August 4, 2018
A Kenyan ABE Initiative graduate, Mr. Robin Pik Kipkoech (MBA, International University of Japan) contributed an article "Lessons from Japan for Kenya's business degree programmes" to the Standard on August 4 (Saturday). The Standard is one of the leading Kenya papers. It introduces Japan's contribution to African countries and industries, that the ABE Initiative is a program directly linked to business practice.
* 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 the private sector, government officials and educators.
"Lessons from Japan for Kenya's business degree programmes"
I still remember how it felt when I woke up one morning in January 2015 and looked outside my window to find three meters of snow in the car park area.
I was in Niigata in Japan, doing my master's degree in business administration – international management at the International University of Japan.
Earlier that year, I had been selected by the African Business Education Initiative for Youth of the Government of Japan (usually referred to as the ABE Initiative) as one of the inaugural groups of ABE scholars from Africa.
The selection process involved six stages of interview but was so transparent that you knew that whether or not you were selected depended entirely on how you presented yourself to the interviewing panel. There was no question of short-cuts.
But how does this master's degree differ from the others available around the world, including in Kenya?
I would say that it's the link with industry which makes it particularly relevant to any Kenyan.
This exposure to Japanese industrial methods, and the business innovations I got to see and understand in Japan, opened my eyes to all kinds of possibilities which we could replicate in Kenya.
From the Japanese concept of "Muda" (which basically means "avoid all waste") to that of just-in-time supply and manufacture (hence no need for large inventory and stocks), I realised that if Kenya is to compete in global manufacturing, there is a lot we can learn from Japan.
It is generally known here in Kenya that it is possible to have a master's degree and remain unemployed for quite some time.
Well, the ABE Initiative graduates usually have a clear advantage when it comes to employment, as more and more Japanese companies are setting up in Kenya. And when it comes to employment, they will naturally prefer those who had experience in their way of doing things.
Also a good number of these Japanese corporates have created links with the ABE Initiative to allow for students to take up internships in these companies while they are still studying.
In addition, the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) hosts an annual East Africa Business Networking Fair at which there are discussions and networking opportunities for those who have returned from the ABE Initiative programmes. Here we get to meet potential employers as well as representatives of corporates which are willing to offer internships. (*1)
These benefits combine to offer an exceptional opportunity for all those interested in advancing their careers in business and innovation.
Whether they end up starting their own businesses or working for existing corporates, ABE Initiative graduates have a great deal to offer Kenya, as our country seeks to industrialise to create more factory jobs for the youth. (*2)
-The writer is a systems support and implementation engineer with NEC Africa.