The SME Aisle Final Seminar brought together participants to discuss African exports
The SME Aisle project, funded by the Interreg Central Baltic and coordinated by the Satakunta University of Applied Sciences, was launched in 2018 to support the SMEs of the Finnish, Swedish, Estonian and Latvian maritime clusters in accessing Namibia as a gateway to the Southern African region. The project has carried out a number of export promotion trips, researched the target countries’ business opportunities and sought solutions to support SME trade in the Southern African Development Community market.
Covid-19 disciplined export cooperation
Like with many other international project teams, Covid-19 challenged the SME Aisle project, as well. After a row of online meetings, the project team was able to gather for a partner meeting and final seminar day in Rauma on April 25-26, 2022. The four-year collaboration received a deserving closure.
In the beginning of the seminar Minna Keinänen-Toivola, research manager of the SME Aisle project, introduced the audience to the theme of the day, after which the partners presented their role in the project and export activities of each country's business cluster. The building of trust and customer relationships were emphasized in many presentations of the seminar, being essential in launching export to non-EU regions. Covid-19 cut off the well-established network collaboration by making face-to-face meetings impossible, but despite the challenges, some companies have been able to continue with their export activities.
A joint venture in Zambia and numerous sales with the help of SME Aisle
A total of 43 companies have participated in the SME Aisle's export promotion trips in 2018-2019. When the Finnish company BioSorbio joined the project in 2019, their goal was to find an interested end-user for their product, as well as an investor who would be willing to run production locally. BioSorbio's CEO Jukka Lunden stated in his presentation that the SME Aisle team helped them identify the right partners in the target market. BioSorbio is one of the success stories; they set up a joint venture – BioRaiser Zambia Ltd – in Zambia in 2019. All in all, the project has resulted in six deals and two joint ventures in Namibia and in Zambia.
Embassies play a key role in opening up new markets
The SME Aisle project team has worked closely with embassies and national export organizations. The representatives of these entities shared their views during the seminar on cooperation with the project team and on export activities related to the maritime cluster. Namibian Ambassador H.E. Charles B. Josob thanked the project team for their diligence in opening new connections between the Baltic Sea region and Southern Africa and said he was looking forward to the next co-operation project.