The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and National Board for Small Scale Industries (NBSSI) organised the Kaizen Conference for Women under the theme ‘Kaizen as a tool for women’s economic empowerment’.
The conference projected the importance of adopting Kaizen for female-owned businesses as a friendly tool for economic empowerment, as well as introduce young female entrepreneurs and start-ups to the model.
Kaizen is a system of practical methods and mindset orientation to improve productivity and product/service quality, reduce waste, improve profitability and help manage time through bottom-up continuous improvement activities at the workplace. It is usually simplified as KAI-ZEN: ‘Change for the better’. JICA recognises the significance of sharing the Japanese knowledge of Kaizen with African Female Entrepreneurs through this conference as well as other activities.
According to the Executive Director of NBSSI, Kosi Yankey Ayeh: “NBSSI identifies KAIZEN as one of its key Business Development tools that has enhanced women-owned businesses in the five Regions of Ghana where it has been implemented. Accelerator tools such as the KAIZEN Model can increase productivity and profit as well as reduce costs.
“Currently, KAIZEN-related services can be accessed in the Business Advisory Centres (BACs) in the regions. Although females dominate the MSME sector, female entrepreneurship still remains at the micro and small-scale level due to several reasons – including inadequate mentorship and practicable training programmes among others. The aforementioned issues are being addressed to create an enabling environment for women entrepreneurship to thrive in Ghana.”
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Ghana Office recognises the significant role of women entrepreneurs in national development. It recognises the importance of ‘Women Empowerment and Economic Opportunities for Women’ under the National Gender Policy Commitments 1 and 4 respectively.
A message by Chief Representative Mr. Araki Yasumichi indicated the success of the National Kaizen Project that was implemented in 2015-2018. He mentioned that an estimated 40 percent of beneficiaries were women-owned enterprises. The project resulted in a significant impact on the entire livelihood of women entrepreneurs as compared to male entrepreneurs. “We are delighted that the Kaizen Project is helping in empowering women economically, as they impact their families and society at large.”
He highlighted that woman can play important roles as advocates and ambassadors for Kaizen-adoption to empower many more women in Ghana. He believes the conference is the start of raising awareness on the contribution of Kaizen in the development of women in Ghana’s economy.
A World Bank Report on ‘Eliminating Gender Disparities in Business Performance in Africa’, revealed that while women entrepreneurs are a vital and vibrant source of economic growth across sub-Saharan Africa, analysis shows that women-owned businesses consistently perform worse than businesses owned by men due to gender-specific limitations. Generally, fewer women than men get the opportunity to learn and adopt business practices associated with their company’s growth and profitability.
The Conference organised by JICA and NBSSI was meant to deepen the impact made with the NBSSI/JICA National Kaizen Project (2015-2018), wherein an estimated 40% of beneficiaries were women-owned enterprises. The project resulted in a significant impact on the entire livelihood of women entrepreneurs as compared to male entrepreneurs. Success cases of Kaizen implementation in women-owned enterprises exhibited significant multiplying effects as compared to male-owned ones.
The conference brought together key stakeholders (public, private sector, academia and civil society) to learn about how Kaizen has impacted selected female-owned enterprises, and also how it can further empower women to improve their business operations.
It served as a platform to increase awareness on Kaizen, appeal to women entrepreneurs, highlight the success stories of women entrepreneurs applying Kaizen principles in their business, and develop a database of potential women entrepreneurs interested in Kaizen for future collaboration, mentorship and networking; and to promote Kaizen among various government, educational and private sector stakeholders.
JICA remains committed to supporting the Ghanaian government in other sectors, including infrastructure, agriculture, education, private sector development, civil service training and many more.