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Japanese economist advises Ethiopia to adopt quality production systems
Keijiro Otsuka

Japanese economist advises Ethiopia to adopt quality production systems

Criticizes existing communal forest management

A development economics professor, Keijiro Otsuka, has suggested Ethiopia to keep on advancing its industrial base into quality-oriented production systems.

Member of the Graduate School of Economics at Kobe University, Otsuka was in Addis Ababa this week, to lecture public officials and civil servants, on making use of degraded lands to generate household income. He said Ethiopias industry should concentrate on scaling quality.

According to the professor, Ethiopia has dwelled long on implementing primary Kaizen rules which were focused on cost reduction. It is known that Kaizen is a Japanese management philosophy for continuous change and improvement of productivity with enhanced quality.

It has been more than a decade since Kaizen has become a norm in Ethiopia to the extent; academic institutions have raced to adapt curriculums to train students in Kaizen. However, this effort has yielded low achievements, with few only benefiting.

“As Ethiopias industrial base kept expanding, embracing quality-focused production systems and skills, has to be ventured on,” the professor said.

While discussing degraded lands, hillside areas or plateaus, greening and preserving vegetation, he said, forestry is the amicable solution that could help households have a better chance of improved livelihoods. With that approach, the likes of the World Bank Group have invested sums of resources and yet, communities have hardly managed to attain better incomes.

He said “The community forest management system had failed. It failed because the communal system was found out to be less effective in improving each member's households.” The alternative solution, Otsuka advises, is the need to recognize an individuals land and forest ownership rights that will better serve livelihoods.

The professor has been studying this approach and started his study in Tigray Region. He said his method was piloted for two years, with some positive outcomes as incentives motivated individuals to soundly protect and utilize forestry.

The professor’s acquaintance with Ethiopian officials had begun with the interactions he had with the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Otsuka recalls two instants with Meles; one concerning the Premier's efforts towards writing his Ph.D. dissertation. The professor recalled how he was surprised when a sitting Prime Minister sent his thesis paper to scholars for comments. According to Otsuka, Meles was writing on Southeast Asian economic models and that Ethiopia could apply certain methods. 

The professor said he suggested to Meles the need to institute the Ethiopian Kaizen Institute, to drive improvements in productivities of the country. Currently, some higher education institutions teach Kaizen at an advanced level. Mekelle University is the pioneer in Kaizen training, to Ph.D. levels.