March 2011 Business Development Mission
International Partnership Conference
Tenerife Canary Islands, Spain
Introduction. On March 27-April 3, 2011, six small-medium entrepreneurs (SMEs) participated in a business development mission traveling to Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain to join approximately 300 senior private sector and government officials to discuss trade and investment opportunities, logistics, communications and procurement in countries on the African continent, facilitating the establishment for our companies of worldwide networks.
This opportunity for SMEs was presented to The Africa Trade Office at the Prince George's County Economic Development by the recently established US-Africa Business Center of The Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) because of ATO's focus on SME development and its success with establishing business linkages between US and African SMEs. This partnering effort is one of many under discussion between ATO and CCA. ATO's role was to identify five local SMEs with capacity and experience in international markets. The companies also needed to have an interest in engaging in trade and investment opportunities in Africa.
ATO widely distributed an Opportunity Notice for local companies to meet business representatives from South Africa in Washington, DC. Ten SMEs attended that meeting. The opportunity for companies to attend the International Partnerships Conference (IPC) was presented to attendees during that meeting. This meeting was followed by business-to-business matchmaking. ATO also distributed a flyer on the IPC at the International Business Strategy Advisory Council (IBSAC) and within EDC’s Technology Assistance Incubator (TAC). Several of these companies expressed interest in attending the International Partnerships Conference developed by CCA and the Tenerife Chamber at this event. All slots were filled very quickly.
At the suggestion of The Africa Trade Office, CCA's US-Africa Business Center arranged substantial grants to offset a portion of the travel and conference expense for SMEs to attend this event utilizing US-AID funding. ATO vetted and qualified six companies to participate. The delegation was led by EDC Vice-President and Director of The Africa Trade Office, Patricia Hayes-Parker. In advance of the mission, ATO staff compiled a list of prospective attendees for matchmaking. Working with CCA, meetings with companies were scheduled and companies engaged in B2B meetings over the four days. Additionally, SMEs held discussions with company executives during evening receptions hosted by the government of Tenerife. Our companies also teamed with one another to discuss larger opportunities with private company CEOs and public sector senior officials.
Participation. During the mission, ATO Director moderated a conference-wide workshop entitled "International Business Partnerships for Power Infrastructure Projects". This session offered more than 100 attendees valuable information on why such teaming agreements are necessary, what factors are important in the formation of partnerships, how companies maintain partnerships and the importance of an exit ramp for companies that come together in strategic partnerships. Symbion and Alstrom closed out their project in Afghanistan and chose to continue their teaming to respond to an opportunity in Tanzania. Because of their experience in Afghanistan, Symbion developed an interesting in-country workforce-training model to stimulate local participation in its projects.
On Tuesday, March 29, two other presentations were made by ATO's Director in the Small Business Partnerships Program in advance of CCA's International Partnerships Conference. This session convened to provide general background information on Africa and its growing economies to SMEs, the "do's and don'ts" of doing business and methods of networking and assessing African opportunities followed by a question and answer session.
Wednesday, March 30 -Friday, April 1, our companies engaged in networking as individual companies and strategically as teams depending on the opportunity. SMEs from the Washington Metropolitan region, including four from Prince George's County, Maryland met with more than 70 companies during more than 100 meetings. The companies quickly identified the representatives of companies of interest to them. ATO worked with CCA to schedule requested meetings during networking breaks, tours and luncheons during the day and receptions in the evening.
While on mission, the ATO Director met with Lockheed/PAE, the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre, Camara of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, CCA Director East Africa Region, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, Netherlands-African Business Council, Innovative Partners Incubation, The African Development Bank and Durban Invest. These meetings were held to discuss partnering opportunities between organizations, program initiatives, logistics operations from Tenerife to West Africa and large company shortlist requirements – information that could benefit all SMEs and those interested in future procurement and information seminars focused on trade/investment opportunities in Africa.
Companies participating in this business development mission discussed trade opportunities not already identified through their marketing arms with CEOs or program directors from countries worldwide. Follow-up will be necessary and most of the companies have disclosed their initial follow-up strategy to do so.
The 2011 Africa Trade Office/PGCEDC Business Development Mission
Pre-Mission. The opportunity for local SMEs to participate in the International Partnerships Conference was developed by CCA with short notice to The Africa Trade Office. Therefore, we were not able to invite embassy officials from countries planning to attend, engage the SMEs in networking with one another prior to departure or to discuss countries that may not have a need for certain services.
Mission Itinerary. This SME business development mission was coincident with The International Partnerships Conference. In the agenda for the Small Business Partnerships Program, representatives from The Eastern African Association, CCA CEO and Vice President of Business Development/ABC and Board members, the Director-General of the Chamber of Commerce from Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Director of The Africa Trade Office, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Lockheed/PAE, Senior VP of Buchanan Renewables/Schaffer Global Group, CCA's East and West Africa Field Representatives, and the Director General of the Chamber, Burkina Faso met with SME companies to discuss "Why Africa?", "Dos and Don't of Doing Business in Africa", "being a Part of Your Own Global Network", "Access Africa!" and "Africa's Front Runner".
The International Partnerships Conference officially opened after the close of the SME Information and Discussion session on Tuesday, March 29. The conference continued until April 1, 2011.
Why Tenerife, Spain? Tenerife has positioned itself as a solution for companies throughout the world, particularly the U.S., that want to address opportunities for trade and investment in Africa to do so using Tenerife as a hub. The undersea cable from France to South Africa is expected to also benefit Tenerife. Tenerife has a deepwater port. Tenerife has daily connecting flights from Europe (Madrid, Spain). Tenerife has consistently good weather annually. Tenerife has established a business incentive program and business incubators to soften the landing for companies.
The participants have scheduled a debriefing session with ATO and CCA in April. Companies indicated that services from ATO would be needed in contract facilitation, follow-up with organizations such as The World Bank and Lockheed/PAE. One of the companies would like more information on how to interpret and respond to RFPs for some of the large multinationals. One of the companies requested assistance with setting up actual meetings with program and procurement directors.
One of the companies has also committed their company to engage in more research of building products and systems workable in certain African countries. Companies also felt that they benefited from discussions with larger companies from Europe and Africa about how they apply various strategies, more information on sources of funding for projects, financing strategies, the challenges their companies faced and how the larger companies address these challenges. Some of our companies had a keen interest in renewable energy markets and was able to identify larger companies that were successful in this market in Africa.
From the information above, ATO will be able to develop strategies and initiatives to address their interests and requirements. Consequently, ATO may adjust the design of its trade deal facilitation program moving forward into this next fiscal year.
Strategy for Deliver Further Services to Companies.
This was a first opportunity for ATO and CCA's new Africa Business Center to cooperate in the delivery of business services to SMEs. After we jointly meet with the companies in the debriefing session, both organizations will be able to fine-tune their partnership for more effective delivery of business services on a partnering basis.
Challenges of African Markets and Next Steps for ATO and Businesses.
The conference confirmed some of the challenges known to ATO - communications, continuous and dependable power, transportation logistics, difficult access roads and the need for close work with established on-the-ground partners. Companies need to have an on-the-ground presence to be successful in these markets through effective collaborations with experienced and capable partners, distribution channels or representatives. Day-to-day communications, working cell phones and in some markets a developed understanding of the impact of traffic congestion to complete meetings are also challenging.
ATO is not convinced that Tenerife is the optimum solution to doing business on the continent as African countries are interested in increasing economic activity in country – not at an outside landing pad. However, Tenerife could be a consideration if environments are determined to be unstable in the short-term.
List of Company Participants:
- Angarai International
- Applied Quality Communications, Inc.
- Helix Global
- Omni Systems
- SNG Engineering
- Transglobal Business Systems, Inc.
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