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Driving growth

by Berthold Volberg
An efficiently-run transport system helps industry and trade to flourish. InWEnt alumni are trying to boost regional businesses in SADC countries by implementing long-lasting logistics ideas. [ By Berthold Volberg ]

Maureen Nakazwe and Carol Bulaya have a lot to do. Recognising their business opportunity in Zambia, the women are about to start the country’s second logistics consultancy in Lusaka. They want to do more than just consulting, however. Practical training programmes will also be on offer. Last year, they trained 25 students in test-runs. The two women are about to register their firm.

Their plans make sense, especially since the founders will not be the only ones to profit. Trade, agriculture and industry depend on transport services in order to expand, so businesses in these sectors are likely to benefit from the services of the new consulting firm.

Nakazwe and Bulaya presented their plans at an InWEnt alumni workshop in Walvis Bay in December. The participants were 44 logisticians who had taken part in InWEnt training programmes in Germany in the years 2001 to 2009. They all live and work in member countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Only colleagues who presented solid reports on projects they had started after their stay in Germany were invited to the Namibian port city.

It is common knowledge that competition stimulates better business, so a jury of professionals from InWEnt and ITECO Consulting gave awards to the best of these “transfer projects”. The criteria included

• systematic problem analysis,
• methodical competence,
• regional relevance,
• realistic chances of success and
• an advanced stage of execution.

The two Zambian women fulfilled the requirements and were awarded the prize. Another prize was given to Mike Somanje from CombineCargo in Malawi. He is planning to build a logistics centre on the border to Mozambique. This centre could well become the hub of a regional transport network, stimulating goods exchange.

The alumni all agree that the knowledge and skills they gained in Germany are most valuable. Three fourths of the graduates received job promotions and were given more responsibility. Nakazwe says the long-term programme in Germany was the deciding point in her career, and many others say so too.

Somanje praises InWEnt’s practical approach: “The visits to various ports offered good ideas about how to organise freight villages.” Nakazwe and Bulaya also say that they too learned a lot in Germany – including, for instance, that the efficient management of information is the key to maximising the benefit from existing infrastructure and being able to offer good services at low prices.

Maintaining a high quality infrastructure with good streets, railroads, ports et cetera is the government’s job. There is a lot of room for improvement in the SADC-countries, Bulaya believes: “There is an urgent need to lobby with the government.” She considers the ongoing exchange with colleagues in the InWEnt network useful, not least because it offers chances of finding “strategic partners” in other SADC countries.