Strengthening Trade and Investment Support Institutions for SITA project success

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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.


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.


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.”