Strengthening TISIs for SITA project success

By Devika Jyothi

Successful Trade and Investment Support Institutions (TISIs) are central to the success of SITA – the Supporting Indian Trade and Investment for Africa project funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and implemented by the International Trade Centre (ITC).

A 5-year project, SITA aims to build productive capacities in five East African countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania and Rwanda – in select value chains through institutional and business partnerships from India. To meet the key objective of enhancing the international competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), SITA collaborates with a network of TISIs in its project countries, both as beneficiaries and as implementing partners of the project. TISIs are organisations that support business, ranging from trade promotion organisations, chambers of commerce, sector associations, enterprise development agencies, supply chain management organisations, and others.

As part of its mandate, ITC works towards strengthening TISIs to provide more relevant and effective services for improved SME competitiveness, enabling the export success of small businesses in developing and transition countries. TISIs are essential multipliers of private-sector support programmes, facilitating the internationalisation of SMEs.

The stakes are high, as Arancha González, ITC’s Executive Director put it during the opening plenary of the 9th World Chambers Congress in Turin in 2015, “the real game changers of the 21st century are SMEs.” And, Chambers and other member-based TISIs are first in line to “facilitate the integration of SMEs into the global economy.”

However, many membership-based TISIs struggle to attract and retain new members.

With the objective of strengthening the efficiency of TISIs from East Africa and beyond, ITC organised a 2-day workshop – Driving Growth and Membership Revenues for Membership-based Organisations – in Stone Town of Zanzibar, Tanzania in mid September.  Several TISIs collaborating with the SITA project benefited from the workshop designed to share learning, enabling organisations to demonstrate value to their members, offer better services and remain profitable with a sustainable value proposition.

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The workshop, organised in collaboration with the Zanzibar National Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (ZNCCIA), is part of ITC’s Assess Improve Measure (AIM) for Results institutional development programme, funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. Through the “AIM For Results” programme, ITC assesses the organisational effectiveness of TISIs against industry practices and benchmarks, and helps improve their managerial, operational and service delivery performance through comprehensive multi-year performance improvement plans. Under this programme, ITC also focuses on helping TISIs measure the results of their activities with a view to taking corrective actions.

A total of 17 executives, including members from SITA-supported TISIs such as the Uganda Oil Seed Producers and Processors Association (UOSPA), the Tanzania Sunflower Oil Processor Association (TASUPA), the Tanzania Spices Association (TASPA), the Textile and Garment Manufacturers Association of Tanzania (TEGAMAT), the Kenya Export Promotion Council (KEPC) and the African Cotton & Textile Industries Federation (ACTIF) benefited from the hands-on training at the workshop. The sessions presented them with tools to assess and initiate actions on member engagement, results measurement and service monetisation, with the ultimate objective of ensuring their financial sustainability and business impact.

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Commenting on the importance of the programme, Munira Humoud Said, Executive Director of ZNCCIA, observed, “This type of capacity building is essential for our institutions to increase the value addition to our members.”

Organisations have also pledged their commitment to implement the tools and lessons learnt at the workshop, towards ensuring more value to their members. I will now “handle the few members I have carefully: communicate with them as often as possible, find out what they want and give it to them. And, introduce Customer Relationship Management (CRM) as a tool,” commented Adam Zuku of TEGAMAT.

Charles Tumbo of the Kenya Export Promotion Council also stated that the council will “revive CRM, capture more clients undertaking export promotion activities and disseminate the lessons.”

In a later interview with SITA, the Executive Director of UOSPA, Agang Ray Bruno commented on the usefulness of the workshop, saying: “This has been a great opportunity for us to learn and improve our operations. We have benefited from the training on standards and institutional management.”

“My vision is to grow UOSPA’s membership base and improve the sustainability of its business model, including via more diversified revenue streams and improved value for members and partners,” Mr. Bruno said, adding, “With more expertise and better connections we can improve our credibility with our members and stakeholders, and deliver more value to the sector and the Ugandan economy.”

Ringo Iringo, the Chairman of TASUPA, added, “We will be putting some of these ideas into action in TASUPA in order to deliver more value to our members.

“We need to create scale and improve profitability through more co-operation, vertical integration and value addition. TASUPA is facilitating a series of clusters as a first step towards this outcome.”

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Indo-Africa ICT Expo 2016: SITA facilitates win-win negotiations for successful deal making

By Devika Jyothi

The role of mediators in forging collaborative business relationships is increasingly gaining acceptance as cross border transactions across the globe are becoming more complex. However, at the International Trade Centre (ITC), it is the normal course of business. Facilitating successful deal making through win-win negotiations is a key component of ITC’s Supporting Indian Trade and Investment for Africa (SITA) project – a 5-year project funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).

However, SITA is not just about mediation. SITA intervention signifies much more.

SITA seeks to build productive capacities in five East African countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania and Rwanda – in select value chains through institutional and business partnerships from India. And, to help the East African companies and business organisations successfully forge business relationships with their Indian counterparts, SITA organises needs-based training programmes and workshops aimed at capacity building in specific areas, including improving business development and communication skills, with insights into cross cultural differences.

Indo-Africa ICT Expo 2016: SITA supports participation and facilitates deal making

At the recent Indo-Africa ICT Expo 2016 (the Expo) in Nairobi, SITA supported the participation of 33 information and technology (IT) companies from East Africa, including 21 women-owned companies. The three-day event, held from September 1 – 3, featured informative conference sessions as well as an exhibition attended by local, regional and international information and communication technologies (ICT) companies, organisations and government institutions.

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At the event, SITA organised more than 350 pre-scheduled business-to-business (B2B) meetings. With the intervention of SITA, nearly 50 business negotiations were initiated, with 14 deals agreed by way of memorandums of understanding (MoU), partnerships and contracts; while a further 14 preliminary agreements were reached through letters of intent, non-disclosure agreements (NDA) and verbal agreements.

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Pre-expo B2B matchmaking and trainings for participants

As part of the preparations to help the East African companies successfully participate in the Indo-Africa Summit, SITA organised three 2-day workshops, training them to effectively present their company’s products and services, value proposition and key differentiation to prospective partners.  At the workshop, companies got the opportunity to improve their communication skills as well as practise their sales presentation and negotiation skills.

The East African companies that attended the preparation workshop expressed their satisfaction, stating that it will help them in negotiating and closing business deals. “I learned about negotiation skills, specifically with Indians – skills which I’ve used a lot during the event. After the event, I’ve gotten many deals and opportunities because I knew how to deal and communicate in a correct way,” said Diane Uwamahoro, managing director, GoIT Solutions, Rwanda.

Commenting on the importance of the preparation programme, Marie Claire, chief executive officer of Atlas Computer Systems, Rwanda, stated: “Many of us in the IT sector have big challenges with describing and differentiating our companies. This can leave a potential customer with great confusion and doesn’t build the trust that is necessary when doing international trade. The Indo-Africa event was a great occasion to practise what we’ve learned in the training so that we can close as many deals as possible with potential companies!”

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Maryanna Karamagi, managing director, SINFA Uganda added: “Before the event I practised my sales and presentation skills with templates from the preparation workshop. It really helped!”

ITC also helped companies improve their marketing and sales materials – company logo, business cards, brochures and websites – enabling them to define and present their brand, value proposition and services effectively to international buyers. Four Rwandan companies received assistance prior to the Expo, while 12 more companies will receive similar assistance in the coming months.

Participating companies were selected on the basis of their performance during the marketing and sales trainings, export experience as well as their products and services. In addition, SITA had in advance obtained, reviewed and matched up the profiles of Indian and East African companies to ensure that the B2B meetings at the Expo were organised well. At the Expo, the East African companies had the opportunity to meet with 78 Indian ICT companies.

SITA also arranged the Geneva-based law firm, Sidley Austin, to provide pro-bono support to the SITA beneficiary companies. A lawyer from the firm conducted a legal workshop aimed at enhancing the East African companies’ understanding of cross-border contracts, NDAs, MoUs and other legal documents. He also provided on the ground support to companies at the Expo by reviewing contracts and NDAs.

Several companies including Skywards Uganda, Zimba Women, Atlas Solutions and Vantage Communications have signed MoUs and NDAs with Indian companies, while Women in IT Uganda, Real Time Engineering, Mobicash, ASILI Richlands, GoIT Technology and SINFA Uganda have identified potential partnerships, and are in the process of negotiation.

The preparatory training “helped us to understand the differences between Ugandan and Indian business cultures. The training also helped us to present our company to eight potential partners and we are now looking at options to work together,” said Annet Mutenyo, managing director of Skywards Services, Uganda.

Complimenting SITA on the efforts, Rose Maghas, managing director of GreenBell Communications Limited, Kenya,  said: “Technically speaking, we learned how to: understand customer needs, better negotiate with diverse customers in deal making, improve our marketing materials, and to better present our products and services.

“We are indeed grateful for the assistance from ITC and would like to urge them to keep up the good work of supporting women in business.”

Sunflower: Sector associations in sync with SITA

Sunflower is a key sector for the Supporting Indian Trade and Investment for Africa (SITA) project in Uganda and Tanzania. In line with the strategy for the development of sunflower sector, the International Trade Centre’s (ITC) SITA project has been working to strengthen East African sunflower sector associations, and to support the transfer of technology and investment from India. To this end, SITA has been collaborating with the Solvent Extractors’ Association (SEA) of India, organizing exposure visits, workshops and business to business (B2B) meetings, both in India and East Africa.

Recently, SITA supported the participation of the Uganda Oil Seed Producers and Processors Association (UOSPA) and the Tanzania Sunflower Oil Processor Association (TASUPA) in the SEA- of India annual general meeting and a subsequent study tour in India, with the aim of fostering collaboration between the institutions, as well as enabling the East African institutions and businesses to learn and replicate best practices from India. On the sidelines of the event, the SITA team caught up with the UOSPA and TASUPA leaders to know more about their experience with SITA so far.

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Agang Ray Bruno is the Executive Director of UOSPA, representing the interests of the oilseed producers and processors in Uganda

SITA: Tell me about the involvement of UOSPA with SITA.

Agong Ray Bruno: When SITA was established, UOSPA was one of the institutions involved in the baseline conversation as well as in the project design. Following the selection of sunflower as a project sector in Uganda, and after a due diligence exercise and assessment of our organisation, UOSPA was confirmed as a delivery partner for SITA. We have contributed to the development of the strategic plan for the sector, and have participated in the annual partnership platform event in April 2016. This culminated in the workshop with SEA of India and TASUPA. We activated our partnership through technology transfer and business visits from India to East Africa.

SITA: What do you think will be the biggest impact of this partnership with SITA, for your organisation?

Bruno: This has been a great opportunity for us to learn and improve our operations. We have already benefited from training on standards and institutional management, including at the regional workshop in Zanzibar. We are also building high level linkages between Uganda and India – with institutions, manufacturers and businesses. With more expertise and better connections we can improve our credibility with our members and stakeholders, and deliver more value to the sector and the Ugandan economy.

SITA: Your vision for UOSPA, its size, role and reputation…

Bruno: To grow UOSPA’s membership base and improve the sustainability of its business model, including via more diversified revenue streams and improved value for members and partners. We strive to build on our reputation as a highly informed and credible advocate of the sector, and be seen as influential and effective by all stakeholders.

SITA: Why was this visit to India important for you?

Bruno: We have personally seen the technology and equipment that can make a difference to UOSPA members. India can offer equipment at the scale, quality and price that Uganda needs. Our organisation will support the transfer of this technology for the benefit of our members. We’ve also built the relationships that will help us achieve our vision. And seeing the way SEA of India operates was inspiring! We return to Uganda full of plans and ideas that would be implemented by UOSPA.

SITA: If you could wave a magic wand and fix just one thing about the sunflower sector in Uganda, what would it be?

Bruno: I will have to pick two things, but they are related. Uganda needs to produce more volume, both in terms of raw material and edible oils through promotion of efficient land opening technology,   better seed quality with higher oil content and more efficient oil extractors.  UOSPA is going to help make it happen!

SITA in conversation with TASUPA

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Ringo Iringo is the Chairman of TASUPA, supporting the Tanzanian sunflower sector

SITA: Tell me about the involvement of TASUPA with SITA.

Ringo Iringo:  I was involved in the consultation and design process that led to the project establishment, as well as in the development of the sector strategy and roadmap. I was also present at the partnership meeting in Kampala in April, including the workshop to support institutional partnerships with India. This led to the involvement of TASUPA in the technology and B2B visits from India to Tanzania in July. And we have also benefited from training, with my vice-president attending the workshop in Zanzibar, and with this study tour for me and my new manager, Daudi.

SITA: What do you think will be the biggest impact of this partnership with SITA, for your organisation?

Ringo: SITA has provided us with a platform for new levels of engagement with partners like AMDT (Agricultural Markets Development Trust), FAO (Food and Agricultural Organisation) UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organisation) and TanTrade (Tanzania Trade Development Authority), amongst others, as well as other government and non-government organisations in Tanzania and elsewhere. TASUPA is still very small and we greatly value the additional resources and scale that come with these partnerships for growth. SITA’s selection of the sunflower sector has provided a strategic direction to this sector in Tanzania, with the government supporting it more. Furthermore, TASUPA’s role as a delivery partner has helped us build credibility. We are also benefiting from the engagement with other delivery partners, in particular SEA of India and UOSPA.

SITA: Your vision for TASUPA, its size, role and reputation…

Ringo: The importance of sunflower sector to the Tanzanian economy is to be recognised, including as a part of strategy to address climate change, with a focus on replacing imports while increasing exports, both regionally and beyond. I see TASUPA as the co-ordinator and influencer of change, demonstrating leadership, innovation, and powerful decision-making.

SITA: Why was this visit to India important for you?

Ringo: Seeing is believing. We have seen the impact of improved technology on oil extraction and refining. We have also met potential Indian importers, and connected with experts and sources of valuable information. TASUPA must be a connector for our sector both within Tanzania and beyond. This visit has helped us to take a step towards achieving that goal.

We have also benefited from seeing good institutional practice through our SITA-based relationship with SEA of India. We were impressed with the operation of their annual general meeting, including organisation of the exhibition space, and have learnt more about service delivery, information dissemination, and sponsorships. We will be putting some of these ideas into action in TASUPA in order to deliver more value to our members.

SITA: If you could wave a magic wand and fix just one thing about the sunflower sector in Tanzania, what would it be?

Ringo: We need to create scale and improve profitability through more co-operation, vertical integration and value addition. TASUPA is facilitating a series of clusters as a first step towards this outcome.

An impression of the study tour in India

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“Seeing is believing”: The East African delegation learning from a manufacturer in India

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Dr. Mehta of SEA of India shares their articles of association with the delegation

Eastbound

By Irene Ebrahimi Darsinouei

Ugandan and Tanzanian sunflower oil producers had the opportunity to network with Indian buyers during business-to-business (B2B) meetings that were organized by the International Trade Centre’s (ITC) SITA project on July 25 and 27, 2016. The events, that drew large numbers of participants – over 70 in Uganda, and over 90 in the United Republic of Tanzania – offered a unique opportunity for the East African businesses to interact with overseas buyers – an opportunity many of them had not had before.

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B2B meetings in progress in Margaritha Palace Hotel Gardens, Lira, Uganda

In recent years, there has been an increase in demand for sunflower crops such as sunflower oil. The United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda are significant producers of sunflower oil, but low farm yields, a shortage of sunflower seeds and inefficient technology reduce the competitiveness of these producers internationally, as well as in the local market.

ITC, through its Supporting Indian Trade and Investment for Africa (SITA) project, aims to strengthen the supply-side capacities of Ugandan and Tanzanian sunflower oil producers, build institutional linkages between East Africa and India for knowledge transfer, as well as market linkages. The project is funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).

In the last year, SITA brought national stakeholders together in Uganda and in the United Republic of Tanzania, to design a framework for the development of the sunflower oil sector. This exercise created awareness of the international market for sunflower oil, and the areas that need to be addressed along the sunflower oil value chain. Companies received training on international quality standards, and Indian expertise was brought in, to advise sunflower oil refineries on how to implement small adjustments that can easily and cost-effectively increase productivity.

The main institutions responsible for the sunflower oil sector – the Tanzania Sunflower Oil Processor Association (TASUPA) and Uganda Oil Seed Producers and Processors Association (UOSPA) – participated in different institutional strengthening activities, to further improve their service delivery to their members. In Tanzania for example, TASUPA is now supporting technological advancement in the sunflower oil industry by linking university students (engineers and food technologists) from Sokoine University of Agriculture with sunflower oil mills.

The aim of the recent B2B meetings was to foster business linkages between East African and Indian companies in the sunflower industry, and to promote public-private dialogue and partnerships. SITA collaborated with the Solvent Extractor Association (SEA) of India, who took part in the events with a delegation of twelve members.

The B2B meetings were well attended, and drew interest from business owners, oilseed farmers’ cooperatives, trade and investment support institutions, government agencies, members of the press and development partners. Negotiations of a few thousand tons have followed from companies’ participation in the B2B meetings, whose fruits we will be able to see in the next couple of months. Amongst others, negotiations for the import of 2000 metric tons of sunflower oil cake per month from the United Republic of Tanzania are currently underway.

Feedback to the event testifies to its eye-opening nature for participating companies. Following from the meetings, companies report they are now more aware of the quality improvements they need to be export-ready, and are keen to explore value addition possibilities. Companies recognize the need to come together, to improve their scale of production and to leverage available technologies.

Many participating companies are currently working towards attracting technology transfer and investment from India to achieve these improvements. “I was privileged to meet Servotech Ltd from Mumbai at the event and we are keenly discussing how to work with them, to fully automate our entire processing unit which uses equipment we imported recently from Shreeji of India,” said Mr George William Wilobo of the Ugandan Kyempara Cooperative Society.

In Tanzania, one miller is currently in discussion with an Indian company regarding the lease of the Tanzanian oil mill for an initial period of six months. This will allow the Indian company to gain a better understanding of the Tanzanian market, and will provide learning and knowledge transfer opportunities to the Tanzanian miller.

By the way, did you know that up until a sunflower is in full bloom, the head faces wherever the sun is located? Once it begins to fully bloom, the sunflower’s head gets heavier as the seeds begin to grow and fill with oil, and the sunflower faces east for the rest of its life. It seems only logical for the Ugandan and Tanzanian sunflower oil to be eastbound…

Companies learn about the art of standing out in Ethiopia and Rwanda

By Irene Ebrahimi Darsinouei

It is difficult to stand out in today’s hypercompetitive marketplace. In the words of Mr. Wondayen Zerihon, of the Ethiopian spices company Abdulakim Export: “Other countries have the same product as us, so it is difficult to know how to approach our customer. What makes our product different from the Rwandan’s or the Kenyan’s product?”

Having a powerful brand is key – a visual identity, a story – in order to connect with your audience.

On June 23rd 2016, SITA organized a branding and sales workshop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for Rwandan and Ethiopian spices and pulses companies. The participants delved into the world of branding, discussing their company identity, how to define their brand value proposition and how to present their company and products to potential buyers at trade fairs.

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SITA organises a branding and sales workshop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Mr. Wondayen Zerihon emphasized the importance of the training: “We need to be able to differentiate our product. Without branding, we will not be able to get a good or premium price for our spices,” he said.

The workshop was also a platform for knowledge exchange between the Ethiopian and Rwandan companies, on topics like setting up an association, production and outgrowing, export financing, and regional partnerships. Ethiopia and Rwanda have different planting and harvesting seasons, which creates opportunities to work together without competing, while supplying a buyer year-round.

“I’ve made a mistake,” said Noel Hirwa, of the Rwandan company Rexo Group. “I forgot to bring my company brochure to this workshop. There are opportunities here to partner with Ethiopian companies, and I see now that when I want to market, I have to have a business card, a well-designed website, and I am missing my brochure.” According to Noel, it pays to invest in marketing and branding, “After mastering this, I will not use as much money to market myself. If I brand myself in a good way, I don’t need to invest as much to be efficient.”

Mr. Siméon Ngendahayo, of West Hills Coffee in Rwanda, has mastered the art of coffee making. His company won the Rwandan Cup of Excellence twice, and he has sold his products to Slovakia, Sweden, France and the US. The company recently entered the spices business, in order to have an alternative crop during the off-season of coffee, securing an income for the growers. “It turns out that having a high quality product is not enough,” Siméon said. “We were confusing logos and products. We have a big gap – how to sell our final product? We have to improve our visibility – we have high-quality coffee, but if nobody knows, it is not enough.”

Prior to the training, companies were requested to share their marketing materials with SITA, in order to prepare personalized advice and suggestions for a new look. Mr. Getachew Mamo, of Nathi Coffee and Spices, Ethiopia, was among the companies who submitted their materials and received feedback. “The training showed me that less is more – the marketing materials I am using shouldn’t be overcrowded with text, and images.” A key learning, said Mr. Mamo, was quite simple: “When I meet with buyers, I used to tell them what my objective is. That may not be what they want to hear! What they want to hear is what I can offer them. This is a great learning for me, and I will change my approach to it.”

Mr. Endalkechew Abie, of Ethiopia’s Tsehay Farmers Cooperative Union, commented that a key learning was how important it is to conduct proper research, and to gather information about potential buyers before participating in trade fairs. “So many people visit our booth, so we have to be prepared. This learning will help us gain more from our trade fair participation in the future.”

If branding is done right, at some point, the company decides the price – the buyer doesn’t anymore. Exporting branded products rather than unbranded products is a compelling notion, and Ethiopian and Rwandan producers could benefit strongly from the higher margins. In the words of Mr. Wondayen Zerihon, of Abdulakim Export, Ethiopia: “All exporters need these kinds of lessons. If all Ethiopian exporters take this training, it will definitely change things. Not only for our company income, but also for the country’s income.”

ICT in Rwanda: Kevine Bajeneza is embracing the possibilities

By Irene Ebrahimi Darsinouei

Rwanda’s ICT sector has been growing at an impressive pace over the past years. The government has prioritized the sector’s development and aims to create an ICT infrastructure comparable to any in the developing world.

Picture1Kevine Bajeneza is “embracing the possibilities,” as per her company’s slogan. Ms. Bajeneza is the owner of N@tcom Services Ltd, a fast growing consultancy firm that focuses on bridging the gap between unemployed educated youth and the market-driven IT demands and opportunities in Rwanda. The firm provides information technology training, accompanied by soft skills training.

Ms. Bajeneza was first introduced to the SITA project in May 2015, during a Rwandan BPO exhibition where ITC gave a presentation about the project.

A few months later, SITA sponsored Ms. Bajeneza’s participation in the Indo-Africa ICT Expo 2015, an exhibition that was organized by the Indian IT Association NASSCOM, and that brought more than 100 Indian ICT companies to Nairobi, Kenya. Ms. Bajeneza participated together with twenty other Rwandan and Ugandan companies. ‘My participation was a great opportunity. I met different companies from India and I had more than 15 B2B meetings with Indian companies facilitated by SITA.’

Following the workshop, Ms. Bajeneza signed an MoU with JD-Soft, an Indian IT company. The agreement provides a framework for the companies to work together on IT training and consultancy.

In March 2016, Ms. Bajeneza participated in the branding and sales workshop organized by SITA in Kigali, Rwanda. ‘This was very useful and productive. After the training, I was able to work on our marketing materials and I did a lot of changes to make them more professional and visible,’ Ms. Bajeneza said of the workshop. ‘I am still doing the knowledge transfer to my staff about how to position our company for better marketing and branding.’

Recently, Ms. Bajeneza travelled to Beijing with SITA’s support, to participate in the Services Buyer Mentor Group (BMG) exhibition. This exhibition was attended by over 200 companies, from China and other countries. Her company was part of the exhibitors, and she had the opportunity to meet with different IT companies in China during the B2B meetings. ‘I applied the knowledge gained from the branding and sales workshop, mostly in the B2B meetings and it worked very well.’ She is currently in partnership discussions with 7 companies she met in Beijing.

Resulting from the collaboration with SITA, Ms. Bajeneza’s business has changed a lot. Over the last year, Ms. Bajeneza employed two new staff members to manage sales and marketing, and the training of soft skills, respectively. Three interns were also hosted at her company for a six months’ period. ‘We are now able to market and brand a lot in our country and in the EAC region. We have extended our services: we now deliver in rural areas, and we are able to attract more customers from our neighboring countries, like Burundi, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Kenya.’

Rwanda looks to spice up international menus with premium red chillies

By Devika Jyothi

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‘I am excited with the progress of the chilli nurseries; the seedlings are looking very good,’ says Dieudonné Twahirwa, a farmer in Bugesera District, Eastern Province of Rwanda, and the owner of Gashora Farm Limited.

Mr. Twahirwa is part of the red chilli pilot project, an initiative of SITA in collaboration with Akay Flavours & Aromatics, an Indian company engaged in spices extraction. The pilot aims to develop premium quality, high value chilli varieties in Rwanda, and to establish direct linkages between farmers and buyers of red chilli, in Rwanda and India, respectively.

Rwandan spices: SITA gauges prospects and possibilities

Red chilli is a big part of certain cuisines in Africa, and of the Indian cuisine as well.  While India is one of the leading producers, consumers and exporters of premium quality chilli in the world, Rwanda’s chilli production is at a very nascent stage, marked by a limited production capacity and the deployment of primitive agronomic practices. However, the country’s rich soil fertility and climatic conditions present enormous potential for the cultivation of certain high value chillies.

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That makes red chilli a perfect fit for the SITA programme from both the investment and the trade perspective. SITA is working on the development of new, high value chilli varieties that are suitable for exports.

SITA had previously conducted two field visits in Rwanda, amongst others in Bugasera, Rusizi and Nyanza. A team, consisting of representatives from the National Agriculture Export Development Board (NAEB), an international expert on spices and SITA project representatives, assessed the spices production, and carried out a techno-commercial feasibility study for the production of select spices. In view of the country’s landlocked geography, the mission focused on high value crops like ginger, turmeric and chillies. The team found that while Rwanda produces limited quantities of bird’s eye chilli, the production of other crops like ginger and turmeric remains negligible.

The SITA team presented the findings to Akay Flavours, a leading buyer and processor of spices. Akay Flavours, having been looking for alternate sourcing destinations for certain chilli varieties, expressed interest in sourcing chillies from Rwanda.

Following due consultations between Akay Flavours, SITA, NAEB and Rwandan government authorities, meetings were also organised with select large scale farmers looking to expand their chilli production. The opportunity of growing different chilli varieties was discussed. Authorities expressed their support for the expansion of Rwanda’s chilli production, and emphasized the importance of also processing the chillies in Rwanda.

Rwandan red chilli: Developing a pilot programme

In line with the consultations, Akay Flavours and SITA have jointly developed a pilot project. Select farmers will grow six new chilli varieties in different locations in Rwanda. The total area covered under the pilot programme is around 5 hectares.  Akay Flavours has agreed to buy the entire harvest for the current season, at prevailing market prices.

‘We observed that bird’s eye chilli grows very well in Rwanda. But the demand for this variety is very limited and economic feasibility is very low. We intend to introduce different varieties of chillies with high demand in the international markets, offering better yields and returns to the farmers,’ said Shibu Anandarajan, Vice President of global sourcing at Akay Flavours.

The chilli seeds were provided by Akay Flavours, and distributed to eight commercial farmers between July 18 and 27, 2016. SITA and NAEB are providing agronomic support to the pilot farms and closely monitoring their progress.

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The project team will visit the farmers from September 2 to 10, 2016, to ensure the seedlings are effectively transplanted from the nurseries to the main fields. The farmers have also been provided with a technical note, detailing all agronomic practices that are to be followed. The ITC and NAEB teams will continue to monitor the execution of the pilot project until the harvest.

‘This pilot programme and training gives us a better, fresh hope to continue chilli farming. We had cultivated bird’s eye chilli in 2014, but the yield was poor. The trial seeds received as part of the pilot look very promising – they have good germination percentage and are growing vigorously,’ said Giscard Tuyishime, one of the farmers participating in the pilot programme.

If the yields and quality of produce meet global standards, Akay Flavours will work with select farmers and increase the production of chillies to over 250 hectares. This can produce around 1,000 tonnes of dried chilli annually, with a current market value of USD 2.0 million. ‘We will address the sustainability challenges in the cultivation of new varieties of chillies, and aim to expand their cultivation on a large scale in Rwanda with the help of SITA.  We thankfully acknowledge the support and guidance from SITA team for developing this project as we have initiated trial cultivation of different varieties of chillies. We look forward to the successIMG-20160816-WA0002 of the trial plots,’ Mr. Anandarajan of Akay Flavours remarked

Akay Flavours is also looking into the possibility of setting up primary processing facilities in Rwanda.

‘I really look forward to a long term partnership with Akay Flavours. However as the nurseries have been successful, we would like to get more seeds with higher yields, so we can start expanding this year instead of waiting for the next year,’ says an enthusiastic Mr. Twahirwa who was introduced to SITA project in May 2016.

In the meantime, SITA will work with other spice companies to expand the chilli production in Rwanda to over 1,000 hectares.

Reviving East Africa’s handloom industry: Weaving the warp and woof

By Devika Jyothi

East Africa has the potential to emerge as a major global destination for handloom and hand-woven textiles and apparels as well as other niche products.  However, the path ahead is not easy as weavers in the region lack the product design and marketing skills, as well as the international exposure required to be competitive.

It is here that SITA plans to step in.

In its second year of implementation, SITA aims to strengthen the export competitiveness of the handloom sector as part of its cotton-to-clothing strategy in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.  SITA recently concluded a mission to assess the real potential of East Africa’s handloom sector.

The project will support the existing handloom clusters in the region to enhance product quality, productivity, and to help them venture into new markets. This will be achieved by facilitating knowledge and technology transfer from India.  India has a strong legacy in handlooms with well-structured handloom weavers’ clusters.

Based on the findings of the mission, activities will now be charted out to develop the handloom sector in Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda.  In the upcoming year, the delegation will:

  • Conceptualise SITA’s handloom approach and outline activities to strengthen and specialize weaver-clusters, through the transfer of best practices from India
  • Identify 1-2 women weavers’ clusters per country with the potential to grow and export
  • Identify master weavers and entrepreneurs who will participate in an exposure visit to India, including a plan for the training of trainers
  • Assess the skills-development needs of the clusters, so that they can expand, diversify and export
  • Spot opportunities for specialisation and drive value addition, with a focus on niche markets (viz. the luxury segment, alternative fabrics such as silk and wool, destined for export markets in Europe and the US)
  • Establish appropriate market linkages
  • Initiate collaboration with local support institutions to boost the productivity of the African handloom industry

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This is not the first time that SITA is supporting weavers in East Africa.

During the design phase of the project, in February 2015, SITA supported a pilot initiative led by SEWA Bharat. SEWA Bharat – the all India Federation of Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) – works towards achieving the full employment, economic empowerment and self-reliance of women workers in informal sectors. The initiative facilitated the participation of six Ethiopian weavers in India’s Dastkar event, a national crafts fair and exhibition. The pilot was part of the SETU-Africa programme, a Government of India initiative that aims to introduce Ethiopian traditional handlooms and other handicrafts to the Indian market.

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With the support and guidance of SEWA Bharat, the Ethiopian artisans selected and shipped an assortment of their products to India. They presented traditional handloom fabrics,handicrafts, modern dresses, carved leather bags, purses, and jewellery at the sale-cum-expo.

The artisans also participated in a designer workshop and a buyers-sellers meeting. The event gave them insights on how to diversify and expand their business, and how to meet the demand of the Indian market while retaining their artisanal traditions. Moreover, the event offered Ethiopian artisans the chance to interact with Indian designers and buyers, and assess what they could improve in terms of design and pricing.

‘We would definitely look for long term business opportunities with India,’ Ms. Misrach Mekonnen, the Project Coordinator for WISE and the team leader of the artisan group, had said at the time. WISE is the Organisation for Women in Self Employment, an Ethiopian NGO dedicated to the realization of sustainable livelihoods among poor women.

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‘With more designer-artisan and artisan-buyer interaction, I feel our women artisans will be more equipped to provide the right quality of hand-woven textiles and handicrafts for the Indian buyers, which will eventually provide increased business value and create jobs and income opportunities, enabling sustainability,’ she added.

That is exactly what SITA endeavours to do: enhancing the export competitiveness of weavers in East Africa and establishing market linkages, by collaborating with India, to create more jobs and income opportunities in the sector.

This will pave the way for a successful revival of the East African handloom industry, enable the handloom clusters in the region to grow, and provide a more secured life and livelihood to the weavers.

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Reaching the Wilting Point

By Irene Ebrahimi Darsinouei

Ginger bacterial wilt disease has been discussed at length in previous blog posts. To recap: it is a disease that has infected Ethiopia’s ginger. This has been happening since 2012, when the disease was first reported, and 80% of Ethiopia’s ginger crop has been killed. It is time to reach what I will call the ‘wilting point’ (which is actually defined as the minimal point of soil moisture a plant requires not to wilt) – but in this post I will use it to refer to the point where the disease’s effects are sufficiently mitigated, to revitalize Ethiopia’s ginger production.

The country is moving in this direction. A movement to revitalize Ethiopia’s ginger production started in April of this year. A national event, organized with the support of SITA, brought together the stakeholders in the sector to agree on a strategy to revitalize the production of ginger – the most important cash crop for Ethiopian farmers.

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Mr. Mitiku observing freshly harvested ginger in Peermade, India

Haimanot Mitiku, Center Director at Tepi National Spices Research Centre, discusses the meeting and subsequent actions with us. Tepi National Spices Research Centre is the main body responsible for the coordination of spices research and development in the country. Mr. Haimanot has extensive experience in the sector, and his Centre is responsible for the coordination of national research on the control of ginger bacterial wilt disease, and for the development of improved varieties and production technologies.

 

Q. Tell us about the National Workshop on the Revitalization of Ginger Production in Ethiopia.

A. The national workshop to revitalize ginger was organized by the Coffee and Tea Development and Marketing Authority of Ethiopia in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research, and SITA. The meeting was attended by ginger farmers, development agents, researchers, investors and other governmental and non-governmental organizations involved in the ginger sector.

During the meeting, the progress of ginger rehabilitation research done at the national level was presented by different researchers and agricultural professionals. We had presentations about the importance of ginger in the world, and in our country in particular; about the current status of ginger production in Ethiopia; and about the spread of bacterial wilt in Ethiopia – it was found that the disease is present in all ginger growing areas.

There was a presentation about the Integrated Disease Management (IDM) research efforts that have been undertaken so far, to control the disease and revitalize ginger production. There was also a presentation about the efforts undertaken to multiply disease free ginger seed. Finally, a SITA representative shared the Indian experience with controlling ginger bacterial wilt disease.

Q. What were the main decisions taken?

A. After the presentations, participants discussed the available options to control the disease, and to obtain disease-free ginger seed for future production. A number of options were raised and were classified in terms of urgency: short, medium, and long term goals.

On the short term, our focus is on identifying the research outputs that can directly be applied to manage the disease. We will also raise awareness about the disease and control measures, and strengthen our quarantine system.

On the medium term, we will need to multiply and distribute disease free ginger seed in high quantities, and also introduce disease-free and improved ginger varieties from abroad. We will also continue to conduct research about increasing the productivity and quality of ginger in Ethiopia.

And on the long term, our goal is to develop improved ginger varieties in Ethiopia.

Q. What processes have started as a result of the workshop, and what are the important next steps?

A. Four groups were formed, with membership from research institutions, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Coffee and Tea Development and Marketing Authority, SITA and private tissue culture companies, to develop working documents to guide the implementation of these plans in the coming two and a half years. These plans include a budget and an action plan for implementation.

The plans are currently under review. Once approved, they will receive their allotted budget and the implementation will begin.

Q. How did SITA contribute?

A. SITA understood a rehabilitation strategy was first needed for ginger. Before SITA’s involvement, there was some confusion about the causal agent of ginger bacterial wilt disease in the country. To solve this, SITA gave professional support from India, and finally consensus was reached by all that the causal agent was ‘Ralsotonia solanacearum’.

In addition to this, SITA arranged a five-day experience sharing and training visit to India for some spice professionals and investors from Ethiopia. Moreover, a number of consultative meetings and discussions were arranged about ginger rehabilitation and turmeric marketing strategies, to collect important inputs to draft strategic documents for ginger and turmeric production and export.

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Haimanot, first from left, observing a turmeric polishing machine during the SITA training visit to India

Currently, a number of investors have started procuring turmeric. Some of them have even established turmeric curing plants. For ginger, some progress has been achieved towards controlling the disease, and towards multiplying disease free rhizomes, since everybody agreed on the causal agent.

Moving forward, SITA and other governmental bodies should continue to work together on the rehabilitation program of ginger, so that the efforts done so far can be hastened and strengthened. Generally, in a year time SITA has made great interventions towards improving the sector.

“I am on the road to success,” says a little ‘voice of SITA’ from northern Uganda

By Ben Naturinda

It was mid-2015 when he met Aman and a certain Dr. Vivek while they were on a SITA mission in Lira, Uganda to meet sunflower enterprises. They spoke about the SITA project, and how it would help him reach new markets – especially the Indian market. They spoke about technology in India, and about how, a little more than 20 years ago, there were no sunflower oil mills in India. Today, India boasts the best technologies for oil milling and oil refining.

Ogwang Joe needed better equipment to improve the extraction capacity of his small mill, that did just about 7 tones per day. Hearing the team talk about crushers, boilers and other machinery, and about how integrating these technologies into his little mill would increase his oil extraction capacity by about 20% was music to his ears. The team told him that if he extracted oil fully from the seed cake, the cake’s quality too would improve, and increase his earnings by 30% of the market value of the cake. Excited at these prospects, he promised himself to think beyond his little mill.

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Ogwang, second from the right, tells his story to the SITA and India Solvents Extractors Association teams visiting him on 22 June 2016
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Ogwang (in front) in a group photo in front of his current small processing unit
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Ogwang shows the team his current mill with old technology, and lacking in other components such as boilers

Ogwang asked to be linked to companies that could provide him with access to better technology. The team promised to help, and in 2016, during SITA’s fifth Partnership Platform meeting in Kampala, Uganda, he was linked to the Indian company Vijin. They arranged for Ogwang to travel to India, to explore a range of options.

In India, Ogwang was exposed to many new technologies. Apart from better oil expellers, boilers and seed crackers, he was shown the latest refining technologies and equipment. Ogwang decided to purchase new equipment for his mill, that would raise his milling capacity to 30 tones per day.

With the new equipment and with the capacity increase, Ogwang’s rented building was becoming too small. To fully accommodate his new level of productivity, Ogwang decided to construct a new building in the Lira Industrial Park.

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Ogwang shows a team visiting from the India Solvents Extractors Association how far he has come with the construction of his new building

The land that hosts Ogwang’s building had been unutilized thus far. This gave Ogwang the idea to use the land to construct all the necessary structures and buildings for his business. “I have since acquired a loan and I am carefully using this to build an appropriate processing area and building” says Ogwang. The expected investment from India in these structures and equipment currently amounts to 260 million Ugandan Shillings (approximately US$ 56,000).

This, of course, has not been an easy road. Acquiring a loan, he says, has not been easy. The interest rate is very high (about 25% per year), but not high enough to deter him. He is determined, and fully trusts that he is on the road to success.

Ogwang has taken a lot of interest in SITA activities. Recently, he attended a sunflower quality standards training, organized and conducted by SITA in northern Uganda in April 2016. Ogwang believes that understanding the market standards and dynamics is important, now that he is on the expansion path.  He is also very much engaged with the India Solvents Extractors Association (SEA). A business-to-business meeting is planned for July 2016, and through his involvement with SEA, he hopes to meet many new potential partners.

Ogwang is not looking back, and surely he is on the road to success.