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Officials of the two Ghanaian businesses, JICA and representatives from other Ghanaian organisations
Two Ghanaian businesses, Nallem Clothing and Uni-Jay clothing company limited participated in the African Kaizen Annual Conference held in Tunis, Tunisia at the Hotel Ramada Plaza from the 24th – 26th June 2019.
The conference hosted over 190 participants from 17 African Countries including Ghana and organized by the Japan International Cooperation Agency and New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Agency.
A key highlight to this year’s conference was the first ever-organized “African Kaizen Awards” ceremony, which allowed business representatives from Africa to compete based on the adoption of the Japanese productivity model- “Kaizen” in their work operations and its impact on the growth of their companies.
Representatives from Ghana included staff of JICA Ghana office, National Board for Small Scale Industries (NBSSI), Management Development and Productivity Institute (MDPI), Bulluk Company; manufacturers of Nallem clothing and Uni-Jay clothing company limited. Ghana is currently one of the eight African countries that is implementing and promoting “Kaizen” in projects targeting the development of small and medium scale enterprises in the country.
The conference gathered key interlocutors from government, private sectors, academia, and development partners in Africa and around the world to deliberate on the theme “Continuous improvement in the Changing Society”.
The discussions reaffirmed that Kaizen has become a highly effective tool for achieving economic growth in Africa through developing human resources and enhancing multi-sectoral institutional competencies.
The conference emphasized that Kaizen is an integral part of innovation, which is the key source of economic development. Kaizen is not only critical for incremental innovation but also for achieving radical and sustainable innovation.
Participants at the AKAC 2019 recognized that critical factors such as political leadership and commitment as well as improved access to finance are very crucial for enterprises to enhance their Kaizen impact.
The conference delivered holistic content with both theoretical and practical sessions, which gave a better view of the KAIZEN concept and how SMEs in the host country; Tunisia and other countries have utilized it for success of their operations.
The conference gave the opportunity for networking among stakeholders and practitioners of Kaizen across the world. Lastly, it offered the opportunity for participants to convey information to African leaders on how they should strategize and sustain Kaizen during and after the TICAD VII.
For Ghana, feedback from participants and JICA Ghana office emphasized on the need for Kaizen to be envisioned as a multi-sectoral tool to align with the Ghana Beyond Aid agenda. If Kaizen can be expanded to other sectors of Ghana’s development, it would be a catalyst for exponential change in the mindset and attitudes to development.
As recounted by Ms. Nana Adwoa Owusu-Achaw, JICA program staff for Industry, she stressed on two main strategies from the conference. One is the need for institutionalization of Kaizen in the public sector; an example exhibited in Ethiopia, which has it in their National Growth Plan and Standing committee for parliament on reforms. The other on the fact that “Kaizen” is a very “gender-friendly” tool and can be strategized for women’s economic empowerment.
About Kaizen and the African Kaizen Awards (AKA) 2019
The first ever African Kaizen Awards was held as part of the AKAC 2019.
Representatives of two Ghanaian businesses; Uni-Jay Company and Bulluk (manufacturers of Nallem Clothing) participated in the competition.
Under JICA Ghana ‘s technical cooperation project- National Kaizen Project (2015-2018), they benefitted immensely and continuous practice of Kaizen qualified them to represent Ghana in the awards.
Although two Ethiopian companies shared the grand prize of Kaizen Award of Excellence, Uni-Jay and Bulluk were awarded “Kaizen Certificates of Achievement”.
Nine (9) nominee enterprises were shortlisted for the awards ceremony in Tunis. Winners were scored accordingly by the systematic measurement of productivity, evidence of team building and motivation towards workers continuous productivity, quality enhancement and better services and sustainability plans.
Government of Ethiopia has incorporated “Kaizen” in its development since 11 years ago.
With government’s commitment, it has been able to transform its civil service and grow its private sector exponentially. It was not surprising that two of their companies won the first prize. They will also represent at the upcoming Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 7), taking part in the Kaizen side-events and having the chance to visit Japanese enterprises to experience the application of Kaizen in its origin country.
From now on African Kaizen Awards will be held annually and it seems Ghana could be a potential host for the 2020 event.
Since late 2000s, Kaizen has been promoted in several countries in African continent for quality and productivity improvement (QPI) with the technical support of JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency).
(The Japanese word “Kaizen” originally means “improvement”. It is a management philosophy and know-how that brings about continuous improvement of quality and productivity. Kaizen is a human-oriented approach, which fosters teamwork, self-reliance, creativity and ingenuity).
Particularly in recent years, the achievement of Kaizen attracted the interest of an increasing number of African governments. Cognizant of this interest, at the occasion of the sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) in 2016, Kaizen received high attention as a promising method in raising quality and productivity, improving standard and ensuring the competitiveness of African firms in the global market.
In 2017, New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Agency and JICA launched Africa Kaizen Initiative (AKI) at the occasion of the Knowledge Sharing Seminar held in Nairobi in April 2017. The seminar in 2018 was renamed as Africa Kaizen Annual Conference and was held in Durban, South Africa jointly organized by JICA and NEPAD.
This year, prior to the seventh TICAD (TICAD VII) to be held in August, the Africa Kaizen Annual Conference was organized in Tunisia to accelerate momentum, integrate knowledge and mobilize resources for further Kaizen dissemination in Africa.
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