Rwandan business trainers export their specialist CMI business training to Malawi

Liza Imbonabake and Jonas Munsabire of Challenges Rwanda.

They were brought in to deliver business training to remote Rwandan coffee farmers, but now two Challenges staff have just returned from Malawi having “exported” their specialist expertise for the very first time.

Liza Imbonabake and Jonas Munsabire undertook the role of business trainers two years ago, delivering business training to eight Rwandan coffee co-ops as part of a Scottish-government funded initiative to forge trading links, address rural poverty and support the wider economy.

As a result of the invaluable experience they garnered in Rwanda over the past few years, Jonas and Liza were selected to deliver a week-long training session that focused on the skills and attributes that are needed to be effective business trainers. This training is underpinned by material from Challenges and the UK’s Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and was delivered to four newly appointed colleagues in Malawi. It’s the first time African recipients of CMI training have travelled to another country to train a new wave of trainers. (The Chartered Management Institute is the chartered professional body for management and leadership, counting more than 175,000 managers and leaders in its membership community.)

Jonas and Liza are no strangers to innovation. Recognising that aspects of the training literature were inaccessible to some of the Rwandan coffee co-op farmers, they and colleagues translated the coursework into Kinyarwanda. They also created audio recordings to better cater for participants who lacked the literacy skills to access the management training.

Liza and Jonas, in fact, began their Challenges careers as Team Leaders on Challenges’ ICS programme during which they developed their own consultancy skills and business experience by providing support to SMEs in Kigali. This gave them the ability and confidence to undertake the role of Business Trainers for the ongoing coffee project.

In line with Challenges’ belief of utilising local knowledge and building local capacity, it was a “a no brainer” to send its staff with expertise in this area to train in Malawi. It was this ability to tune in to the needs of their specialist audience that gave Jonas and Liza the edge over UK trainers. They have now become the first Africans to use their business training experience to deliver the CMI content in other countries.

Liza and Jonas with the new trainees, and flanked by John Chambamkasa (left) and Phillip Chidawait (right) of Challenges Malawi.

Phillip Chidawati, Challenges Malawi Country Manager, said: “Jonas and Liza have developed such excellence in tailoring the business coursework to remote rural audiences that it made perfect sense for them to export this expertise to colleagues in Malawi. As well as delivering the content to future CMI trainers, they shared their insights from time spent teaching in the remote coffee farms and co-ops of Rwanda. It’s this specialist knowledge and on-the-ground know-how that Challenges has established its reputation for.”

Liza explained: “We knew language was an issue for some of the trainees so we translated Challenges’ business management courses into Kinyarwanda, while also building in the CMI management and leadership material.

“This was the first time that CMI content was translated into a local African language, and meant that the Challenges course was incredibly more accessible to the farmers and staff in rural Rwanda. We also made audio recordings for some farmers who maybe couldn’t read. And of course, we adapted our explanations, language and methods to make them more appropriate for the trainees.”

Jonas and Liza undertook the induction training to four newly appointed Business Development Officers as part of Challenges’ CROPS project in Malawi. The intensive four-day course took the trainees through a series of learning objectives including business analysis and diagnosis; and how to conduct reviews of finance, value and supply chains, organisation structure and production needs. As well as learning how to assess the needs of a business, the four new Challengers were taught the importance of imposing key metrics to measure success — a key principle for Challenges — using digital diagnostic tools to help data gathering and analysis.

But Jonas and Liza also shared their unique experience in tailoring the business coursework to a specific audience, using their on-the-ground insights.

“Being able to understand the capabilities of your audience and adapting your content to meet those needs was a critical part of this course and a critical part of what Challenges does,” said Liza. “Understanding your trainees’ needs on both a business and personal angle is vital. It helps you get the message across and form stronger relationships.”

The Malawi CROPS project kicked off last year and will run until 2022. The project sees Challenges staff working with four Value Addition Centres (VACs) that have been set up by the Malawi government to help commercialise agriculture and grow local economies.

Each centre is supplied by nearby farms and farming co-ops and is where various crops and products are processed and packaged. As well as improving production methods, the Challenges project is providing business training to both the farmers and newly appointed VAC staff.

The VACs themselves will improve the value of the raw crops through quality controlled processing, honed through improved metrics, as well as better access to markets for processed goods as a result. Another aim of the CROPS project is enabling access to working capital finance for the farming co-operatives, enabling expansion and recruitment.

Eoghan Mackie, chief executive of Edinburgh-based Challenges, said: “This is the latest in a series of innovations from our network of offices across Africa. In this case, we’ve taken a corporate approach to training for businesses and tailored it to make it both accessible and relevant to the small businesses on the ground in Rwanda and Malawi.

“Like our Rwanda coffee project, the Malawi CROPS project is about creating sustainable business models and wealth for smallholder farmers and agribusinesses to expand and add value to their offering, while at the same time opening opportunities for investment and creating new job opportunities in the wider communities.

“Both these projects are delivered by Challenges and funded by the Scottish Government. This isn’t about an outdated one-size-fits-all style of aid; this is about localising our approach to each community and equipping enterprises with the business skills, market opportunities and access to investment that they can use to sustainably grow their local economies and create jobs. It’s about challenging the old ways and doing something better.”

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