Lucas Ondobo, KAIZEN Taskforce, Ministry of Small and Medium-Size Enterprises, Social Economy and Handicraft, talks of challenges of funding the sector.
What is the contribution of KAIZEN to the competitiveness of Cameroon’s Small and Medium-size Enterprises?
KAIZEN is an approach that hinges on improvement. It is now used worldwide as a concept for productivity improvement, quality assurance and safety in the work environment through a participatory problem-solving process conducted by a work unit. The coming on board of the project is the result of strong commitment by the governments of Japan and Cameroon to help Small and Medium-size Enterprises, SMEs, to achieve economic, social and environmental goals defined in the Growth and Employment Strategy Paper.
It has been noted in the Master Plan that SMEs suffer organisational and managerial problems. The Japanese management then partnered with the Ministry of Small and Medium-Size Enterprises, Social Economy and Handicraft, MINPMEESA via an MoU signed in February 2015. It transfers techniques to Cameroonian SMEs on the business culture of waste elimination (Plan, Do, Check and Act). At the end of the pilot phase next year, we will assess the effectiveness of the approach in improving the competitiveness of pilot enterprises and the possibility of expanding it to the entire country.
Who is eligible for support and what is the criteria?
In principle, all SMEs are eligible for support. But the selection follows a strict process starting at the site of the enterprise and a questionnaire to the manager to assess whether the enterprise has KAIZEN potential. This part serves as diagnosis. One of the most important criteria is the number of employees as the pilot project considers only small and medium enterprises with the number of employees ranging from five to 100. In addition, the motivation of the manager is also an important criterion.
Some 28 pilot enterprises in Douala and Yaounde have received free support with about 28 to 58 KAIZEN consultants trained for free. Two enterprises with the PMEEA programme of MINPMEESA funded by AFD have acquired techniques. The REMAP project under GIZ in Yaounde has also enjoyed the implementation of KAIZEN. The idea is to show that managers understand the importance of training and willingness to share the cost associated with it while waiting for a common ground to be clearly defined.
What follow-up mechanisms are in place to guarantee the sustainability of the programme?
The follow-up is conducted by each consultant after the completion of training and the award of certificates. It is all about ensuring that the mini plan of activity designed in each pilot enterprise is successfully implemented by both the top management and the front line workers under the supervision of the KAIZEN Quality Control Committee. A specified period is then identified within which, the consultant and the enterprise each send follow-up reports comprising 20 sets of pictures. The aim is to identify the state of advancement of the project, obstacles encountered and seek solutions.
We expect strong commitment by the top management of the SMEs. The use of common sense and creativity to change the way of doing things and the sharing of vision and mission with the workers is imperative. We also expect positive attitudes at all levels and the involvement of everyone in KAIZEN activities. Good internal communication on the life and activities of the enterprise is imperative for the improvement of the working environment. They need to bear in mind that KAIZEN is an endless journey in the sense that each small improvement calls for another.