TICAD; Japan’s invaluable contribution to Kenya’s quality standards
By Phyllis Wakiaga
The 6th TICAD conference that was held in Nairobi last week was significant for many reasons; one being that this was the first time the conference was held in Africa, Nairobi in particular.
The conference was not just about the Ksh 3 trillion promised by Japan for projects that will boost trade in Africa; it was about forging stronger ties with Japan, which is a crucial link for our growth and advancement.
Japan has many lessons from which we can learn from. For example, in 1950s and 60s, Japanese products were viewed as imitations and inferior. Fast forward to the 80s and the country’s reputation for high-tech, cutting edge inventions such as Nikon and Canon cameras soared above all other industries the world over.
Among other things, one occurrence that has been credited for this turnaround in Japan was the establishment of The Japanese Society for Quality Control (JSQC) in 970. The body was mandated to oversee the creation of quality products in the country. Japan has bequeathed to the world the principles of lean manufacturing such as, Just in Time (JIT).
(JIT), KAIZEN, 5S, KANBAN, just to mention but a few. These principles are currently being effected by a number of manufacturing companies in Kenya to eliminate wastage and promote efficiency in the manufacturing sector. But without limiting them to industry, if applied on a larger scale to all businesses, then we are bound to see a huge difference in our daily operations that in turn impact on the macroeconomics to deliver sustainable economic development.
Aside from the technological knowledge transfer that makes Japan’s experience quite essential to our economic goals, the subtle, yet stronger and more long-lasting skill that the Japanese can impart can be found in these philosophies. Take for example Kaizen; earlier this year Ethiopia was hailed as the center of excellence for Kaizen in Africa after it was able to save 1.67 billion Birr (Ksh 77 billion) over the past three years whilst providing improved quality products and services.
Increased productivity and quality are key components to improved trade and trade relations in Africa. And if we keep improving the standard requirements as we trade with each other, we continue to elevate our value in the global markets. Additionally, the quality upgrading mechanism can also be triggered through reverse engineering which in turn can lead us to innovation.
The axis of the global economy has been turning eastwards for a while now and it is time for us to explore additional trading partners and whilst keeping a strong focus on what we want to achieve as a country. Kenya has been the largest beneficiary in Africa of Japanese goodwill and can now take it further, to increase our competitiveness and use the skills transfer as catalyst to reach our goal of becoming an upper middle income country by 2030.
The writer is the CEO of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org
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