Despite persistent difficult circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic and often difficult political situations, we were able to continue implementing or successfully close out over 120 projects. All while embarking on various new endeavours.
Since early June 2021, there have been two new people at the helm of Swisscontact: Thomas D. Meyer, Chairman, and Philippe Schneuwly, CEO. Thomas D. Meyer has been a member of the Foundation Council since 2020 and its chairman since 2021. He is a Partner in the consulting firm BLR Partners AG, previously having served in leadership roles in the field of business and strategy consulting at Accenture in Latin America, Africa, and Europe.
Philippe Schneuwly has been with Swisscontact since 2009 and a member of the Executive Board since 2019. Previously, he had worked in the field in Latin America, serving as Country Director for Colombia, Deputy Regional Director and finally Regional Director for Central America as of 2016.
The leadership handover from his long-time predecessors, Heinrich Lanz and Samuel Bon, was planned out carefully and flawlessly implemented. Even if this leadership handover reflects a successful organisation’s continuity, both new directors have asserted their leadership and wish to develop new and innovative models for collaborating with the private sector. Only in this way can the Agenda 2030 development goals be achieved.
Swisscontact’s so-called Development Programme encompasses around 30 projects in over 20 countries. It is the centrepiece of Swisscontact’s work. Together with Swiss and international stakeholders from the private and public sectors, new ideas are being tested and innovations are undergoing further development. In this way, the programme supports cross-sectoral approaches and cooperation. In 2021, we entered a new four-year phase of new projects, which for example deal with growing demand by agricultural businesses for affordable technologies in land tilling, harvesting, and post-harvest storage. Sustainable vocational education and training approaches combine theory and practice, and they are based on partnership models with private companies seeking well-trained labour. New inclusive business promotion methods address inequities in the coffee value chain, with resultant improvements in smallholder farmers’ living conditions. Further education of our project managers is paramount. Thematic clusters bundle and foster inter-regional exchange of know-how and experience across the entire programme. Private and public donors are financing the projects. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) is providing guaranteed cost coverage for up to 30 per cent of the entire programme.
Since 2017, Swisscontact has been spearheading the Swiss Import Promotion Programme (SIPPO) on behalf of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). SIPPO’s goal is to foster the integration of developing countries and emerging economies on four continents into the world economy. This is achieved by strengthening business support organisations (BSO), which include business associations, chambers of commerce, and export promotion boards. With their services upgraded to meet market requirements, they open doors to world trade for exporting companies in six sectors: fish and seafood, processed foods, medicinal and aromatic plants, wood processing (“technical wood”), high-value textiles, and sustainable tourism. On 1 July 2021, SIPPO’s second four-year phase began. Pursuant to the SIPPO country strategies and four-year objectives arranged with each BSO, these organisations are undergoing institutional strengthening and modernisation. They will be in an even better position as service providers to help their member companies. While SIPPO staff members provide advisory services in our client countries, the team in Switzerland is providing sector-specific expertise and technical insights on cross-cutting themes of digitalisation, sustainability, and strengthening of export promotion systems.
The portfolio for skills development and labour market integration encompasses a broad spectrum of courses. Swisscontact further enhanced this area in 2021 and believes that skills development is key to social integration and economic development, thus contributing sustainably to poverty alleviation. Vocational education and training can only be as good as the curricula on which they are based. Swisscontact, therefore, is giving high priority to reforming teaching curricula in order to strengthen soft skills. Another key factor to success is orienting the curriculum to the needs of the labour market. Important success indicators are student/trainee achievement, such as the question of how effectively students and trainees are using their newfound skills in their work and for their social and personal development. Modern curricula should serve as the basis for sustainable labour market integration – and this over a lifetime of learning. Enhancing the skills of employees in vocational education and training projects was one of our key areas of focus this past year. In all, 68 employees from 24 projects, 20 countries, and 8 regions attended the courses, which lasted over several days.