Japan brings kaizen philosophy to Ethiopia
Addis Ababa, 25 March 2014 (WIC) - Kaizen, the workplace philosophy that helped guide Japan's recovery from the ruins of defeat in World War Two, has reached the rural uplands of southern Ethiopia.
Simple principles of tidiness and self-discipline are among the foundations of an approach that so impressed the late prime minister Meles Zenawi that he adopted it as national strategy.
Now it is helping women in southern highland villages develop businesses to supplement their farming work.
"We've got social recognition. Since we organised this, farmers come and sell to us and local government administrators respect us," says Amelewerk Haile, who chairs the Faniekir women's craft group.
"As women we cover many domestic expenses, plus we get more recognition from our husbands because we have got more skills."
Meles Zenawi learned of kaizen at a 2008 Tokyo conference on African development - and its themes now feature in numerous Ethiopian projects supported by Japanese aid.
Japan later promoted the philosophy in emerging economies such as Egypt and Tunisia. Their experience impressed Meles Zenawi.
"What we hope to achieve through the introduction of the kaizen system is improvement in the productivity of all our enterprises, public and private," Meles once said, explaining why he had sought Japan's help.
"It's based on the creativity of all employees; it involves all employees in the improvement of quality and productivity of a company."
On a recent visit to Addis Ababa, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the institute should become a centre of excellence for human resource development across Africa. (BBC)
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