In 2019, Swisscontact celebrated its 60th anniversary. On this occasion we took the opportunity to celebrate our achievements and think about the future: how can Swisscontact continue contributing to inclusive development?
60 years ago, Swisscontact was founded as the “Swiss Foundation for Technical Development Assistance”. Swisscontact offices around the world have taken the anniversary as an opportunity to look back on our achievements, also for the sake of engaging in dialogue about the changing world of international development cooperation and its future trajectory.
In terms of our goals, nothing has changed for Swisscontact since being founded in 1959: Swisscontact will continue creating opportunities for people to develop economically and escape poverty on their own initiative. Heinrich M. Lanz, Chairman of Swisscontact, emphasised in his anniversary speech that Swisscontact will continue to adapt to changing conditions: “We can only keep up if we are willing to question ourselves constantly and improve.”
Not only Swisscontact, but also the Senior Expert Corps celebrated a milestone birthday in 2019 when it turned 40. In 1979, business consultant H.E. Stettbacher approached Swisscontact with the idea of deploying the extensive skills and experience of retired technicians and business managers in short-term consultancies in developing countries. The Swiss Expert Corps – as it was initially called – was brought to life.
Since then, retired experts (including women, as of the late 1980s) have completed 3,372 consultancies. For its anniversary, the project shed the outdated term “Corps” from its name and was renamed “Senior Expert Contact”.
The Swiss Entrepreneurship Programme (Swiss EP) supports the creation of local start-up ecosystems from the ground up by collaborating with local start-up organisations and providing them with strategic assistance. This bottom-up approach has produced excellent results.
In four years, Swiss EP has supported 66 organisations in six countries. In turn, these organisations mentored more than 2,500 young enterprises, with the top-20 start-ups generating 3,562 jobs. As important as the numbers here are qualitative factors, such as improved collaboration, information exchange, and the new links to international networks. Swisscontact has been implementing this programme since 2015 on behalf of the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). The programme has now been extended by four years.
In 2019, for the second time, a networking week was held in Switzerland for women entrepreneurs and mentors from project countries. The connections made during this week helped women establish new business relations, provide each other support, and even attract investment to their respective countries.
In Rwanda, Swisscontact has been working on expanding and improving the vocational education system on behalf of the SDC. Early-on, Swisscontact introduced various short training courses, followed by vocational training courses for various sectors as a next step.
Subsequently, the PROMOST project – Promoting Market-Oriented Skills Training – was expanded to include Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Last year, the project entered its third phase.
In addition, the introduction of accredited certificates for training constitutes an important element. This certification allows people who may not have completed formal education the opportunity to demonstrate their competencies in a formal manner. The certificate helps them to offer their services on the labour market.
In 2019 the Springfield Centre ran two “Making Markets Work” training programmes in Bangkok with 125 participants attending from 40 countries. Participants represented various international donor organisations, NGOs, companies, and multilateral institutions. Swisscontact experts in inclusive market systems development supported the training with modules.
In addition to the training, Springfield advised numerous organisations, including: supporting Habitat for Humanity’s work in construction labour markets in Latin America; advising Generation Kenya on their “Education to Employment” model which is by the Swedish development organisation SIDA; and working on a UK-financed programme in Nigeria to build more sustainable markets for malaria control products.
Many women in this world are at an enormous disadvantage. A recent investigation in Guatemala shows that, on average, women are poorer than men, are often socially and professionally marginalised, suffer from sexual violence and endure barriers to accessing decent jobs.
Swisscontact is supporting women to become more economically and socially independent so that they can make their own decisions to change their lives for the better.
In Guatemala last September Swisscontact organised a forum about “Women’s Economic Empowerment”. 12 female expert guest speakers and 200 women participants from NGOs, government offices, and media organisations shared their experiences. They confirmed the importance of alliances between projects and organisations with different approaches in order to achieve sustainable results. Events like this one foster such alliances.
Swiss Foundation for Technical Cooperation
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