Africa Kaizen Annual Conference 2018

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Africa Kaizen Annual Conference was held from 2nd to 4th July 2018 in Durban, Republic of South Africa.

In Africa where improvement of productivity and strengthening of industrial competitiveness are issues, the demand for "Kaizen", a method for improving quality and productivity in Japan, is rising.

In April 2017 NEPAD and JICA launched the "Africa Kaizen Initiative" (AKI) with the aim of disseminating the Kaizen management principles in Africa.

Africa Kaizen Annual Conference holds keynote speeches, panel discussions, company visits and group work at the three-day meeting and is a place to share the significance of Kaizen implementing policy, knowledge and lessons from each country, and discuss future policy of activities. Kaizen knowledge sharing seminar had been held in Ethiopia (2016) and Kenya (2017) organized solely by JICA  and this time, following the formation of AKI the seminar is jointly organized by NEPAD Agency, JICA and PAPA.

Co-organizers: Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Agency, and Pan African Productivity Association (PAPA) / Productivity South Africa (PSA)

The theme for the 2018 seminar was "The opportunity of Kaizen in Africa - present and future" and the following discussions were held in each program.

1. Kaizen and Improving Firm Capability for Innovation

In Africa, improvement of business environment and expansion of middle income groups are seen, but decline of manufacturing industry is a problem. Mr. Mothiba, the CEO of Productivity SA observed that productivity is a catalyst for growth and that African economies are struggling because they do not address efficiency of productivity. He stressed that Kaizen is about systems/processes and people. Requiring incremental changes through non-threatening, collective approaches that encourage team work. Mr. Mothiba identified several policy considerations for institutionalising Kaizen, including the need for national productivity centers, policy frameworks that looked at some SDGs (8, 9 and 17) and how Kaizen could be applied, peer-learning and knowledge sharing. He ended by saying that embracing Kaizen is not costly and only requires commitment from all concerned.

However, Mr. Goddard of the World Bank showed that African companies do not or cannot invest in R & D because the management capital is weak and Kaizen boosts the management capital of the company. Professor Faull of the Lean Institute Africa argued that steady activities like Kaizen, although they may not be news worthy are indispensable for growth. He maintained that there are good things happening across Africa’s firms and industries. Specifically the continuous improvement as espoused by Kaizen happens continuously and in small amounts and thus does not make the news. He emphasised that African firms needed to focus on the customer and this required being specific and knowledgeable in identifying the “customer”. Lean management was concerned with achieving goals in the face of obstacles and that firms needed to stabilise before stepping up. It requires changing the behaviour of managers and creating a work environment where there is mutual respect between workers and management.

 Professor Emeritus Osada of the Tokyo Institute of Technology who took a keynote speech at the beginning of the meeting suggested that African countries should introduce Kaizen more strategically to improve corporate performance and customer satisfaction.

2. Kaizen and Corporate Cohesion

Kaizen is a human-centered activity, and it is believed to have the effect of improving corporate cohesion, such as improvement of labor-management relations through teamwork and communication. In South Africa who experienced apartheid, trust building between managers and workers is an issue in particular, Mr. Burns said respect, trust, and empathy are necessary between management and workers to realize corporate cohesion. Likewise, Mr. Fairlamb of K-Way (clothing maker in South Africa) who regenerated the company through the introduction of Kaizen management principles, such as the change in labor-management relations and employee motivation improvement. Mr. Getahun, former director of the Ethiopian Kaizen Institute (EKI), introduced a case where employees started practicing Kaizen not only within the company but also at home in the textile industry of Ethiopia, and suggested Kaizen can also affect society.

3. Companies visit

On the second day of the meeting, companies visit to Japanese companies and local companies based in Durban, including South Africa Toyota Motor Corporation (TSAM) was conducted. At TSAM, lectures on Toyota Production System (TPS) were also given by Mr. Onoue.  It was made known to participants that Kaizen philosophy is not only applicable in the manufacturing industries but also in institutions such as hospital and training institutions.

4. Country Action Plan

On the final day of the meeting, Kaizen countries’ work plans for the following year was presented based on group discussion. It was also announced that AKI will henceforth embark on the award system.

In order to realize the contents discussed at this meeting, NEPAD and JICA plan to continue discussions with related countries and organizations.