27.11.2018 08:35

Business in Southern African markets

Nina Savela

An impossible market with many challenges and only little returns if any? Not quite right! The Southern African Development Community (SADC) area offers various business opportunities for growing Central Baltic companies working in the maritime cluster. And these markets do also offer returns to persistent and optimistic SMEs.

The gross domestic product (GDP) growth in SADC countries, consisting of an area of 300 million consumers, is predicted to be 2,2% annually. Especially technologies improving port efficiency as well as cleantech and automation solutions are in high demand, in addition to vocational training and overall capacity building of human resources in ports. Circular economy innovations are of importance when creating environmentally sustainable ports and when preventing environmental problems persistent in many SADC countries today. The competition in many SADC countries is still low and many member countries are eager to cooperate with potential European partners. Maritime cluster SMEs from Central Baltic area may be those responding to the need in the future.

The SME Aisle team and the Central Baltic SMEs got a chance to learn about Namibian port activities during the SME Aisle trip to Namibia in Autumn 2018.

When it comes to business, Namibia is geographically in a focal position. For example, the ongoing expansion project of the port of Walvis Bay enables it to open routes to South Africa, Mozambique and Angola as well as to landlocked Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. The port receives approximately 3000 calls each year and handles about 5 million tonnes of cargo annually. The port industry in the country requires efficient technologies.

The Central Baltic Interreg funded project SME Aisle (2018-2021) aims at supporting small and medium enterprises (SMEs) under the themes of maritime and logistics, renewable energy, automation, shipbuilding and ICT. Support is provided in SME export activities to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) using Namibia as a stable entry-point.  The project team consist of experts from various fields such as maritime, technology, business and social sciences from Finland, Sweden, Estonia and Latvia. The lead partner Satakunta University of Applied Sciences (SAMK) has over six years of experience in cooperating with the wide array of stakeholders in Namibia.

The SME Aisle company representatives and project team members in Doing Business Through SME Aisle Seminar in Windhoek, Namibia (Autumn 2018).

The key focus of the project is on practical activities: these activities include business trips to target markets, such as to Namibia, South Africa, and Zambia, seminars, workshops and studies of the business environment. The project also aims at breaking persistent belief of an “impossible business environment” through personalized coaching of the potential companies. Of course, the SADC market requires patience and commitment as well as reliable local business partners. However, even during its first year, the project has provided some initial success stories.

The lead partner Satakunta University of Applied Sciences (SAMK) has over six years of experience in cooperating with the Namibian stakeholders. In the picture Captain Heikki Koivisto and Vice- Chancellor Tjama Tjivikua from Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST).

One of the most significant activities in the project was the business trip to Namibia and South Africa in Fall 2018. During the trip, altogether 15 SMEs visited the market environment and local business opportunities. In addition, the project team represented the companies in South Africa. The highlight of the three weeks trip was the Doing business through SME Aisle seminar, which collected a wide variety of key actors in Namibia all the way from start-up companies to the ministry level actors and business support organizations. Altogether the team and the companies met over 150 stakeholders. More about the trip:

The next business trip will be organized in April 2019 and is open to Central Baltic area operating companies.

Project SME Aisle

Funding: EU: Interreg Central Baltic Program

Duration: March 2018 – August 2021

Total budget: 1 731 850,31 EUR

Lead partner:

Satakunta University of Applied Sciences SAMK (Finland)

Project partners:

Prizztech Oy (Finland)

Tallinn University of Technology / Estonian Maritime Academy (Estonia)

Association of Mechanical Engineering and Metalworking Industries of Latvia (Latvia)

Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Latvia)

Associated partners:

Satakunta Chamber of Commerce (Finland)

Swedish Wind Power Association (Sweden)






Text by: Nina Savela, project researcher, Satakunta University of Applied Sciences (SAMK)

Pictures: Minna Keinänen-Toivola, Jeffrey Salahub & Heikki Koivisto

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