|Al-Ahram Weekly Online
18 - 24 April 2002
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
Export schoolSherine Nasr looks at a newly-established centre for export training
Except for a few facilities, no concrete policies have, so far, been introduced to convert the theory of "encouraging Egyptian exports" into the shining uplands of reality. Yet talk of boosting exports, improving quality and entering other markets seems to continue apace. Egyptian exporters, dissatisfied with government bureaucracy yet unwilling to pool resources and expertise, find it extremely difficult to survive in an ever-changing world.
One step, however, has lately been taken in the right direction. The newly-inaugurated Foreign Trade Training Centre (FTTC) is the first specialised, non-profit organisation to provide scientific training on exports.
"The idea first came up in 1999 when President [Hosni] Mubarak was visiting Japan and noted that Egypt would like to host a centre that would provide specialist training on exports, based on the Japanese experience," said Said Talaat Harb, Director of the FTTC. He added that Japan had established similar successful institutes for training export skills in a number of Asian countries.
Japanese experts were later sent to Egypt to conduct a thorough study of the potential of the Egyptian economy and analyse what was needed to achieve to develop an export- orientated culture.
Two Japanese entities, namely, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Japan External Trade Organisation (JETO), were ready to provide technical assistance in the form of training experts, equipment and training scholarships in Japan, while USAID provided a one-million-pound grant to finance the project.
Launched by ministerial decree in 2001, the FTTC is chaired by the Ministry of Foreign Trade and has 11 export-related bodies as board members including the Egyptian Export Promotion Centre (EEPC), the Central Organisation for Exhibition and Fairs, and the Central Federation of Chambres of Commerce to name some.
Beginning in February, the centre began to receive targeted groups which mainly consisted of selected members of companies or factories concerned with exports, recent university graduates interested to become export and market directors (an under-represented profession lacking in Egypt) or marketing managers willing to upgrade their technical skills.
According to exporters, the FTTC has one major challenge to prove its worth. "The centre has to provide practical training, otherwise it will simply repeat the same academic theories students of commerce receive in college," argued Osama Abul-Fottouh, a member of the Businessmen's Association.
Harb maintains that the aim of the FTTC is not to give the trainees fish but to show them how to fish themselves. "Practical training is at the core of the programme designed by the centre. It is achieved through field visits and analysis of case studies," Harb said.
The Japanese experts have designed a number of integrated programmes for trainees. One of these programmes is concerned with helping trainees build export plans and strategies. Attention is also given to identifying quality, competitiveness and international standards for packing, packaging and transport. Other programmes build skills for export financing and pricing, and skills for negotiation and communication. The centre also helps trainees learn how to establish marketing channels or approach export services and how to use e- commerce to benefit their businesses.
"Moreover, there are tailored programmes to cover the specific needs of a certain factory or sector," Harb said, adding that the period of each programme varied according to the programme's specific requirements.
While many exporters criticised the complicated procedures they have to go through before they have their products set for export, Harb has made it clear that it is not within the capabilities of the FTTC to change such rules or regulations imposed by the government, nor will it attempt to do so. "We are simply providing our trainees with the necessary skills to build up their abilities to be successful exporters or export directors. Exporting is no longer an activity based on a person's cleverness. It is a science that has its own rules and we help trainees grasp these rules," Harb said.
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