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.
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.
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!”
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.”