground, Ieki successfully conveyed that "It is important to know, but it is more important to practice."
The second part of the JICA seminar consisted of a panel discussion under the theme, "Strengthening Business Partnership between Japan and Africa." Rumiko Seya, director, JCCP M Co., Ltd. / President, Japan Center for Conflict Prevention, and Bongiwe Kali, a South African female entrepreneur, took part as panelists. Following their discussion, Seya and Kali exchanged views with the AWEP participants.
Rumiko Seya, left, talks about the realities of Japanese enterprises’ engagement with Africa based on her own experience. Bongiwe Kali, center, is an iconic figure among Africa's women entrepreneurs. In 2008 she became the youngest person ever to be awarded the Female Farmer of the Year in South Africa. She also participated in JICA’s African Women's Business Development Seminar in February. Yasushi Naito of JICA, right, served as a moderator.
As director of JCCP M Co., Ltd., Seya provides consulting service and technical assistance to Japanese companies wishing to expand or start operations in Africa. Based on her experience, she presented her analysis on the realities of the Japanese private sector's engagement with the continent. She contended that a notable characteristic of the way in which Japanese businesses engage with African partners is that they are not only interested in commercial dealings but are also seriously interested in sharing Japanese technical knowledge and/or helping develop local human resources. Her remarks increased the interest of the participating African CEOs in establishing business partnerships with Japanese companies.
Kali, managing director / Kali Chicks and Poultry Supply, shared her experiences as a participant in the African Women's Business Development Seminar, which was held in the city of Yokohama in February 2014. She highlighted her subsequent success in establishing a partnership between a Japanese company, Sakata Seed Corporation, the representatives of which she initially met in Japan during the seminar, and Eastern Cape Rural Development Agency (ECRDA) for which she serves as a board member.
She shared her experience in utilizing JICA’s Public-Private Partnership scheme Preparatory Survey for BOP Business Promotion (3) to collaborate with Sakata under its preliminary investigation the Preparatory Survey on BOP business on incubation program for emerging small-scale vegetable farmers through production and business training (4). Through her interactions with many enterprises and entrepreneurs in Japan, she was impressed that they view business not only as an object of profit, but also as something with significant meaning. In addition, Japanese enterprises have skills and knowledge required in Africa, and at the same time, they look for in Africa land and resources they lack in Japan, so the first step should be to know more about the opportunities each has to offer the other, she added.
One of the major challenges that the two panelists identified was the difficulty in finding business partners and the importance of exchange programs like AWEP and the Japan-Africa Business Women Exchange Program (BWEP, 3) in providing valuable opportunities for business matching.
Naito closed the session by reiterating that Japan and the United States will continue to work together in strengthening cooperation to support capacity building of African women entrepreneurs, based on the notion that entrepreneurship by African female business leaders is key to strengthening the robustness of trade, investment and development in Africa.
On Aug. 6, JICA personnel and interested parties were invited to the AWEP Business-to-Business Showcase & Reception, organized by the United States Department of State. African women entrepreneurs exhibited booths to introduce their products and business, and participants’ enthusiastic presentations filled the venue.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Heather Higginbottom, in her speech, emphasized the direction of promoting capacity building within African women entrepreneurs as part of a collaboration between the U.S. and Japan, as Obama and Abe had agreed. She cited the African proverb “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” to describe this collaboration.
Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Kenichiro Sasae touched on Abe’s great focus on the empowerment of women in society, and said that there is a huge potential in the Japan-U.S. development cooperation, which accounts for 40 percent of the world’s ODA. He also reaffirmed that Japan will collaborate with AWEP of the U.S through its own program BWEP.
Through participation in the program this time, it was affirmed that the empowerment of women in the society is a priority agenda for both Japan and the U.S., and that the program itself was an important opportunity for Japan, the U.S. and Africa to mutually learn about one another.
1: A former JICA senior volunteer. Ieki relied on his work experience at a manufacturing site in Japan to help spread "Kaizen" to developing countries, working specifically in Egypt and Jordan.
2: Seiri (Good arrangement), Seiton (Good order), Seisou (Cleaning), Seiketsu (Cleanliness) and Sitsuke (Discipline).
3: A framework to support preliminary surveys to promote enterprises and other entities’ efforts to collaborate with BOP businesses.
4. The Eastern Cape Rural Development Agency, for which she serves as a board member, was a main actor in the cooperation.
5. African Women's Business Development Seminar from Jan. 26 to Feb. 6, co-sponsored by JICA and Yokohama city, was the first instance of BWEP. The second meeting is scheduled for early 2015.