February 21, 2019
The signing ceremony for the agreement on the Africa Kaizen Initiative. JICA staff member Momoko Suzuki is at the left end. Fourth from left is NEPAD CEO Ibrahim Assane Mayaki.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had the following to say at the opening ceremony for the 6th Tokyo International Conference on African Development held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2016:
"Japan will cooperate with NEPAD*1 to spread Kaizen*2 all throughout Africa. We will aim to increase by 30 percent the productivity of factories where Kaizen is introduced.”
Nine months later JICA and NEPAD concluded an agreement on the Africa Kaizen Initiative. As Africa struggles to enhance productivity and competitiveness, the initiative is aiming to deepen the connections between countries and agencies that work on Kaizen and to effectively spread Kaizen in the 10 years leading up to 2027.
This second installment in the series "TOWARD TICAD 7: Africa & Me" takes up Africa’s challenge to enhance its productivity through introducing Kaizen, via the thoughts of JICA staff member Momoko Suzuki of the JICA Industrial Development and Public Policy Department, who worked to launch this initiative.
*1: The New Partnership for Africa's Development, an intergovernmental agency that aims for the political, social and economic integration of the countries of Africa. Its members are African countries. It was established in 2002.
*2: A management approach developed at Japanese manufacturing industry workplaces to increase product quality and productivity in the country during its period of high growth. The fundamentals include the five S's, or 5S: "Sort," "Set In order," "Shine," "Standardize" and "Sustain."
The African Kaizen Annual Conference
Last July, the third African Kaizen Annual Conference was held in Durban, South Africa. Policymakers, practitioners, entrepreneurs, scholars and others, about 150 in all, participated in the conference organized by JICA and NEPAD. They hailed from 20 countries mostly in Africa, but also in Asia, Latin America and elsewhere.
During the three-day conference, participants gave presentations on positive examples of Kaizen, including Ethiopia, which began operating a Kaizen Consultant Certification, Accreditation and Registration System, and companies in various countries that significantly reduced waste in their manufacturing processes. Participants listened enthusiastically.
JICA distributed its newly created Kaizen Handbook, a collection of information on the practice of Kaizen and human resource development. "There were many examples we could capitalize on in my country. It was an amazing conference," one participant said after the event.
At the annual conference, observing local companies working on kaizen
Suzuki, who has been involved in running the conference since the inaugural event and spent more than six months thinking of topics of discussion and selecting speakers, said, "The breadth of participants broadens with every conference. Various countries have begun moving in unison based on the one big intention of 'changing Africa.'"
When Suzuki joined the JICA Industrial Development and Public Policy Department in 2014, JICA's Kaizen measures were at a crossroads.
Since 2008, JICA had carried out technical cooperation to spread Kaizen in eight African countries. Further requests for cooperation were coming one after another from other African countries. "In Africa, which has more than 50 countries, how can we scale up and achieve results? We need to think strategically," Suzuki thought.
In the course of a process of trial and error, Suzuki heard that NEPAD CEO Ibrahim Assane Mayaki was interested in Kaizen. Thinking NEPAD's network in Africa is the key to Kaizen dissemination, she sought and received an opportunity to meet directly with Mayaki when he visited Japan.
Using slides she prepared with scrupulous care, Suzuki told Mayaki about the achievements of Kaizen in Africa. She explained to him that in 10 years, more than 52,000 people have been trained in Ethiopia, and the productivity of companies that adopted Kaizen has increased an average of 37 percent, creating some $90 million in profit. He reacted by saying, "NEPAD will take part in spreading Kaizen throughout Africa."
Prime Minister Abe's speech at TICAD VI came just two months later.
A new Kaizen pamphlet created by the government of Ghana
As JICA continues Kaizen technical cooperation in seven countries, the Africa Kaizen Initiative JICA is implementing with NEPAD is spreading opportunities to take advantage of the expertise and experiences Japan has built up through its technical cooperation.
For example, taking advantage of the opportunity afforded by the annual conference, government personnel from Tanzania and Zambia and elsewhere visited the Ethiopian Kaizen Institute to learn about Ethiopia's experience disseminating Kaizen throughout the country. This is just one example of countries beginning to interact on Kaizen. Likewise, Ghana, which has worked to spread Kaizen nationwide, created a pamphlet last December that summarizes its Kaizen results so far to discover more companies' Kaizen needs. And Tunisia, inspired by the debate at the annual conference, is preparing a system for publicly recognizing companies that have gotten results with Kaizen.
"As people in Africa share success cases of Kaizen, a mindset of change is budding in various countries. People think, 'We can do it too.' I don't want JICA’s technical cooperation to rely only on Japan’s experiences. Africans should develop their own solutions with a focus on their future. I want the Initiative to become a movement so big we can't control it," Suzuki said.
The fourth African Kaizen Annual Conference will be held in Tunisia in June ahead of TICAD 7. "I want to make it a conference that will provide big momentum for TICAD," Suzuki said with enthusiasm.
A staff member of JICA's Industrial Development and Public Policy Department. She joined the Japan International Cooperation Agency in 2002. Her experience working at the JICA Ethiopia Office gave her an interest in private-sector development. After working in General Affairs and other departments, she took her current position in 2014. She oversees the Kaizen project at JICA Headquarters. She was born in Saitama Prefecture.