Zephania, it has been a great pleasure following you around. First comes the most obvious question, how did you like Germany?
I found out that most people in Hanover and other places were very polite and helpful, much more than I thought. I remember this one guy, he looked like a rock musician of some sort, come to my table at a restaurant just to greet me and ask me if we could have a little chat. That really surprised me. Another good example is when I got lost in the middle of town and one stranger helped me to show the right way. That was so helpful and kind. Another aspect is that I like the habit of Germans to prefer quality products, which I think is good for sustainability of projects and safety. Also German infrastructure is more advanced compared to East Africa.
This was your first time in Europe. Our readers are going to be interested in your thoughts on the political and economic relations between Africa and Europe and East Africa and Germany in particular. What do you think of that now that you have come back to Tanzania?
Most industrially developed countries see Africa as strategic political and economic partner. Recently we have seen Asian countries such as China and Turkey dominate partnerships with East African markets. Political ties are closer than with Europe because these countries have branded themselves as good friends to Africa compared to their past colonial masters. Also, historical support for independence and development projects by China played a great role in strengthening ties. The effect of Brexit may also pose more challenges for the African countries which are accessing the EU market via Britain, for instance Kenya and South Africa. However, if Britain keeps strengthening its relations with African countries and members of the Commonwealth countries, they might end up as winners and sustain their economy. Now, the European countries and especially Germany need to look outside the EU market and find strategic ways to revive the relationship with us. I urge my fellow Africans and East Africans to use at maximum any available opportunity to export to the EU market and add value on their products rather than exporting raw materials. Let us then in return import technology and modify it to fit our needs and use it to process our raw products. We should not be the continent of importation, there must be a balance of exchange.
Can you summarize for our readers what you did?
My assignment in Hanover and in other federal states was to meet with German government international trade departments, business associations and private companies for the purpose of learning and establishing relationships. I was privileged and honored to have met great people during this week. There was an introductory meeting at IHK with Tonio Boer, followed by a political day at the State Chancellery and the Ministry of Economic Affairs of the Federal State of Lower Saxony. I learned that these federal states are much more important than they may appear. They actually play a crucial role in the German political system. I also met representatives from the German Management Academy and Mr Ralf Pohle, Export Consultant at Food made in Germany and representatives from other private companies such as TransPack in Kulmbach. I learned a lot about the role of SMEs in Germany and their significance for the German economy.
What are your thoughts of such a program as a method when it comes to providing someone with insights on German businesses and the German economy?
Such kind of programs are good and it was well designed to give balanced views because it included meetings with different stakeholders like Government, chambers of commerce, association, education institution and private companies. We talked a lot about what might be done for SMEs in Tanzania. One aspect I believe can work is for SMEs who do not have enough capital to establish manufacturing plants that need to grow fast, for example. I advice them to use original equipment manufacturers (OEM) for their business models which simply means using another well-established manufacturing company to produce your self-designed products and brand under your name. SMEs can do that for agriculture products which are available easily and need little capital.
You work at CTI, the Confederation of Tanzanian Industries in Dar es Salaam. How do you believe Tanzanian or East African companies can get better connected with German companies or can East African companies get a better access to the European market?
First before accessing the EU market, companies need to understand the needs and standards of companies, customers and consumers in the EU markets. This will help their products to be acceptable in market. At Management Akademie we talked about the potential of fruits that grow well in our region, but not in Europe. Many of them come from countries farther away than Tanzania, like Costa Rica. But in general, there are many ways companies can access the market: First of all through arranging trade missions abroad and attending exhibitions, second by using your embassies to find out about investment and export opportunities. Third, also through development programs such as Creativing Perspectives by GIZ.
Last question: Are you coming back? And, if so, when?
Yes, I wish to comeback and learn more. I do not yet know when that will be, but I am quite positive.
Zephania, thank you very much for this interview.
Job shadowing is an effective tool during the onboarding process and we sometimes recommend companies to do exactly that for the first week with their new employees. While some businesses require their new staff to jump right into the cold water, there are various scenarios in which it makes much sense for them to get a 360 degree perspective of stakeholders, their interests and goals first in order for that new colleague to make decisions based on a broader set of knowledge that will otherwise be gained over time and possibly through wrong decisions or misperceptions.