Trying to get into my designer's head... Impossible!

Trying to get into my designer’s head… Impossible! (Wait, what? Cuba?)


From Amsterdam to “New Amsterdam” and from England to New England, here we are, we’ve crossed the Atlantic Ocean to come to the East Coast US, and I am right now briefly in Boston to follow-up discussions with my business partner Mpho who’s finishing up new design for our upcoming textile products (while literally singing out loud) and to make new business connections in Boston/NYC while coordinating with South Africa/Kenya via Whatsapp/Emails and getting some documentations done for upcoming meetings my potential sponsors and investors in Japan.

しBoston is a really important city for Maki & Mpho for many reasons. Boston is where I first met Mpho, we discussed our initial business concept, launched our first collection, and got featured in the major newspaper, The Boston Globe. I still remember vividly how we sat down at the coffee shop at the Harvard Coop in Cambridge. While there have been some interruptions and pivoting in the course of the development of our business, the core value and commitment remain the same.

I still remember vividly how we sat down at the coffee shop at the Harvard Coop in Cambridge, and naturally came up with the core belief and value of the brand: Our core belief is that your individuality is your culture; therefore, we value and celebrate individuality.

Celebrating individuality is not about being individualistic or self-centered. It is rather opposite. It is about nurturing empathy, respecting others, and working together toward the common goal to make a better society while co-existing with the natural environment.

Maybe the environment where we can celebrate individuality in that sense is what we would call a truly diverse society. And this is the kind of diversity that we want to communicate through the means of the contemporary African design and storytelling. Why do most people always want to paint Africa with a single color? Why do we still have so much tension around differences in racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds?

We believe that design and art not just heal such tensions, but can also create economic values by suggesting different relationships and creating trust.

We all know that capitalism is not about money but about trust!!! (No, we don’t trust Trump!)


ボストンは、Maki & Mphoにとって重要な都市です。ムポと私が知り合い、ビジネスコンセプトの構想をした場所であり、最初のコレクションを発表して、米国の有力紙The Boston Globeの記事にもしてもらいました。そこからのいろいろな事情による紆余曲折やピボットなどもありましたが、私たちのコアバリューとコミットメント変わっていません。

ハーバード生協のコーヒーショップでそのコアについて話し合ったことをビビッドに記憶しています。お互いのコアバリューを共有していたら、自然と私たちのビジネスの根底にある信念と価値観が言葉になりました。信念とは、個性こそが自身のカルチャーであり、私たちは個性を尊重し、個性をcelebrateする(Celebrate individuality)ということです。

Celebrate individualityというのは、個人主義的で、自己中心的な生き方を讃えるものではありません。むしろ逆で、エンパシー(共感・共鳴)を育て、お互いを尊重し、自然と調和しながらよりよい社会を創るという共通の目的のために協力しあうことです。

そういった意味でのCelebrate individualityが実現されている状態こそが、理想的なダイバーシティーが実現された社会かもしれません。そして、私たちがアフリカデザインとストーリーによって発信していることもそういった意味でのダイバーシティーです。アフリカは一色ではないのです。そしてアフリカという枠組みを超えて、人種、民族、宗教の違いをめぐるテンションをもっと緩和したいのです。





We put people first... (and we're not just saying this)

We put people first… (and we’re not just saying this)


One of the reasons that I strive to build my own business is to (try to) “do the right thing.” Obviously, there is no single way to do the right thing, but, at least, I have certain perspectives to do things better to pay my fair share to contribute to this world.

I always have so many questions about how things work in ways they work: How large organizations work in a certain way even though some or many people who work there think that they are not necessarily doing the right things. While I am not chasing any idealistic situations, I also want to challenge doing things in a certain way.

This underlining thought applies to all kinds of decisions I make in building a company. And lately, I have been thinking a lot about “job creation.” I have to put parenthesis on “job creation” because I have been really thinking about the very meaning of it. There are at least two perspectives that make it harder for me to think of the activity of job creation. One is about creating decent work and another is about dealing with the dynamics around work (and the meaning of the work) in the global context.

The 8th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) is about decent work and economic growth. According to the ILO’s definition (excerpts from the video), “decent work means dignity, equality, fair income, and safe working conditions. Decent work puts people at the center of development. It gives women, men, and youth a voice in what they do.”

“Decent work puts people at the center.” This, to me, is the biggest paradox. “Creating job” in a traditional sense, in my opinion, actually puts companies and businesses at the center (even though so many companies in the world “say” they value their employees). Except for the cases of few startups and the founding teams, I haven’t really heard of cases of companies that hire people first and build businesses around their talents.

Regarding the second point about dealing with the dynamics around work in the global context, my biggest concern is around some sort of double standards. The “global minds” (like McKinsey, the MIT Lab, the World Economic Forum, you name it) are talking about the emergence of A.I. and how such technologies can change the types of jobs to be created. There are a number of research reports and articles coming out talking about how the Millenials have different values and attitudes toward work/life (where they value more personal happiness over economic gains) or how technologies are creating more self-employers, freelancers, or nomad workers. On the other hand, when it comes to the economic development of the emerging or developing economies, job creation simply become the mechanisms of entering faceless people to the “labor forces” and “growing population” often mean “economic growth” because they are the labor forces.

There is another paradox related to that. As China’s labor costs go up, companies have been moving their factories to Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam. And of course, the trend for the past few years is to apparel companies like H&M are starting to look for East Africa like Ethiopia and Kenya to leverage “low-cost labor.” The question here is whether we continue to support these trends of mass production (at the low cost) and mass consumption. The latest report on Africa’s economies published by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) suggests that Africa needs more large companies and that there are zero African companies listed in the Fortune 500, but are we continue to support the companies like the Walmart (yes, the biggest company in the world by its revenue amount) whose key successful strategy is the EDLP (Everyday Low Price) or oil/energy companies that we see on the Fortune 500 top 10 list? Are we making progress to the sustainability?

So okay, I really cannot get my head around these paradoxical aspects. But what’s important for me right now is to look at what I’ve got and to test my hypothesis around “job creation.” I’m not the CEO of a large company (yet) anyways so I can take a risk to fail.

I may be optimistic but I believe that as Millenials actually become the decision makers of the era (there are still bunch of decision makers of the previous generation), more and more people start to value relationships (amongst people), happiness, health, wellness, creativity, arts, and culture more than accumulating wealth and economic gains.

And I might not be the only one who is thinking about these kinds of change that may happen. The recent article on the conversation between President Obama and Joi Ito of the MIT Lab mentioned about such topic.

There are actually very high-level jobs, things like lawyers or auditors, that might disappear. Whereas a lot of the service businesses, the arts, and occupations that computers aren’t well suited for won’t be replaced. I don’t know what you think about universal basic income [(concept where all citizens receive at least a living wage, provided by the government as a form of social security)], but as we start to see people getting displaced there’s also this idea that we can look at other models—like academia or the arts, where people have a purpose that isn’t tied directly to money. I think one of the problems is that there’s this general notion of, how can you be smart if you don’t have any money? In academia, I see a lot of smart people without money. – Joi Ito

So how is all this relevant to Maki & Mpho. Our fundamental philosophy is to celebrate individuality. We put people first. We put creative people first. We put Africa’s creative people first and let them create. We use design as a tool to tell their creative stories because that’s the way we can create and communicate values. We believe that Africa’s biggest asset is people not because they can potentially become low-cost labor to work in garment factories or off-shore call centers. We believe that their creativity and design skills can help people around the world to live more meaning and satisfying life.

Does any of this make sense to people? Let me elaborate… but probably this shall be continued another time…









パラドクスは、これだけに留まりません。中国の賃金上昇で、企業がベトナムなどの東南アジアに工場を移転しています。そして、ここ数年の動きとしては、H&Mなどのアパレル企業などが、エチオピアやケニアなどの東アフリカに生産拠点を作り、「安い労働力」をレバレッジしようとしています。ここでの疑問は、我々は、引き続きこの大量生産(低コスト)、大量消費のトレンドをサポートし続けるのかということです。McKinsey Global Institute (MGI)が発行した最新のアフリカレポートでは、アフリカにはもっと大企業が不可欠であることと、現時点で、フォーチュン500のランキングには、アフリカ企業が1社もないことを指摘しています。しかし、我々は、世界最大の企業であるウォールマートとその戦略であるEDLP(毎日低価格)であったり、トップ10リストに君臨するような石油・エネルギー関係の企業を、サポートし続けるのでしょうか。持続可能な社会に向けて、正しい道を歩んでいるのか。




弁護士や監査役など、ハイ(スキル)レベルの仕事すら、(AIの発展によって)なくなる可能性があります。一方で、サービス業、アート、それからコンピューターが得意でないような仕事は、存在しつづける。ユニバーサルベーシックインカム(政府が最低レベルの収入を全国民に保証する制度)に同意されるかわかりませんが、人々が職を失うということを考える上で、学問やアートの世界のようなモデルを分析するというようなモデルも出てきています。つまり、こういった人々はPurpose(目的やビジョン)を持っていて、それが必ずしもお金に結びついているわけではない。お金がないのにどうして頭がいいといえるのかといった一般的な概念があることも問題です。学問の世界では、お金持ちではないが、優秀な人が沢山います。 – Joi Ito

Maki & Mphoに、これらの議論がビジネスにどう関係あるのか。私たちの事業の根底にあるのが、celebrate individualityという哲学です。つまり人が中心。クリエイティブな人が中心。アフリカのクリエイティブな人材を中心におき、彼らのクリエイティビティを事業のコアとする。デザインというツールを使って、価値をコミュニケーションすること。アフリカの人口が経済発展のドライブになるだろうと考えるのは、彼らが、安いの労働力であると考えるからではなく、彼らのクリエイティブなスキルが、世界の人々がより意義があり、満足できる生活を送るための鍵を握っていると考えるからです。



Contermporary African art is equally cool as Bjork!

Contemporary African art is equally cool as Bjork!


While I was in Amsterdam, I had an opportunity to attend the panel moderated by the founding director of the 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair (154 Art Fair), Touria El Glaoui, followed by a brief chat with her, and I was luckily invited to check out the 154 Art Fair that has been happening over the weekend at Somerset House in London.

Citing from the website, this is what the London event is about.

1:54 London 2016 will showcase about 40 exhibitors, presenting over 130 African and African diasporan artists across the East, South and West Wings of Somerset House. 1:54 London 2016 will be accompanied by an educational and artistic programme, FORUM, curated by Koyo Kouoh and will include lectures, film screenings and panel discussions with international curators, artists and art professionals.

So as you can see in the description, it is not just a marketplace for galleries and art buyers. It is also about the discussions where intellectuals from multiple disciplines gather and talk about various roles African creators play in the global context. I attended a number of panel discussions, and I have been quite overwhelmed with the depth and width of the discussion, which I would never ever imagine to have in near future elsewhere especially in Japan.

While I have lots of perspectives and ideas to share, one thing that was reassuring to me was that African design (or art for that matter) is NOT about what you see, the outcome, or the objects. It is rather about what you talk about (dialogues and storytelling), the process that includes observations, choice of materials, making, and communicating, and the relationships between the originator and the audience.

This is really relevant to our business as I have even described in my previous blog post why we are trying to sell something before creating a product. As much as aesthetics are important in our brand, we really resist the idea of offering something “cute” because this does not give us sustainability. Targeting the market segment that gets drawn to cuteness has a short attention span. This means that we need to keep feeding them with new stuff at a fast pace. We need to make our best effort to educate the customers…

アムステルダム滞在中に、1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair (154 Art Fair)の、創始者であるTouria El Glaouiと話す機会があり、ちょうど今週末、ロンドンのカルチャー発信スポット、サマセットハウス開催されている154 Art Fairに招待してもらったので、注目していたプラットフォームであったので、参加しています。


1:54 London 2016においては、サマセットハウスの東、南、西館を使って、40の出展者が130以上のアフリカ人、アフリカのディアスポラコミュニティーのアーティストを発信します。1:54 London 2016は、Koyo Kouoh(カメルーン系セネガル人アートディレクター)がディレクションした教育的かつ芸術的なプログラムであるFORUMも同時開催されます。FORUMでは、国際的なキュレーター、アーティスト、および関連の専門家を交えて、レクチャー、ショートムービーのスクリーニング、パネルディスカッションが行われます。








In my previous blog post, I talked about how it took forever to get the contract with South Africa’s Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) settled, and how we began. Today I want to share a bit more about the scheme.

The proposed project with the DAC is a design competition to discover and nurture emerging young textile artists in South Africa. The problem we wanted to address was that there are talented students graduating with the design degree, but these students barely have opportunities to pursue their career in the design field. Unfortunately, students are often even discouraged by their own design professors not to pursue such career.

So we work directly with the students to encourage them to keep creating and to be entrepreneurial. We had a workshop at the Textile Department of the Tshwane University of Technology where Mpho graduated from to introduce the design challenge project. There were 17 students who showed interests and Mpho went over the work of each student. Each of them has an interesting point of view. To participate in the design challenge, each student will be sending a collection of six designs which tell stories from the African perspective. And the winner (or winners) of the design challenge will have an opportunity to work with our brand and realize their design into products. We also hope to hire many talented students down the road…

For the realization and distribution partner, we identified a well-known company in South Africa that has historically been supporting local artists and designers. We cannot share the name of the company yet, but if everything works out, this will be a great platform for us to share our brand stories as well as featuring many more young artists because companies have physical stores not only in South Africa but also in other regions including Europe and North America.

Throughout these processes, we value partnerships. Like many countries that are economically rising, engaging the public sector in South Africa is inevitable. As they are often working together with large companies, schools, and other organizations, working with the public sector gives us new opportunities to partner with other players in the ecosystem. In the case of the creative sector in South Africa, DAC sponsors or supports major art and design programs including Africa’s biggest design platform Design Indaba.

So this partnership with the DAC is basically a key milestone for us to operate in South Africa and beyond!



だからこそ、私たちは大学と連携することで、そうした学生に直接アプローチをし、デザイン業界で活躍する可能性やアントレプレナー精神の醸成を目指しています。最初のアプローチとして、私のビジネスパートナーのMphoの母校であるTshwane University of Technologyのテキスタイルデザイン学科でワークショップを行いました。17名の学生が参加し、Mphoが一人一人のワークを見て回りました。それぞれの学生がユニークな視点を発信しています。デザインコンペへの参加方法は、6つのデザインで形成されるコレクションを作成し、アフリカの視点からの自身のストーリーとともに、提出することです。最終的に選ばれた学生のデザインを、私たちMaki & Mphoのカプセルコレクションとして展示や商品化の機会する予定です。将来的には、こうした優秀なデザイナーたちにMaki & Mphoチームに参画してもらいたいと思っています。


こういったプロセスにおいて、パートナーシップを非常に重視しています。いわゆる新興国市場におけるビジネスであれば同様のことが言えるかもしれませんが、南アフリカにおいて、政府機関との連携は不可欠です。政府機関は当然、現地の他の主要機関や大企業などとの連携があるため、彼らとうまくパートナーシップを組むことで、そういった他の機関との連携が可能になるためです。南アフリカのデザイン業界という文脈においては、DACは、アフリカ最大のデザインプラットフォームであるDesign Indabaを含む、アートやデザインの主要な取り組みをサポートしています。






Our key long-term mission is to create a new global market for African creators who tell stories from the African perspective mainly using surface (textile) and product design.

One can argue that entering the global design market, for example, NYC or London means that you are in the red ocean. But I would argue that promoting and selling contemporary African design is about venturing into a blue ocean because it is about sharing a new type of cultural experience.

As I go travel around the world for the past 20 years since I first traveled to the U.S., I have been noticing how Japanese food products have been expanding to the overseas’ market, and how companies have been making efforts to educate consumers as they promote their products. Consumer education takes efforts and time, but definitely, an important aspect to venturing into a blue ocean!

Now this is Africa’s turn!






A Continent of Contemporary Design!

A Continent of Contemporary Design!


The other day, I talked about the African print, but wanted to share some follow-up today as I visited the exhibition and dialogues of “Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design” yesterday in Netherlands. I have already talked about the company Vlisco, but I thought it would be worth sharing what these words they presented in the very context in Netherlands.

A key role is played by Africa’s centuries long history of colonialization and, in particular, a type of textile that erroneously became a symbol of (West) African tradition: Dutch Wax also called Ankara. In the mid-nineteenth century, several Dutch and English companies commenced industrial production of Indonesian batik fabrics, among which Vlisco soon became the market leader (and remains so to this day). How the textiles made their way to Africa is subject to dispute, yet the colourfully patterned wax prints quickly grew so popular on the continent that they never really took hold in the originally intended Dutch market. today many designers and artists make use of Dutch Wax for their creations. At the same time, an increasing number of critical voices have questioned the embrace of this colonial commodity.

In the exhibition, there are many more of sharing educational and fresh stories from African perspectives via different creations of entrepreneurs, designers, and artists. More and more people get educated through learning these stories, more opportunities Africa’s creative entrepreneurs have to grow their businesses while maintaining their cultural heritage and nurturing their pride in their African identity.





The Alchemist is a good place, but is less integrated...

The Alchemist is a good place but is less integrated…


I generally don’t stay in a hotel in Nairobi, but I stayed in one during TICAD Nairobi as Mpho and I needed a place to stay near KICC where the TICAD VI was held. And we actually did stay in a hotel in CBD where is considered not the safest place in Nairobi (don’t tell anyone!). Actually, the hotel itself was decent (value-for-money), and staff was quite friendly while I am quite certain no Japanese businessmen or diplomats had ever stayed there because of the location.

Obviously, we did all we needed to do to make sure we are safe (which is basically not walking around at night) and we were safe and all. But being in the sketchy neighborhood for several days made me think of new business ideas to create a safer neighborhood.

I am in no way professional in this area, but I believe that the keys to increasing safety in a neighborhood are increasing diversity and decreasing anonymity. In other words, an integrated community may create a more peaceful and secure neighborhood. Instead of gentrifying an area by renovating and creating buildings, we need to design a space around people who already exist there to nurture interaction among themselves.

I wonder if we can create a space, ideally, a multi-purpose creative open space that houses hotel/restaurant/coffee shop/event space/workshop space in the middle of CBD where there are already constant traffic, but no one really stays. I know few places similar to what I have in my mind is popping around the world. They are mostly accommodations but the space is open to the local community. What if Maki & Mpho can create a space like that where we can share our brand stories using multiple media while making the community safer!

As I was thinking about how we can create a space that is not just for richer locals and foreign tourists, I thought of the Hostel Village in Yokohama’s rather ghetto-like space where former day laborers on welfare are gathering. An entrepreneur, Mr. Okabe, created a hostel to bring in young people and budget tourists to the area and changed the atmosphere and environment. Together with a group of friends, I used to go there to test some projects together with Mr. Okabe to bring in more diverse people.

This idea has to be explored with my Kenyan partners…

ナイロビでは、普通はホテルには滞在しないのですが、TICAD VIの際は、会場のKICCに近いところにデザイナーとステイする必要があったので、ホテルに滞在しました。(内緒ですが)ホテルといっても、実はCBDの中でも、エリアとしてはあまり治安がよくないとされている場所にステイしていました。実際は、ホテルは悪くなく、スタッフもよく対応してくれたのですが、場所が場所なので、日本のビジネスマンや外交官は絶対に宿泊しないだろうなと思います。



ちょっと思ったのは、すでに通行人の行き来が多いけれど、そこに留まっている人は多くないようなナイロビCBDのど真ん中に、クリエイティブな空間を創れたらどうなるだろうかと妄想してみました。ホテルやカフェ、ワークスペース、SHOP、イベントスペースやワークショップなどが一体したような空間。こういったオープンなホテル的なコンセプトは、世界各地で今注目されてきているコンセプトな気がします。宿泊施設がコアですが、地域に対してオープンなようなスペースです。Maki & Mphoがナイロビでそういったコンセプト空間をプロデュースできたら、ブランドストーリーの発信拠点として活用しながら、地域の治安改善にも貢献できるのでは!?(妄想が続きます)




アフリカ連合Agenda 2063とAfDBのFashionomics

アフリカ開発銀行のFashionomics! (Fashionomics executive summaryより画像抜粋)

アフリカ開発銀行のFashionomics! (Fashionomics executive summaryより画像抜粋)


Can you imagine the world in 2063? What would the world be like half a century from now? What Africa wold look like in 2063?

Enter African Aspirations for 2063 transcribed in Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want – shared vision and priorities to build Africa that Africans want.

Here are the 7 aspirations:

1. A prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development;

2. An integrated continent, politically united, based on the ideals of Pan Africanism and the vision of Africa’s Renaissance;

3. An Africa of good governance, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law;

4. A peaceful and secure Africa;


. An Africa with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, values and ethics;

6. An Africa whose development is people-driven, relying on the potential of African people, especially its women and youth, and caring for children; and


7. Africa as a strong, united, resilient and influential global player and partner.

For us, bolded 3 topics are especially relevant. And we are not the only one who are working toward those agenda and aspirations.

At TICAD VI in Nairobi, we were fortunate enough to have a chat with Ms. Emanuela Gregorio of African Development Bank (AfDB) who is leading a new AfDB initiative called Fashionomics: Investing in the African Creative Industries, and were invited to take part in the initiative. According to AfDB’s report, “[w]ith Fashionomics, AfDB aims to invest in the fashion sector, to provide access to finance for entrepreneurs,and to incubate and accelerate startups by identifying and financing projects.” They did some pilot projects in Cote D’Ivoire and Kenya investing on some projects while building a digital database of companies and designers.

Based on my own experience, this identifying part is a really first important step. Without identifying who exist in the value chain, it is impossible to quantify the economic impact that they generate.

It is very important to note that AfDB sees a big potential in growing fashion (designing, crafts, textile & garment manufacturing, retailing and trading) industry (currently, textile/clothing industry is the second biggest industry in Africa after agriculture) for job creation, but they also believe that “[u]sing African culture and creativity as a unique selling point” is a key driver for economic growth.

We are quite excited to be part of this larger Pan-African initiative to bring African culture and creativity to the global audience!!


アフリカ連合が、アフリカ各国の独立から半世紀を経たことを機に、過去50年間を遡るとともに、未来50年間を見据えて発表したのが、Agenda 2063: 私たちが望むアフリカ。 そして、その中には、以下、7つの野望、Aspirations for 2063が明記されています。

1. 包括的な成長と、持続可能な開発に基づいた豊かなアフリカ;

2. 汎アフリカ主義と、アフリカのルネサンスというビジョンに基づいた、政治的に統一された一つのアフリカ大陸;

3. きちんとしたガバナンス、人権尊重、公平さ、法の支配の下でのアフリカ;

4. 平和で安全なアフリカ;


. ゆるぎない文化のアイデンティティ、共通のヘリテージ、価値観、倫理観をもったアフリカ;

6. 特に、女性、若者が手動となったアフリカ人の潜在性を最大限生かし、子供たちを育むような、人間中心の開発を進めるアフリカ;

7. 力強く、まとまりがあり、しなやかで、影響力のあるグローバルプレーヤーであり、パートナーとしてのアフリカ


ナイロビでの先のTICAD VI会議の場で、アフリカ開発銀行(AfDB)のエマヌエラ・グレゴリオ氏に出会うことができました。彼女は、今AfDBで、Fashionomics(Fashion + Economics)という、アフリカのクリエイティブセクターへの投資を促進させる、新しいイニシアティブを進めており、私たちもそれに参加するよう勧めてもらいました。AfDBのレポートによると、「Fashionomicsを通じて、AfDBは、ファッションセクターへの投資を拡大し、起業家への資金調達の支援を行い、関連する様々な動きを把握し、財務的なサポートをすることで、スタートアップのインキュベーションとアクセラレーションを行うとのことです。」彼らは、コートジボワールとケニアにおいて、昨年からパイロットプロジェクトを実施し、各関連企業やデザイナーのデジタルデータベース化をすすめています。





Table for Twoモデルを(密かに)採用しています

Pure bliss! Amazing lady who can rock the world!

Pure bliss! An amazing lady who can rock the world!


Table For Two (TFT) is a non-profit organization that simultaneously addresses malnutrition developing countries by offering school meals and obesity in developed countries by offering healthy meals. Every time someone purchases TFT supervised healthy meal a portion of the profit is contributed to serve a school meal for kids.

TFT was an idea initiated at the World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders Conference in 2006 in Tronto and has been expanded since then accelerated by the team led by Masa Kogure. I personally know many people who have contributed to the expansion of the TFT including Mr. Kogure while I also got involved briefly back then around 2008, and I have always been thinking about creating a model applying key aspects of the TFT model. There are three key aspects that I think that the TFT model is uniquely brilliant.

1. Framing the global challenge in a way that everyone can easily relate to.

Buy one give one model itself is not a unique model now with some American companies like TOM’s shoes or Warby Parker being quite successful. What I like about the model is that TFT addresses issues both in the developed and developing economies. While we are not a non-profit organization that directly addresses social issues, we are offering solutions to the problem where creative talents in the developing economies (like South Africa or Kenya) and craftsmen in industrialized economies (like Japan) can combine each of their strength to offer new innovative products for the global audience. Emerging creative talents in the developing economies are lacking infrastructures to realize their creativity into tangible items while craftsmen in industrialized economies have little capability hire young people to modernize their crafts for the modern and global audience. Thus, the marriage of two can work very well.
2. Branding and marketing communication that create cool and fun vibes.

Another brilliance is branding. The success may be due to one brilliant PR manager who I have personally known to learn her work; however, I also believe that their branding and marketing communication strategies are really embedded in their operational strategy. They’ve not only been working together with the firm like Dentsu, but they have also been successfully engaging with mass media and celebrities to create fun and exciting movement that everyone wants to join. This was especially quite innovative at the time where NPO activities were considered rather as obligations or responsibilities: something that people need to do.

For us, branding is extremely important, especially because the word “Africa” or “African” can evoke certain negative to some people. We do not want “support” instead, we want “LOVE.”  We must make people fall in love with our brand. We must make people fall in love with (our) African design. We must make people fall in love with Africa’s diverse culture and stories through our brand.
3. Aiming to expand globally from the get-go by partnering with international organizations and large corporations.

Last but now least, what I love about the TFT model is that their scope has always been global. They were born global. They were not just thinking about advocating people in Japan. The name of the organization has been TFT “International” from the get-go, and I have learned that this name was reflective of TFT management’s aspiration to go global. They’ve also leveraged platforms like the World Economic Forum while aggressively involving national governments and large companies like Toyota. And they now operate in 20+ countries with various local networks of supporters while their head office members remain relatively small.

And we aspire to do the same. That’s why I take part in business competitions across the countries and get buy-in from multiple governments including Japan and South Africa. That’s why we participate in TICAD in Nairobi while presenting our work at the cultural embassy in Amsterdam.

And that’s why we are really excited about this very platform to communicate why we do what we do! (And hope you have good questions and learnings!!!!)

Table For Two(TFT)、ご存知の方も多いと思います。TFTは途上国の栄養不足を給食によって、先進国の肥満の問題を低カロリーな食事によって、同時に解決しようと活動している非営利団体です。TFT監修の健康な食事を購入することで、その利益の一部を1食分の子供の給食に回すというモデルがコアになっている活動です。



1. グローバルレベルの課題を、すべての人が自分の課題として考えられるようなしくみとして提案している点

1つ商品を購入すると、1つ寄付されるというようなモデル自体は、アメリカのTOM’s shoesやWarby Parker(眼鏡ブランド)などの成功にもみられるように、珍しくはありません。ただTFTがユニークな点は、いわゆる先進国経済と途上国経済の両方の課題に着目している点です。Maki & Mphoは、非営利団体として、特定の社会問題を直接的に発信しているわけではありませんが、私たちも同様に途上国経済(南アフリカやケニヤ)のクリエイターと、工業化した成熟経済(日本など)における職人や伝統産業が、協業することで、グローバル市場に新しい価値を提案しているという意味において、双方の課題解決に貢献しています。途上国経済の新興クリエイターたちは、そのクリエイティビティーを形あるものにするためのインフラ不足に悩んでいる一方で、工業化した成熟経済における職人たちは、伝統ある工芸やものづくり技術を、グローバル市場に対応してアップグレードするために、若者のクリエイティビティを取り入れていくキャパシティが不足しています。だからこそ、その2つの掛け合わせがうまくいく可能性を秘めています。


2. ブランディングとマーケティングコミュニケーションでクールで楽しいイメージを醸成している点


3. 設立当初からグローバル展開を前提とし、国際機関や大企業とパートナーシップを形成している点

そして最後に、TFTの好きなところは、最初からグローバル展開を前提に始まっているところです。誕生時から、グローバルで、日本人のアドボカシーだけを考えていた訳ではないという点です。組織名は、最初からTFT “International”という点も、TFT経営陣のそういったアスピレーションが繁栄されているものだそうです。また、TFTは世界経済フォーラムのようなプラットフォームや、各国政府やトヨタのような大企業を積極的に巻込んでいます。今も、本部のチームは決して大きくはなさそうですが、ローカルのサポートパートナーのネットワークは強固で、20カ国以上で展開しています。




This place has EVERYTHING!

This place has EVERYTHING!


When you are selling products, generally speaking, you first have to figure out who you are selling to, what products you are selling, how to make them, how much it costs/how long it takes to make them, and how/where/when to sell them at how much.

But that’s obviously from the perspective of the seller.

From the customer’s perspective, there’s only one thing that matters: WHY. The buyer only asks one question: Why do I have to care enough about this product to keep it as mine in exchange for my hard-earned money (or for the limited budget, in b2b cases)?

So that’s why we are focusing on the WHY. Why in the context of our business, it is about really understanding the needs/wants, sharing stories of making things, and engaging people to nurture mutual trust. So by the time we have products, it becomes irresistible… And customers can tell you how much they would pay for it: The perceived value.

You think it is just a dreamer’s ideal? Well, maybe not. Look at all those crowdfunding projects that are succeeding. We started a new project with a business client in South Africa just by telling stories. So I guess this is starting to work…

I am taking this approach because we are not about making trends. We care about the longevity of the business. I am taking this approach because I used to work for consumer goods companies that accumulate years and years worth of stocks that are impossible to sell out (or even to give away!). If customers can’t find the reason to own it, they don’t take it even if an item is FREE of charge!

Let me bring you back to the context of the African business. I don’t (want to) believe Africa will become the next China – the manufacturer of the world, the next source of CHEAP labor. I am presenting the opportunistic views but consumption behavior will change. When people stop buying lots of cheap goods and start buying less valuable goods, Africa should be ready to offering high value rather than low price. N’est-ce pas?








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