Flint has been involved in various projects across Sub-Saharan Africa for a number of years. The continuous development of local partners has played an important role in this story of success. With the Sustainable Local Development Program, we support local partners, facilitate skills transfer and help develop reliable business processes.
According to data published by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), five of the ten fastest-growing economies in the world lay in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA)1. The region is a 1,2-billion-person market offering various business opportunities and resources.
Flint has been involved in many projects across SSA, partnering with large international corporations as well as local partners to bring services to end customers. Gert van der Merwe, Managing Director of Flint SSA, has been the driving force behind the Sustainable Local Development Program and emphasises the importance of building strong relationships with local partners.
“Through the Sustainable Local Development Program, we support our partners to grow their companies into feasible long-term businesses and assist them in overcoming common challenges,” emphasis Gert. “One of the challenges we’ve found quite often with small companies is that if it’s just a one-off project, they will employ staff, but on completion of the project, we find these companies struggle to continue generating new business to retain employment. Therefore our objective is to assist them to grow their business successfully and long term, creating more job opportunities as they grow. With this in mind, we strive to build a successful long-term partnership with these companies.”
Sustainable Business Development Means Educating Businesses and Employees
The Sustainable Local Development Program focuses on overcoming barriers and challenges faced by local small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) partners. Many local businesses struggle with a lack of access to finances, which affects their ability to finance research and staff development. A general shortage of skills and capacity, particularly technical skills, makes the situation even more difficult.
Flint understands the challenges that local partners face and supports local SMEs with financial assistance, skills transfer and the introduction of continual business processes.
Training has proven to be one of the most important components of the Program as it supports business development as well as personal development of local staff. Flint is devoted to guiding local partners through the process of skills transfer, starting with pre-training evaluation of the staff, skill levels and required training.
Firstly, Flint supports partners with technical training. We look at the verticals and identify shortcomings in knowledge and skills. However, this is just part of the training. “We will also look at the processes within the business. For example, from a financial perspective – how do they manage their cash flow, collect money and pay creditors. So, it is not just looking at technical resources. We also look at the actual business and how they operate. That way, we can support them to streamline internal processes and implement new systems. From a management perspective, we look at their business plan, help them achieve long-term goals and strategise with their teams to achieve the required outcome. It is really a combination of both, business training and development as well as technical resources and skills that they would require to achieve these goals in the industry that they are in,” Gert elaborates on Flint’s involvement.
Identifying and Assessing Reliable Partners
Finding the right partners to include in the Program is a meticulous process. Firstly, partners are identified based on the type of business they are in and their service portfolio. The services need to be in-line with Flint’s and Flint’s customers’ needs.
“After this first assessment, we look at the business owners and their vision for the company’s long-term goals – is their vision aligned with ours, do they want to grow their company and expand their services in their territory, create more employment and so on. Then we acquire references from the company’s existing customers. We are interested in whether their customers think they are reliable and the level of service is to their satisfaction. Once all of the necessary requirements are met, we continue with the program,” Gert sums up the process of identifying new prospects for the Sustainable Local Development Program.
What Do Customers Gain From Flint’s Sustainable Local Development Program?
Flint is proud of many successful partnerships that have flourished from the Sustainable Local Development Program. Throughout Botswana, Ghana, Cameroon and other African countries, we have built a strong network of reliable and committed partners; and in Flint gaining partners, our customers can count on excellent service in regions where it can be difficult to find the right contractors.
“Our customers receive better support in countries and areas where in the past, there were inadequate resources to provide them with on-site support or local support. Therefore our main objective is to eventually enable our partners to stand on their own and provide local support to Flint customers without much engagement from our side,” Gert is proud of the work that has already been achieved. “As our partners grow, they employ more staff, which ensures an enhanced customer experience. With our support, local partners are ready to provide a better service to our customers from a technical implementation perspective, but also in terms of after-sales service, which is traditionally even more important than the actual implementation.”
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1 Bajpai, Prableen. 2020. The Five Fastest Growing Economies In The World. Nasdaq. https://www.nasdaq.com/articles/the-five-fastest-growing-economies-in-the-world-2020-10-16