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July 20, 2017

[Scholarship Graduates] ABE Initiative (6): "I have gained a lot from my local internship in Kenya" (Private Sector)

This series introduces scholarship graduates who keep striving towards a better future even after the completion of the program.

This time we focus on Ms. Michelle Olum (MSc. International Development, Nagoya University), who got practical work experience at AfricaScan Inc., taking advantage of ‘Local Internship Program' which JICA Kenya office started uniquely. AfricaScan aims to contribute to health of African people, utilizing their World-Class Marketing know-how in consumer businesses.

* ABE Initiative: Master's Degree and Internship Program of African Business Education Initiative for Youth, launched by Japanese Prime Minister ABE in TICADV in 2013. Participants are from private sector, government officials and educators broadly.

* AfricaScan is a Japanese public health marketing company based in Kenya. Its mission is to drive behavior change for preventive healthcare in Africa. It provides preventive care service by operating healthy kiosks and diet coaching program in Naivasha.

It was introduced by the Japanese Prime Minister Mr. Shinzo ABE at the Opening Session of the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) held in Nairobi in August, 2016.

Address by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Opening Session of the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) (Saturday, August 27, 2016)

* To know more about AfricaScan, visit;

Michelle Olum, a recent ABE Initiative graduate from Nagoya University in Japan is currently undergoing Local Internship at AfricaScan, a Japanese organisation operating in Kenya. Local Internship for ABE graduates is a program that has been uniquely introduced by JICA Kenya.

Of her experience in Japan, Michelle says she learnt a lot both inside and outside the classroom. There was intense coursework in her International Development Master's class, but she enjoyed interacting with the diverse students with different world views. "Our Professors were easily accessible, which made things easy," she notes. She wrote a thesis on "Social Health Insurance, a Case Study of Rwanda."

She liked the networking fairs organised in Japan, which exposed the ABE students to potential companies that they could interact with.

"My internship in Japan, albeit short, was very informative. I learnt about the company's projects in Kenya, and Japanese support to Kenya. It was organised and professional, with a focus on problem solving and always improving. For instance, there are many cases in Japan where a company's products are improved as a result of feedback received from consumers," she says.

Michelle says that she learnt to take initiative and to take time to plan adequately before implementing a project, and to be environment conscious.

For fun, she went skiing and snowboarding, sightseeing and visiting museums in Japan and the Philippines.

Upon her return to Kenya, Michelle was attracted by the idea of doing local internship, particularly in Health, an area she is very interested in and in which she has had a long experience. She was tasked by AfricaScan to conduct a survey on nutrition of middle-class in Nairobi, the first survey she ever conducted by herself. She notes that it was challenging at first, but she got some much desired research experience.

Ms. Sawada, her Supervisor at AfricaScan, notes that the company needed support to expand their business, and Michelle has assisted them since she is in charge of the nutrition research. "Michelle has been very supportive, and from our experience we would recommend other Japanese companies to engage the ABE graduates, as they understand both the Japanese and Kenyan situations."

Mr. Patrick Miruka, another colleague, is in agreement with Ms. Sawada's sentiments. He is in constant communication with Michelle as she conducts the research on understanding the lifestyle of middle class Nairobi residents, with a focus on nutrition. The results will help the company to come up with appropriate interventions for challenges identified, hence expanding their business in the country.

Michelle would like to continue engaging in research in future. She also hopes to maintain communication with the networks she made in Japan, including Japanese companies and ABE Initiative graduates.

PhotoSimple health checkup event

PhotoMichelle (left) and her colleague Patrick

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