JAPAN
05 September 2016
Group photo

Kenya's Vision and the Role of Training

Dennis Awori, former Ambassador of Kenya to Japan and Korea, and Chairman of Toyota Tsusho, East Africa, has shared with us his thoughts on Kenya's Vision and the Role of Training.

The continent of Africa used the threshold of the year 2000 as an opportunity to claim a legitimate place in world history by not only fighting for its right for self-representation, but also by seeking ways to gain economic sustainability by shunning overdependence on donor funding. This period, especially with the Namibian independence which brought the era of colonization to a close, saw the continent transition from colonization to globalization. In the process, apart from adopting the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) at the United Nations General Assembly in 2000, the majority of African leaders crafted comprehensive development plans for their nations.

Kenya was among them and in 2008, through a highly participatory, consultative, and inclusive stakeholder process it embarked on a new long term Vision, dubbed Vision 2030, to guide Kenya's development through the next 25 years. The Vision is motivated by a collective aspiration for a better society, with the aim to create a globally competitive and prosperous country with a high quality of life by the year 2030.

The Vision is anchored on three key pillars: economic, social, and political governance. The economic pillar aims to achieve an average economic growth rate of 10% per annum for the next 22 years, in order to generate the resources to meet the MDGs and vision goals. The vision has identified a number of flagship projects to be implemented in key sectors of agriculture, tourism, manufacturing, wholesale and retail, business process outsourcing, infrastructure and financial services, so as in order to attain the desired growth.

Achieving these objectives requires heavy commitment and investment in closing the skills gap between those available in the market and what industry needs. It therefore calls for a national focus on innovation and skills development through technical, industrial, vocational and entrepreneurship training (TIVET).

To address this challenge requires a close partnership between the government, academia, and industry. There must be consolidated efforts in areas of planning and delivery of specific training programs in order to ensure the skills development system is relevant and responsive to the needs of the focus industries.

The Toyota Tsusho Group has answered the call to partner in skills development by establishing the Toyota Kenya Academy; a training center built on a green field site, focusing on technical training, whilst offering courses in the soft skills, such as accounting, management, and IT. Apart from operating as Toyota's automobile training center for English speaking Africa, the facility is also open to the public for training on automobiles and agricultural machinery. In addition, through collaboration with JICA and other development agencies it also provides training and education for Kenyans and the extended East African region in the fields of agri-mechanization and entrepreneurship.

Toyota Tsusho's efforts are in keeping with Japan's long running programs in Kenya for capacity building and training, especially in the science and technology fields. This is supplemented by scholarships for secondary and tertiary training in Japan. In my past assignment as the Ambassador of Kenya to Japan and Korea from 2004-2009 I witnessed firsthand the importance of such training and the key role it plays in industrial development.

The latest offering from Japan is the African Business Education Initiative for Youth (or "Abe Initiative"), which was launched by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at TICAD V in May 2013. A five year plan which offers African Youth the opportunity to undertake undergraduate and graduate study programs at Japanese universities with the added bonus of an internship at a Japanese company. More than 500 such students are studying business in Japan from Kenya and other African countries and the first returnees are already contributing positively to their companies and the country.

Meanwhile, later this month, Kenya will be the first country to host the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) outside Japan. As a Kenyan, I am very proud of this and look forward to new initiatives of continued support from Japan, especially targeting the private sector.

In order for Kenya to realize its goals as laid out in "Vision 2030", the relationship between Kenya and Japan should be further developed to include Japanese support in the skills upgrade training and workplace learning opportunities not only in the formal, but also within the informal sector. The Japanese can provide support by;

-- Continue to leverage its competitive advantage to strengthen local workforce development systems and their alignment to demand and supply.
-- Providing assistance in addressing the issue of information literacy by supporting the government and partners (including the private sector) in the development of labor market information systems while working with industries to develop outreach strategies that inform learning and training institutions about trends, entry points and required qualifications, and career pathways.
-- Supporting the coordination of interaction between government and the private sector on key cross-cutting policy priorities by encouraging partnerships between the private sector and TVET colleges.

Japan's support towards training and capacity building will be appreciated long into the future and will play a key role in helping Kenya attain its Vision 2030.
Tags: japan, ticad, kenya, denis awori