Design Thinking and Innovation in the Informal Industries in Kenya

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Asian Journal of Economics, Business and Accounting
In the recent past there have been calls to have Kenyan products labeled ‘Made in Kenya’. By doing so, the proponents believe that products ‘Made in Kenya’ will flock the local stores and even find their way to the foreign markets, thereby making Kenya proud of itself as well as earning the much needed foreign exchange. While ‘Made in Kenya’ labeled products would be a great step forward to Kenya’s economic wellbeing, showcase talents and skills of the youth and a boost to its image in the global market, the low technology predominantly used in Kenya and lack of design thinking, still remain the greatest impediment to innovation. Using low technology in manufacturing usually results in high production costs and lack of capacity to launch mass production in response to acute increase in market demands. For example, the informal manufacturing sector in Kenya commonly referred to as Jua Kali, is a collection of semi-organized, unregulated, smaller ventures that employ a large number of people and rely on low-level technologies. A significant amount of industrial output is devoted to meeting basic requirements, such as the provision of low-cost consumer goods and services. Wood and furniture, metal products, glass and pottery, clothes, and leather are all produced in this industry. The lack of design thinking and low-level technology used in the production process obviously results in more man-hour on each unit produced, yet this is rarely considered on the final price of the product. The prices to a large scale, are usually concerned with the cost of materials without considering other hidden costs. The drive is to make the products affordable to low-income consumers, in order to satisfy the traders’ basic needs. In a wider perspective, this study focused on the application of design thinking and its impact on innovations in the informal industries in Kenya. Specifically, the study sought to establish; the application of design thinking as a system of feasibility to increase innovation in the informal industries in Kenya, the application of design thinking as a system of desirability to increase innovation in the informal industries in Kenya and its impact on the innovation in the informal industries in Kenya, as well as the application of design thinking as a system of viability to increase innovation in the informal industries in Kenya. This study reviewed secondary sources and investigations others have previously conducted in relation to the title of the study. Conventional content analysis was used to analyze data. The process of analysis began with the development of the research questions, then the identification of the dataset, and thorough evaluation of the dataset. Our findings deepen the current understanding about policy innovation and technological intervention in the informal industries in Kenya. The findings could also benefit the Government of Kenya, Kenya Association of Manufacturers and Juakali Associations, in terms of policy formulation and enhancement of sector performance.
Technology; design thinking; innovation; informal sector