How Producers and Buyers Stay Connected During COVID-19

The Global Business Network pilots a digital matchmaking event for buyers

Specialty coffee was one of the focus sectors in the Ugandan edition of the digital buyer tour.
© GIZ\Schuppener

In order to enable new business partnerships during the coronavirus pandemic, the Global Business Network Programme developed and implemented the concept of digital matchmaking events for European buyers. So far the events were held in Namibia, Uganda and Ethiopia in cooperation with the respective German Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Digital solutions in times of crisis

With airplanes staying on the ground and travel restrictions in place, companies are dependending on new ways to connect with potential business partners. For example, many buyer tours by German and European companies to non-European countries have been canceled since the beginning of the corona pandemic.

The Global Business Network in cooperation with the Southern African-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (AHK Southern Africa) has come up with and tested a digital solution for this: For the first time, a digital buyer tour was offered in Namibia in June. Thanks to the overall positive feedback of the participants and hosts,  the format was also used in Uganda and Ethiopia in September, as a cooperation of the local network coordinators Laura Kübke and Katrin Oehlkers and the delegation of German Industry and Commerce for Eastern Africa (AHK Eastern Africa).

Connecting development cooperation and the private sector

Funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Global Business Network Programme is a global project that combines entrepreneurship with sustainable economic and social engagement. For this purpose, the project is setting up Business & Cooperation Desks in eight selected countries in Africa and Asia currently.

There, the network coordinators advise companies on funding, financing and cooperation possibilities in development cooperation, connect them with potential cooperation and business partners and provide support in the development of new project initiatives. The desks are directly integrated into the local structures of German development cooperation. At the same time, the Global Business Network coordinators work closely with the network of German Chambers of Commerce Abroad (AHKs), thus ensuring a closer link between business and development cooperation.

The digital events allowed traders and companies from Europe to network with African suppliers via virtual exchange formats, whereby all three events followed the same structure. An introductory online seminar gave participants a first overview of different industries, products and value chains in the respective country. Christina Pfandl, GBN-Coordinator in Namibia, was pleased about the good response to the Namibian edition of the buyer tour: « Around 50 people followed the introductory presentations, while already networking independently using the chat function.”

The introductory event was followed by B2B exchange formats arranged by the AHK on focus sectors/products that were selected individually for each country. This way previously selected companies had the chance to meet and connect with new business partners on MS Teams on a smaller scale. While in Namibia topics were cosmetics, natural products and game meat, the Ugandan focus was on specialty coffee, spices and fruit as well as on sheabutter and oilseeds. Key sectors in Ethiopia were honey and beeswax, fruit and vegetables and spices. In order to assess the success of the digital matchmaking, follow-up meetings with the participating companies are planned for November.

Improving the concept by evaluating the lessons learned

Following the successful pilot phase of the concept, the Global Business Network has already planned similar events for the future. In November 2020, the network in Ethiopia, together with AHK Eastern Africa, will host a Digital Business Event for European Companies in the Water and Wastewater Treatment sector to Ethiopia.

For the upcoming event, we were able to learn from the experiences made during the digital buyer tours. While the structure of the digital event will be similar to the matchmakings, the decision to focus on only one sector was made in order to assure a higher participation rate”, explains Katrin Oehlkers. Furthermore, technical improvements to the digital events will be an ongoing process that aims to increase the participants’ general impression of the offer.

The network coordinators are pleased to see innovative solutions providing new opportunities even under difficult conditions. This goes to show that with good planning and a little spontaneity in case of technical glitches, digital matchmaking events can bridge the distance and initiate new international cooperation.

More information on the project


Laura Kübke
GBN-Coordinator Uganda