SME food suppliers in Zambia have been given training for the first time to help them do more business with larger companies.
The training for 80 suppliers, organised by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Business Council, covered quality standards, food safety and building sustainable sourcing partnerships, as part of efforts to boost trade between COMESA member countries.
The work aims to address concerns about a 4.4% drop in the value of trade within COMESA in 2014, to $10.6bn, while exports from COMESA increased by 1.9% to $10.1bn.
The Business Council said: “This shows the need to structure mechanisms that can ensure intra-trade growth by encouraging the consumption of homegrown products within the COMESA region, where local sourcing remains critically low.”
COMESA said multinationals often decide to source outside the region as the majority of local suppliers fail to meet the international quality standard requirements demanded by food and beverages suppliers, and most multinationals have limited credible information on local suppliers.
Local sourcing partnerships are also viewed as difficult, unstable processes due to the inconsistency of supply as well as their small production units and quantities.
The training forms part of the Business Council’s Local Sourcing for Partnerships project, which is being piloted in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia and is supported by the Investment Climate Facility for Africa, USAID and the private sector.
The Business Council has entered in agreements with a number of companies in the hospitality industry, including Serena Uganda, Protea Kampala, Protea Lusaka, Taj Pamodzi Zambia. The aim is to link them with the successful local suppliers who have undergone training, supporting them to increase their share of local sourcing.
Companies that promote local sourcing in Africa will be awarded a certificate of recognition.
Business Council CEO Sandra Uwera said: “I see this initiative as a progressive step forward in building the capacity of growth enterprises, while integrating them into supply chains of larger industries in the region.”