When aspiring exporters reach out to CBI to help them start trading in Europe they go through a trajectory of capacity building, says CBI senior programme manager Don van Luijn. CBI invites small-to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to participate in Export Coaching Programmes (ECPs). “These companies are usually just starting their exporting operations. Joining an ECP gives them the necessary expertise, injects efficiency into their production processes and boosts their exporting competence.”
However, it’s essential that CBI’s clients acquire the right expertise, which translates to finding relevant European sector experts to coach them and getting them acquainted with European requirements. In Afghanistan there’s been a huge rise in exporting opportunities, especially for products like dried fruits, herbs and textiles.
“At CBI, we stimulate export growth for these products by offering an integrated approach for enterprises, Business Support Organisations and government authorities. In Afghanistan, we’ve been most successful in the home-decoration and textiles sectors.”
Currently, Van Luijn is dealing with five Afghan companies, which have participated in a relevant ECP for about two years. “These companies represent a long-term project because they are the engines behind the country’s local economic growth. CBI invests heavily to strengthen the competitive capacity of companies like these so they can be successful in international markets. It’s a three- to four- year process that improves their exporting capabilities.”
In September those five Afghan companies showcased themselves and their products at leading home decoration trade fair, Maison & Objet in Paris. “They had already become extremely competent and mature enough to start exporting and had some experience in exporting to international markets, but not to Europe. Appearing at Maison & Objet gave them the opportunity and stimulus they needed.”
Van Luijn is convinced that initiatives like this will broaden the scope of these Afghan companies. “During shows like Maison & Objet companies generate many new business contacts, giving them the impetus to reinvest in their companies and open doors for exporting to Europe.”
Most Afghan entrepreneurs see engaging with Europe as a high-risk activity because of stringent regulations and entry requirements. However, ECP participation, supplemented by opportunities like Maison & Objet, give SMEs a healthy basis for success. “But companies must be familiar with European buyer and market-access requirements, capable of maintaining production capacities and delivering according to international standards. CBI helps them to achieve these goals.”> Read the full article