National Cohesion

Here Are Three Key Lessons that Kenya can Learn from Japan

In 2021, Japan’s Prime Min­is­ter, 72-year-old Yoshi­hide Suga resigned after a coro­n­avirus surge that his gov­ern­ment failed to con­trol. By doing so, he con­tin­ued a long Japan­ese tra­di­tion of lead­ers tak­ing full respon­si­bil­i­ty for their failures.

In Novem­ber 2022, Japan’s Jus­tice Min­is­ter, Yasuhi­ro Hanashi resigned because he referred to some of his duties as tedious. One month ear­li­er in Octo­ber, Eco­nom­ic Revi­tal­iza­tion Min­is­ter Daishi­ro Yam­agi­wa also resigned due to his ties with the Uni­fi­ca­tion Church, which many con­sid­er to be a cult.

These res­ig­na­tions exem­pli­fy Japan’s utter com­mit­ment to three major prin­ci­ples that Kenya can do well to embrace and customize.

First­ly, Japan has embraced col­lec­tive respon­si­bil­i­ty that is fueled by teamwork.

After the Sec­ond World War, Japan was in ash­es. They real­ized that the only way to rebuild was through con­cert­ed team effort. Dur­ing the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Japan’s adher­ence to col­lec­tive respon­si­bil­i­ty was in full dis­play when Japan­ese fans habit­u­al­ly col­lect­ed trash after their team’s world cup games. That’s how they live. The Japan­ese apply such col­lec­tive respon­si­bil­i­ty while con­sid­er­ing all fac­tors in metic­u­lous plan­ning for mega projects and small tasks. That is why they deliv­ered the inge­nious glob­al­ly renown Tokyo Bay Aqua-line 15.1 kms express­way over and under the sea after mutu­al­ly plan­ning for 20 years and con­struct­ing for 10 years!

Equal­ly Japan­ese farm­ers embody the pow­er of col­lec­tive respon­si­bil­i­ty and uni­fied effort. Since the mid-1950s, their pow­er­ful voice and votes have kept the Lib­er­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty in pow­er apart from two interludes.

In 1960, Japan’s 11.75 mil­lion farm­ers not only fed the coun­try, they also influ­enced its pol­i­cy direc­tion. In essence, they took respon­si­bil­i­ty doing they bol­stered their influ­ence. Kenya’s mil­lions of farm­ers can fol­low suit by pulling togeth­er and exert­ing their influ­ence. Cur­rent­ly, they remain splin­tered, voice­less and powerless.

Last week, Japan’s Prime Min­is­ter Fumio Kishi­da vis­it­ed Kenya to mark the 60th anniver­sary of the estab­lish­ment of diplo­mat­ic rela­tions between Japan and Kenya. While here, he touched on a sec­ond prin­ci­ple that fuels much of Japan’s excel­lence. He made it clear that he was very keen on lis­ten­ing to Kenya’s views on a wide range of issues. This wasn’t just mere PR because lis­ten­ing, which is at the heart of respect, is trea­sured in Japan.

Lis­ten­ing to each oth­er leads to respect and there­fore a mutu­al resolve to work dili­gent­ly towards a unit­ed front.

I got to learn about the third Japan­ese prin­ci­ple that can boost our sus­tain­able devel­op­ment ten years ago when I vis­it­ed Honda’s moth­er fac­to­ry in Kumamo­to, Japan. While at the fac­to­ry, I learned a lot about the Hon­da approach of mak­ing motor­cy­cles. It is quite unique as it runs on kaizen.

Kaizen is a Japan­ese word and phi­los­o­phy that essen­tial­ly means con­tin­u­ous improve­ment. Kaizen empow­ers work­ers to con­tin­u­ous­ly brain­storm on prod­uct improve­ment. Thus empow­ered, work­ers at all lev­els become cre­ators and lead­ers of the very prod­ucts that they are producing.

The kaizen phi­los­o­phy has cat­a­pult­ed Japan to the top ech­e­lon of the glob­al econ­o­my. It has also hoist­ed Hon­da as the largest motor­cy­cle man­u­fac­tur­er in the world.

Kaizen can great­ly enhance progress in Kenya’s pol­i­tics and pri­vate sec­tor alike. Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment can apply kaizen to con­tin­u­ous­ly improve the leg­isla­tive process and the ensu­ing leg­is­la­tion. The pri­vate sec­tor can apply kaizen to incre­men­tal­ly improve the qual­i­ty and quan­ti­ty of Kenyan prod­ucts. We can keep get­ting bet­ter so that we can be increas­ing­ly com­pet­i­tive on the glob­al stage. This is the tan­gi­ble route towards improv­ing our liveli­hoods and there­fore bat­ter­ing the demon of high cost of living.

Japan which is 65 % the size of Kenya is the third strongest econ­o­my in the world, behind only USA and Chi­na. That didn’t hap­pen by acci­dent. Kenya too can become one of the strongest economies in the devel­op­ing world. Just like Japan we only need to be inten­tion­al in cre­at­ing a com­mon front, con­sis­tent in lis­ten­ing to each oth­er, and strate­gic about how we get things done. Think green, act green.

About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors

How Shakahola Massacre Exposes Kenya’s Three Societal Challenges
Why We Must Inject Integrity into the labyrinth of car Importation from Japan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed