3,000 km between us: distant coaching Lebanon’s fruit and vegetable sector
The Lebanese economy has been in dire straits since 2019. Coupled with the current COVID-19 pandemic, the country’s already critical economic crisis has worsened. This has majorly affected the fruits and vegetable sector in Lebanon. To spur export growth in this sector, Globally Cool experts Onno Roukens and Alfons van Duijvenbode were commissioned by CBI to coach actors in the chain.
Many corporations have insufficient access to credit and the Lebanese export experiences a dramatic downfall. To encourage a turnaround, the 4-year project Globally Cool is involved in with CBI focuses on two audiences. On the one hand, 20 small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) – who are supported to enlarge their outlet in Europe and the Gulf region. And on the other hand, actors in the chain – such as business support organizations and government institutions.
Bringing parties together: corporation between stakeholders
For this project, Globally Cool works closely with the four Chambers of Commerce Industry and Agriculture, the Ministry of Economy and Trade, and Investment Development Authority of Lebanon (IDAL). This so-called enabling environment of the sector needs to be strengthened in order to structurally improve the sector as a whole.
So, what’s the plan? Managing partner and consultant Onno has started of to work with the Ministry of Economy and Trade to set up a market information system. This will enable market intelligence supply for the Lebanese corporate sector to make a qualitative leap forward.
Currently, the type of market information and the way this can be effectively disseminated to the target audience is being researched. To determine what matters need to be covered in the platform, an online survey and different focus groups will be held with the 20 SMEs. This is essential, as the content for the platform has to cater to these needs of this target audience. Meanwhile, the quest to find a third party to build the online platform is also taking place. Onno extensively supports the procurement process by taking part as an external adviser and setting up selection criteria.
Digital way of coaching
Due to travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, this project operates differently from what we are used to. Everything is online! From meetings with representatives of the involved parties to the selection process of a web developer: all is held digitally via video conference software.
From mindmap to roadmap for sector improvements
Simultaneously, managing partner and consultant Alfons organized a kick-off with the individual Lebanese Chambers of Commerce. During these – again – online meetings, inventories of the current services of the Chambers were made, challenges were pinpointed, and the short-term and long-term ambitions were identified. The same will be done with IDAL, the Lebanese Dutch business Association and the Royal Dutch Embassy in Lebanon. The result so far? Spot on mindmaps with findings based on the intakes with the actors and various possible directions for future interventions. A few of the initial ideas:
- Joint sector promotion strategy for fruits and vegetables, through public and private partnerships
- Branding and promotion portal that includes an export directory
- Virtual matchmaking module to support businesses in finding new buyers
- Finding alternative sources of finance
- Starting a training-of-trainers program, with a curriculum for export marketing training
Based on the findings of the intakes and output of surveys with the SME’s, a second round of digital meetings with the Chambers will be organized. The end result will be a 4-year intervention plan that focuses on possible directions to improve the services from the enabling environment. This will benefit the fruit and vegetable sector and help the SME’s with their export to Europe and the Gulf region. For at least this year, the digital way of working will be the standard. We will continue to support organizations online: from e-learning and virtual matching to input for strategy development and setting up intervention plans.