Preparing for trade mission to Turkey

preparing for trade mission to turkey  Preparing for trade mission to Turkey

Several meetings are held to prepare for the Dutch trade mission to Turkey 5-9 November 2012. The Netherlands and Turkey are celebrating 400 years of diplomatic relations with many cultural and economic exchange activities. Trade missions are part of these activities of course, as both countries have a strong entrepreneurial spirit. It is interesting to see how Turkey is presented at different occasions.

Two weeks ago, there was an official government presentation. Turkey is presented as a good partner and a country with excellent business opportunities. Information was given about CSR and the OECD guidelines for multinational entreprises. Many companies were present to tell why they join the trade mission to Turkey: it was an inspiring meeting.

The organizers of the trade mission also introduced us to a masterclass of the independent Turkije Instituut that took place today. The economic analysis shown by one of their specialists was very interesting. He was able to summarize ten years of Turkish economic development in a comprehensive and tangible way: it was intruiging to follow his lecture and helpfull for doing business. Also he gave a clear insight in how the EU becomes slowly by slowly less interesting for Turkey and how Middle Eastern countries become more interesting, which was visible in decreasing and increasing trade figures. However the Dutch-Turkish trade figures are still growing, if I understood well…

Then the director of the Turkije Instituut introduced us to the world of cultural differences when doing international business. She surprised with her view on bribery practices. The theory she follows says that many countries have a pattern of 3 phases for bribery. The 1st phase is when a political party comes to power, like the AK Party in Turkey: they do everything to end bribery and improve things for the people. That is because all the positions where the money is cashed are in the hands of adverse political parties. In the next governing period, they start to put their own people in the right positions and some bribery begins again. In the 3rd period, and the AK party is in its 3rd period, the cashing that comes with bribery fully flourishes. So that is Turkey now and bribery can not be avoided.

Her advice to the companies present was amazing: if you don’t want to deal with bribery, don’t go to Turkey, go to Germany where they do comparable things but it is called for example paying for a service contract and it is not paying cash money to private persons who offer service like in Turkey, she said. If you go to Turkey don’t make a problem out of it, just pay, but don’t do it yourself, do it through your local partner, they know how to do it. You can offer the local partner more money for their ‘normal’ services so it won’t show officially.

Boiiiing…. so far the OECD guidelines given 2 weeks ago, that are quite clear about dealing with bribery (see Also the advice to Dutch companies to actively involve local partners in this and ‘hide behind their back’ is a surprising tactic. Of course bribery is a huge dilemma for companies but this way out is too easy, especially since the Netherlands are 1 of the 44 governments recommending the OECD guidelines: more of an effort is needed to make us dignitary of that position.

Other blogs about business with Turcs:
Turkish businessmen about the Dutch: trade mission to Turkey (4)
Matchmaking: trade mission to Turkey (2)
400 years Turkey – the Netherlands: closing event

Pigs, kids, and why it works in Malawi


On the south side of Blantyre, the Stephanos Foundation runs a project that is based on participation of villagers and their empowerment. Many people work in the tea plantations that cover the hills in the area: in good days, the wages can be 600 kwacha(= 1,70 euro) per day. Workers of Stephanos sat together with the community to find out how to improve their situation and this is how the pig-project took shape. Isn’t that a great way of working?! This is what the community wanted and so this is what they were going to do. So different from projects that start from the idea of the donors, and what donors think should be done and paid for…
9 female and 2 male pigs were given to the community as a start. The female pigs are given to a child that has to take care of it; when the child is at school there is a watchman (usually woman). The male pigs go around to do their favorite thing and this is how young pigs are created. In general, a pig gets 6 young ones. 2 young ones are given away to other children to make the project grow, the rest can stay at the house where they were born. Now in a few years time, already 300 children are participating in this program. A committee that has a real constitution and a serious chair is overviewing the project and making decisions.
The value of a pig is 5 times more than a goat, between 42 and 57 euro. Compare that to the income the tea plantations offer…! So now children can fund their school fee for secondary education because of the pigs. And their surroundings are profiting too. There is already more money than necessary, so the committee decided to invest in agriculture. It was their idea, not the idea of Stephanos.
Stephanos offers the encouragement and the knowledge input for what the committee wants. And they offered a pump for water that can be handled by feet (so no need for electricity, oil or whatever that will make the pump stop when there is no cash money – very practical). The villagers have made a beautiful field where over 10.000 oignons are growing now. One oignon can be sold at a price of 30-40 kwacha (say 10 eurocents). So next October they expect a big profit… and it might be invested again.
This project is not a Millennium Village: there was no ‘integrated total approach’ of things, no fancy barn, no mechanical work on the fields, no manager. But it has a very good chance to be sustainable because all of it is run by the community itself in the first place – and it is affordable without donor because the people run their own business and don’t rely on the donor’s money.
I like to add one thing, and that is that I found the villages we passed very clean. The reason could be that this is a different area, with even a different tribe, but it was striking the eye (also when I went ‘at random’ to the toilet in one of the houses) and I do think it matters. Consciousness of health and hygiene, even in poverty, is a great asset for self-esteem and development. The sheds for the pigs were well made and looked after. Animals can stink and reduce the pleasure of living at a place, but this was not at all the case because the cages were also well maintained.
Photographs above: the pigs in their cage, and a girl who is the happy owner of a pig, with her watch(wo)man (green shirt) on her side, and the field with the oignons.

More about this theme in Malawi that you might want to read:
Millennium Village Southern Malawi
Aid for orphans in Malawi
Dead Aid in Malawi
What people in Zimbabwe learned (and will Malawi follow?)

Zomba: creative use of waterpipes

zomba  Zomba, Malawi: waterpipes were sent here by a donor in order to help create a better draining system. Part of those waterpipes – that by the way are a very good quality and quite expensive – found another destination as you can see on the picture above, they will never serve a draining system. Well, at least the water pipes in Zomba were not just thrown away…
Some people suggest that systems like Western Europe has, cannot work here in Malawi anyway. For example something will get broken halfway the draining system and there will be no one or no money to repair it. So then all of the street or maybe even all of the village will stay without a good draining system. A more individual or ‘serial’ approach would do better than a community system. Could be true.
A thought that comes to my mind all the time is how creative people are here in Malawi. They might not use the products the way the ‘western world’ does, but they find new ways to use them for things that apparently matter to them and that are also lacking: just like the waterpipes in Zomba. If that creativity would be combined with a (long term) business attitude, what would we see happening in Malawi!

Other blogs about creativity you might like:
Vlinderado: creating your dream
Visages Villages: brilliance of the normal

More about Malawi:
Majete Wild lifeReserve
Malawi Fever Tree
President in the warm heart of Africa

Millennium Village Southern Malawi

millennium village  millennium village  millennium village
The UN is building Millennium Villages to accelerate development and the achievement of the millennium goals that were set. In many countries in Africa an integrated approach of agriculture, health care, education etc. is brought into practice. The Millennium Village in the Zomba region of Malawi contains a vaste area with a lot of very small villages and 35.000 people. What jumps in the eye at first sight is the larger scale of agriculture that is applied here, with the use of mechanics and new kinds of crops that are richer than the former ones (like the pieces of orange patatoes at the picture above). The project works with partners rather than donors (like the electricity company of Malawi), although visitors see a big sign of US Aid when they arrive.
The success formula to make this work was to have villagers involved from the beginning in the cooperation they formed, and also to give village chiefs a role in it. An increasing amount of farmers are now self supporting, getting crops from the cooperation and giving back a few bags of crops after harvesting – thus they guarantee the continuity of the project. See the picture of the barn above. They have some extra money now so that they can pay education fees for their children and have a little luxury at home.
The best breakthrough was when they started to talk business. In the beginning, ‘food security’ was in the center of the program. But when there was food security and they started to think of markets to sell their harvest to, that is when general interest and participation really grew. An important lesson learned in the Millennium Village is: start from the needs the people have (which can be different from the needs others tell them they have!).
Yet there is a lot of work to be done. It is clear that this is another project in Malawi that got a lot of outside / donor money put into. Managing the cooperation, building barns or other materials are not included in the ‘self-support’ so far. Health care has improved considerably in general, and specifically for pregnant women, but nobody pays a dime for health care. How sustainable can that model be? Well, they have some more years to go. The good news is that many visitors pass by to learn about the Millennium Village model and return to their own region full of ideas and inspiration.

Other blogs about this theme:
Aid for orphans in Malawi
Pigs, kids, and why it works in Malawi
Dead Aid in Malawi

Other blogs about this region:
Zomba: creative use of waterpipes
Mulanje Massif in Malawi: again unknown beauty
Majete Wildlife reserve in Malawi: unknown beauty

Veil or economy? Queen’s visit to Oman and UAE


Veil or economy? Queen’s visit to Oman and UAE

The discussion about the veil has re-entered the Dutch political scene on the event of a visit and trade mission of our Queen Beatrix, Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Máxima to the United Arab Emirates and to Oman. This is a very succesfull visit with warm relationships between our countries and very good business contracts being signed these days (see also:
However, the Dutch political PVV-leader Wilders has drawn the attention of the public to the great debate of the VEIL again, by criticising Queen Beatrix and indirectly Princess Máxima for wearing a veil when entering mosques as he thinks the veil is a means of women oppression and our Queen should never wear it, not even in a mosque.
At the moment of this debate, the Netherlands like many countries are still in the midst of a severe economic crisis. Nevertheless journalists follow massively the discussion about the VEIL much more than the economic results of the trade mission. During the last years, the quality level of journalism has gone down in the Netherlands. They have chosen to report about easy-to-report riots and disputes like the one mentioned above rather than giving an indepth insight in more complex subjects. They have their own concept of the notion ‘news’ and like this they create their own truth and it has empoverished journalistic approaches in the Netherlands.
As for the debate about the veil itself, I have published a blog about it some time ago. Women were known to wear veils already in Assyria in the 7th century BC and they should choose themselves if and when they want to wear them. And for the rest, we still have an economic crisis to solve…

Other blogs you may like:
Hôtel Saint George: I understood
Portrait du décolonisé

Creating your dream: Efteling

Creating your dream: Efteling

Yesterday me and my colleagues visited this beautiful Dutch Park called Efteling, in January even more attractive as Winter Efteling. It started as a project in 1952 to create in real life what was designed by Anton Pieck in his rather romantic drawings: a park with fairy tales and fantasy houses and castles.

I visited that park already as a small child with my parents with hundreds of other people. Nowadays, they are millions to come and see and enjoy, and the Efteling has grown, flourished and created so much more fairies and dreams.

As an entrepreneur it is encouraging to see what can evolve from initiatives when creative people have a dream and dare to make that come true in reality. Everybody dreams but the steps to creating your dreams in reality are often not made or proven unsuccessful. It must have been a very risk taking business for a person who’s core quality was drawing and designing, not running a park whatsoever – but he did it and it became a wonderful parc to visit for people from all over the world.

So my wishes for 2011 for everybody including myself is: may this be the best year for creating your dream and may millions enjoy it!

Read also these blogs:
Vlinderado: creating your dream (2)
Adam Tower: a must visit!
Loin des hommes
Never ever give up
Malawi Fever Tree: what do you see?