The rapid development of African economies has created an urgent need to develop human resources with high levels of knowledge and skills in various fields. In Kenya, the long-term national strategy “Kenya Vision 2030” includes the goal of developing capacity to train global human resources.
Toyota Tsusho, a trading company that belongs to the Toyota Group, is undertaking a broad range of operations in Africa, focusing on business creation, human resource development, and social contributions. In Kenya, one of the principal countries for these operations, the company sees supporting the development of local human resources as a crucial activity for the advance of the country’s economy, along with the expansion of its own business. With this in mind, in 1990 Toyota Tsusho joined with Toyota Motor in establishing the Toyota Kenya Foundation, which through fiscal 2015 has provided scholarship grants to 385 students. Some of them have gone on to take posts in Kenya’s government after earning their degrees.
President Uhuru Kenyatta (seated at center) and other Kenyan government officials attended the opening ceremony of the Toyota Kenya Academy in July 2014.
In addition, Toyota Tsusho has actively undertaken to provide training for local human resources; it set up a training center within its subsidiary, Toyota Kenya, to provide technical and management training for technical staff members of that company and of Toyota’s official import and sales agencies and dealerships in East Africa. In July 2014, the center was moved and the program was substantially enlarged with the establishment of the Toyota Kenya Academy, a human resources training center situated within the Toyota Kenya Business Park in Nairobi, Kenya. Some of the courses have been made open to the general public. Masakazu Ohira, general manager of Toyota Tsusho’s Africa Automotive Department, explains: “We thought we could contribute to Kenya’s further development by providing training and education in a broad range of fields, not limited to the automotive sector.”
The Toyota Kenya Academy offers courses in four major areas. In addition to courses that the previous center had been offering to technicians in the automotive field, the academy has been receiving cooperation from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Kenyan government organs in providing courses in entrepreneurship, agri-preneurship, and agri-mechanization. In the two years following its opening in 2014, 381 students have taken courses at the academy, and this September it plans to launch courses on Toyota’s “Kaizen” process of workers onsite continuously brainstorming ideas to improve productivity and on the “plan, do, check, act” (PDCA) management cycle.
“At the Toyota Kenya Academy we’re working not just to teach knowledge and technical skills but to have students learn how to solve problems on their own initiative,” says Ohira. “Though it’s only about two years since the academy was established, I can sense solid results, hearing from students that they have learned new ways of looking at things.” He declares, “Kenya has many highly motivated individuals, and these people are taking advantage of our programs to learn and to achieve personal growth. We hope to create a solid success story here and then extend it to other African countries.”