German Senior Experten Services (German SES), a development agency, is looking forward to increase the number of its experts in 2019, as part of its support for Zimbabwe’s development agenda.
NewsDay (ND) business reporter, Mthandazo Nyoni caught up with the agency’s co-ordinator, Isabel Plabwilm (IP) in Bulawayo last week, and she revealed that the organisation was seeking to increase uptake of its services in Zimbabwe’s industry, businesses, and farming communities. Below are excerpts of the interview;
ND: What is German SES?
IP: The German Senior Service Expert is a leading volunteer organisation in Germany. We have about 13 000 experts on our database. These are retired experts, but there are also young professionals that are willing to go abroad for a certain time and pass on the experience and the knowledge to companies in Africa, North America, Asia and Eastern Europe, for example.
ND: You signed a memorandum of understanding with ZimTrade in 2017 to enhance productivity and export competitiveness through factory floor interventions. What is your assessment of your efforts so far to enhance productivity and export competitiveness in Zimbabwe?
IP: In 2017, we signed an MoU with ZimTrade and since then, we have seen a huge improvement in the number of assignments. When I started working on Zimbabwe as a co-ordinator we had about three or four assignments to Zimbabwe per year. Last year, it was our record year when we had 43 assignments in Zimbabwe.
So there has been huge demand in requests for our assignments. We had a lot more companies approaching us and asking for an expert. That’s really great and what all of the companies have said about senior experts is that they are very committed, hands on, they are on the floor out there and sometimes it’s the small changes that make a huge difference.
For example, we have an expert in a kitchen manufacturer in Harare and he is on the follow-up mission and last time he made some small suggestions that had a huge impact, for example, at this kitchen manufacturer they were still carrying the wooden boards by hand, which of course was a danger to the workers….and they just designed a trolley. So they don’t have to carry it anymore, so they can just trolley along and put it into the next machine.
It’s a small thing that made a huge difference for the company and also for the export.
ND: Are those companies which you assisted now exporting their products?
IP: What we do see always is that the product quality of the companies is improving a lot. So we do believe there are better chances for the companies to export the products to Africa and Europe.
ND: Last year you brought about 43 experts to Zimbabwe. How many are you planning to bring this year?
IP: All I will say is 40 plus. I’m leaving this number open, because since we started working in Zimbabwe, together with Themba here in Bulawayo we have doubled the assignment number. But we also have other representatives in Harare, each year.
So we started with three or four assignments, then the next year we had eight, then we had 17 and last year we had 43. I’m not putting any number because our representatives will have to go up to 80 this year, but I’m saying 40 plus.
I would say between 40 and 50, that I think is a very realistic number and the number will definitely grow in the coming years.
ND: Of those how many are coming to Bulawayo?
IP: I will say probably 20 to 25 will come to Bulawayo. They’re really shared between Harare and Bulawayo.
ND: What is your comment on Zimbabwe’s export competitiveness? Where are we lacking as a country?
IP: That’s a difficult question. But from the people I have met here, from the management to the staff that is working together with the experts, I have seen how passionate they are with their jobs and how they want to learn from the experts and they really want to take that knowledge and be better and produce better quality products.
That is really amazing and it’s great. You can ask every expert that comes to Zimbabwe, they have fallen in love with the country, they’re also thankful of all those staff they are working with.
So from the staff side and from the product side, I think, we are really good and I see a lot of potential there for exports.
ND: Do you have anything to add?
IP: What I really like about our assignments in Zimbabwe, to be honest, is that I meet the experts before they fly to Zimbabwe or Kenya or any other country and a lot of times the people are a little bit worried. They say they don’t know what to expect.
They have heard some stories about Zimbabwe and they are a little bit worried and then picture them during the assignment and after the assignment all of them have fallen in
love with the country and the people. When they go back, they are ambassadors for Zimbabwe to Germany and I think this is very beautiful. They are spreading the word.
There is a positive image about Zimbabwe in Germany and I think this is really important. They are saying Zimbabwe is a beautiful country, you can travel there and there is
beautiful landscape and beautiful wildlife. I think this is also very important.
The picture of Zimbabwe in Germany is a little bit turned around; there is a positive side about Zimbabwe.