Building Resilience through Public and Private Sector Development
The VEGA AGOA+ was a USAID-funded, six year program implemented by International Executive Service Corps (IESC) through VEGA. The program aimed to provide export capacity building and trade facilitation assistance with life of program funding totaling US$3,424,278.
VEGA AGOA+ undertook three primary activities: (1) trade capacity building and export promotion, (2) institutional strengthening for Business Membership Organizations (BMOs) and government agencies and (3) promoting access to finance – first through investment finance from the diaspora and later loan finance through USAID’s DCA loan guarantee program. Particular focus was placed on support to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), women entrepreneurs and Diaspora investors.
Expert Volunteer Assistance
The VEGA AGOA+ Program utilized IESC Volunteer Experts (VEs), Geek Corps Volunteers (GCVs) and professional consultants to impart business expertise and information technology (IT) skills to firms, government institutions and business membership organizations servicing the private sector. Over the life of the program, 18 VEs, of which six were Ethiopian Diaspora volunteers, completed 19 projects. An additional seven senior level experts, including two Ethiopian Diaspora, completed Short-term Technical Assistance (STTA) projects. Where appropriate, the VEGA AGOA+ strategy for its VE consultancies involved: (1) needs-based approach that responds to a specific business and/or organization problem identified by the beneficiary, (2) targeted expertise aimed to solve real problems that the beneficiary encounters on a daily basis and (3) utilization of VEs as a gateway to market products from the companies they support. Examples of successful volunteer experts included:
- Training to local banking staff from Finance VE on basic credit analysis, risk management and financial statement analysis for SMEs, with a sector specific case study session dedicated to agriculture.
- Onsite assessment and training from Customs VE to the Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority (ERCA) on US entry requirements for AGOA privileges, international customs standards, and ways to increase operational efficiency within the Ethiopia customs system.
- Briefing from horticulture VE on how to prepare and what to expect at the Miami International Flower Show. Focus was placed on how to handle logistics and support during the show.
- Hands on training and mentoring visit to Muya Ethiopia Plc from handicraft VE that covered market-led product development and design for pottery handicrafts and tactics to penetrate new markets.
In May 2010, VEGA AGOA+ program brought in two garment volunteer experts (VEs) to conduct a series of hands-on trainings designed to help small to medium scale garment factories boost their productivity and quality control system. The principal beneficiary companies included NovaStar Garment, Addis Garment, GMM Garment, Wossi Garment and Mulat Garment. The VEs spent two days in each selected factory, conducted a one day presentation and site visit with Nazareth Garment Factory 100 km outside Addis Ababa and held a wrap-up meeting at the Ethiopian Garment and Manufacturing Association (ETGAMA) to share experiences and lessons learned with all members.
The activity was developed in consultation with ETGAMA through comments and suggestions from the association and its members. Terms of Reference were jointly drafted to identify just the right VEGA/IESC experts. Garment VEs brought with them years of experience working in the garment sector for big name buyers including GAP, VFCOM, Banana Republic, and a plethora of Eastern European garment factories that supply the U.S. market. Care was also taken to target garment factories with ongoing export orders and experience that could fully take advantage of VE know-how. The participants were thrilled with the results. One factory manager summed up the immediate impact in his operation with one word –“magic.”
Ethiopia, ‘Open for Business’ is more than a catchy saying…you made it happen. VEGA has made a major positive impact on the way the rest of the world does business with Ethiopian firms. Funding of AGOA+ was the best money we ever invested in Ethiopia.
– Bruno Cornelio, Former EG Officer, USAID/Ethiopia
“Continuity is really the key factor in maintaining manufacturing quality and productivity,” noted one of the Garment VEs. Although investment in machinery and other productive tools are important, a key lesson learned from the volunteer visit was that significant productivity and quality improvement can also be realized with the materials on-hand. The activity provided an important example of how the expertise and experience of VEGA/IESC VEs can be an important tool that offers real solutions to business problems for firms in developing countries such as Ethiopia.