The growing Southern African market offers opportunities for Central Baltic SMEs
The project SME Aisle conducted a business trip to Namibia in September and October 2018. Altogether 16 SMEs from Finland, Latvia, Estonia and Sweden took part in the trip. The next trip in spring 2019 is being currently planned.
The trip was the first one organized for the SMEs, in which they had an opportunity to explore business opportunities in the SADC region with support of the SME Aisle project team. The SMEs represented different areas such as ICT, renewable energy, shipbuilding and automation.
During the three-week period, the SMEs and the team participated in several seminars, workshops and fairs. The importance in many SADC countries is to understand one's business environment, it’s circumstances and potential business partners.
”Now is the time to grow and develop”
The business expert of the SME Aisle team Jeffrey Salahub from Satakunta University of Applied Sciences travelled together with the companies to Namibia and South Africa.
– I know the SMEs need cash flow fairly soon in their business activity, and the time investment required for new markets like Southern Africa may seem prohibitive.
However, the region is teeming with entrepreneurial spirit, says Salahub.
– There is a general sense in this African region that now is the time to grow and develop, and the past can be left behind.
The growing market offers many opportunities
In the countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) the GDP growth is estimated at approximately two percent annually.
– The Southern African region requires a longer-term investment in time. Creative business models are needed, where all parties need to commit to the local market: straight export for the most part will be a rarity. Cash flow will come after some years of operation and collaboration. Salahub describes the business scenery.
The future need concentrates on cleantech, technologies to improve harbor activities and vocational training.
– However, with the growing market, there are opportunities to capitalize on, whether it be in the maritime or renewable energy clusters, or ICT and automation areas. There is a definite desire to combine technologies of Baltic region companies with local business knowledge, and in a sense “jump” to another level of development via collaboration.
Finns have a good reputation in Namibia, different practices in trade creates challenges
Jari Pirhonen from Visy Oy travelled to Namibia for the second time. Visy Oy is specialized in automatic access control systems. Pirhonen recalls the trip being interesting and was impressed of the project team’s contacts with local actors. Finland’s good reputation was also memorable:
– It was fun to see how the locals reacted positively towards the Finns.
According to Pirhonen, the challenges include different practices in trade, as these practices usually include public tendering.
– Locals highlight the small amount of corruption, this might be true compared to some neighboring countries.
Important connections and a professional project team
The “can do” attitude of the potential partners of the Southern African region significantly increases the probability of success.
Meeting the representatives of the Namibian port was the main reason for Pirhonen to participate in the trip.
– Of the stakeholders I met, Namport was the most important contact considering our current projects.
Next trip in spring 2019
The project’s next trip will be organized in Spring 2019.
– Now is the time to build the relationships for future business activity. A long-term orientation with the motivation to co-create new business models are essential ingredients to achieving a foothold in this relatively stable and growing market region. Now is the time to join in! Salahub encourages.
- The project SME Aisle supports Central Baltic maritime clusters’ SMEs to enter into new markets in Southern Africa using Namibia as a stable entry point.
- The project’s first trip with the SMEs to Southern African markets was organized 16.9-5.10.2018.
- Altogether 16 SMEs participated in the trip. Companies represent fields such as renewable energy, port technologies, automation and ICT from Finland, Latvia, Estonia and Sweden.
- 2 SADC countries were visited during the period of 3 weeks: Namibia and South Africa.
- Representation in 5 different events: seminars, workshops and fair in various cities.
- + 150 contacts received during the trip.
- The next trip will be organized in Spring 2019.
More information: Project manager Minna Keinänen-Toivola, +358 44 710 3063