The partnership between the Automotive Industry Development Centre and the Japan International Co-operation Agency has been an overwhelming success: through the partnership, the governments of South Africa and Japan are working to strengthen bilateral ties and promote growth in the local automotive sector. Supported by the Department of Trade and Industry as well as the Embassy of Japan, the AIDC-JICA partnership is one that will lead to meaningful supplier and skills development.

The first phase sought to bring Japanese experts in the automotive field to South Africa and establish the relationship and framework within which the project will operate. Now, the second phase is beginning, where highly-skilled automotive experts from Japan are bringing their experience to train five local AIDC project managers and eight automotive suppliers nationally.

At the launch of the partnership project, AIDC CEO, Dr David Masondo, said, “The AIDC wants to make an impact, and with the support of JICA and the Japanese government, we can only improve the global competitiveness of our participating companies. The AIDC and JICA share the same objectives, and we believe that we can ensure better Kaizen practices at our local manufacturing plants.”

With the benefits of the AIDC-JICA partnership now becoming clear, the Japanese government has elected to fund the entire project. The investment in supplier and skills development in South Africa is one that will benefit both our country and the Japanese automotive industry, since a more skilled sector internationally will offer automakers a much more competitive global environment in which to operate.

Four automotive supplier companies were identified to receive the input and training offered by the Japanese experts: Allite, Feltex Trim Rosslyn, Feltex Trim Durban and Duys Automotive. These companies are set to benefit from the knowledge of best-practice methods and more efficient manufacturing techniques, which will strengthen their ability to provide superior quality parts and materials made by more highly-skilled hands. There is a global need for more reliable and high-quality automotive parts, and so the Japanese government has announced that it is very pleased to be able to engage in this partnership programme.

The JICA experts have already trained twelve individuals in South Africa: eight are from the AIDC while the other four are key players in the production process at the participating supplier companies. Their training took place throughout September 2016, and the project has already been hailed as a tremendous success. In addition, the AIDC group and the four participating companies travelled to Japan to observe the workings and methods employed in some of Toyota, Nissan and leading automotive component suppliers’ assembly factories.

While this partnership is a small step in the broader efforts to address South Africa’s critical competitiveness and skills shortages, it is a step nonetheless. The AIDC is being proactive in developing the automotive industry in South Africa to get our local offering to be on par with the world’s most advanced manufacturing nations – and the surest way to accelerate development is to learn from nations which are succeeding.