In keeping with this ethos, Business Partners, through its office in Kenya, organised a familiarisation tour for some of its beneficiary clients in Kenya to visit clients in similar industry sectors in South Africa. This was the first visit of this kind to be undertaken in an effort to enable businesses from the two different countries to:
- learn best practices from one another,
- exchange ideas,
- share challenges they face,
- develop business linkages, and
- establish new networks.
The visit took place in April 2013, where 10 business clients who have all benefited from financing from the BPI Kenya SME Fund (BPIK), accompanied by two staff, namely Ms. Sally Gitonga, the Chief Investment Officer, and Ms. Catherine Gathogo, the Post Investment Officer, travelled to South Africa, for what would be an intensive but very educative, four-day business trip. The clients from Kenya were drawn from the following sectors:
- Dairy processing
- Export of fresh fruit and vegetable produce
- Manufacture of fruit juices
- Manufacture of pet food
- Event management
- Manufacture of packaging material
The team was warmly welcomed on the first day they arrived, by the Managing Director of Business Partners, Mr. Nazeem Martin, at the company head office in Houghton, Johannesburg. Mr. Martin was joined by Mr. Mark Paper, the Executive Director of Business Partners International, Mr. Roger Hickely, Regional Investment Manager – BPI, and other members of staff who work closely with the Kenyan team and the clients. During the cocktail, the clients and staff of Business Partners had a chance to interact to get to know each other better and also discuss matters relating to their respective businesses.
This was an opportune time to reiterate and emphasize to the clients, that the role of Business Partners is not only to provide funding, but to partner with clients in the true sense by adding value to them. This is usually provided through access to an interest free Technical Assistance loan, which these clients were also able to access to facilitate the expenses of this trip. The essence of the Technical Assistance is to improve on the various business processes of a business, resulting in it becoming more efficient and better managed. Hence, better results at the end of the day.
The following days of the visit were spent visiting clients within the environs of Johannesburg and Pretoria, who have well established businesses that received support from Business Partners. These companies included:-
Kalinda Trading: a family owned business that imports groundnuts and manufactures peanut butter for the South African market. In addition, they are able to contract manufacturer for other players in the same industry due to their ability in terms of expertise and machinery. The business is HACCP and ISO certified.
Elite Sanitation: a large business engaged in event management, providing sanitation facilities and other related equipment required for successful events.
Primolitos Ltd: an impressive large business engaged in manufacture of liquid and powdered foods, such as sauces, pickles, salad dressings, mayonnaise, juice blends and concentrates. The company also backward integrates and manufactures its own plastic packaging material in form of bottles and containers. They also have a portion control packers division where they specialise in packaging of sachets of salt, sugar, sweeteners, vinegar, jams, etc. The business is HACCP and ISO certified.
Genpak Limited: a business that manufactures and converts all types of corrugated packaging material. The business has a fully-fledged sheet and sheet laminating plant on site, which was very impressive to see.
Chilla Beverages: a business that deals in the sale and distribution of hot and cold beverages in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana. The Chilla brand is has leading speciality beverages, supplying over 400 food outlets, 300 retail outlets, with products such as frappes, smoothies, flavoured hot chocolates, innovative teas, and speciality coffees.
4 Colour Print: this is a business that is engaged in the commercial print production which does design reproduction and branding of products and businesses. Their services include lithographic and digital print production, letterheads, brochures, calendars, etc.
Tunleys: is a business that specialises in providing mail and printing services mainly to financial institutions. This includes database management, labelling, automated folding and inserting, laser printing, packing and distribution.
Dewfresh Dairy: a large dairy processor who processes milk for sale, and also value adds by manufacturing yoghurt and cream. They are also involved in packaging of fruit juices in tetra pack form.
A visit to the Johannesburg fresh produce market was one of the highlights of the visit. The market is the largest such market in the world. It is managed by the Municipal Council who works closely with about 13 representative agents. It serves about 5000 farmers and growers around the country. Large quantities of the fresh produce are exported to other parts of Africa and the rest of the world. Trade takes place in three food hubs, namely, the Fruit hub, Potato and Onion hub, and the Vegetable hub, all under 65,000 sqm. This was a very insightful visit on how a Municipal Council can run a public facility efficiently, under high hygiene conditions, and most of all, in a profitable manner.
The visits to all the above were good exposure to the Kenyan team and helped to achieve the objectives highlighted above. It was very impressive to see how these businesses are run professionally, kept neat and tidy, orderly, and produce high quality products. At the same time, it was encouraging to learn that the challenges faced are very similar despite being in different markets. Lessons were shared and contacts exchanged so that cross border trade could be considered. The Kenyan team left inspired and encouraged to keep striving.
Coupled with the above, the group enjoyed seeing the beautiful terrain and infrastructure of this beautiful African country, as we traversed from one venue to another.
As Business Partners, it was fulfilling to expose two different groups to each other, from different markets, but in similar sectors, who can then add value to each other and ultimately continue to prosper.
We therefore believe that this is just the first of many more such trips for all Business Partners clients across the markets we operate in.