Success stories

A Finnish company finds demand for its leadership know-how in Somalia


Successify, a company that specialises in leadership development, has established itself in Somalia with the help of Finnpartnership. What does the challenging operating environment demand from the company?

Successify’s founder and CEO David Goddard provides training for companies’ management personnel in Finland, but, for the past few years, he has also had the opportunity to expand business activities into East Africa. The company has been starting up leadership development activities in a number of locations across the country.

According to Goddard, everything started with his Somali friend, through whom the first contacts in Somalia were forged. To establish Successify’s operations in Somalia, the company received Finnpartnership’s Business Partnership Support.

“Finnpartnership’s support allowed us to use capable local experts. They knew how to establish productive relationships,” Goddard says.

“Forging contacts in a foreign country on your own is difficult. Especially in a country like Somalia, you need to know the various groups and the relationships between them.”

Becoming established with Finnpartnership’s support

The Finnish company has now established a joint venture in Somalia with a local non-governmental organisation, the Institute for Strategic Initiatives (ISI). Initially, development of the company’s operations was focused on empowering it to offer services related to leadership development to the Somali government.

“However, the first pilot project has been pushed back by the pandemic,” Goddard says.

According to the World Bank’s assessment, Somalia is the most difficult country in the world to run a business in.

Goddard explains that forging the right contacts has taken time. Finding funding for the project has also proven challenging.

Additionally, the pandemic has slowed the development of business activities, preventing Goddard from travelling to the Horn of Africa since 2019.

However, remote contacts have allowed the company to bypass this problem to some degree. Goddard has been able to arrange meetings and conduct training remotely, while his Somali partners have been on the ground taking care of the things that require face-to-face interaction.

Off to a good start in Mogadishu

Last autumn, Successify and ISI took part in Finnpartnership’s Education in East Africa SDG Booster event, after which the focus of business activities moved to the Somali capital of Mogadishu.

There, an entrepreneurship programme was organised in cooperation with the local university SIMAD this year.

“The results of the course surpassed our expectations. It improved the entrepreneurial skills and employment prospects of the sixteen participants. The course also showed that there is demand for this kind of training in Somalia. It also strengthened our drive for long-term operations in the country.”

Goddard is grateful that there were flexibility measures available for Business Partnership Support due to the pandemic. This allowed work that was originally slated for Somalia to be performed in Finland.

“The course in Mogadishu was organised using a hybrid model. The joint venture’s partners travelled to Mogadishu to take care of organising the course. I was taking care of training remotely.”

Goddard explains that the successful first course gave the company a good reference and helped it establish new contacts in Somalia. The joint venture is now registering and opening an office in Mogadishu.

“We offer services related to leadership and administrative development, as well as services that help young people find employment, to both the public and private sectors. There are also companies in sectors like telecommunications and banking in the country who have a demand for leadership development.”

An effective division of duties with the company’s partner

According to Goddard, the joint venture’s division of duties is clear. The company’s Somali partners hire the local staff, find new customers and take care of the practical training preparations. Successify, on the other hand, is responsible for training staff, developing business activities and finding potential partners in Finland.

Despite the challenging operating environment, Goddard encourages companies to consider the business opportunities offered by Somalia. According to him, the most important thing is to build up a network of long-term relationships. Finnpartnership’s Matchmaking service offers help in this area.

“It’s important to keep in touch with your partners and discuss expectations, goals and division of duties. You also need lots of patience and flexibility, as well as the willingness to adapt to changes.”

Goddard intends to use more time to develop the joint venture in the future.

“I want to turn this joint venture into a profitable business and do my part to help young Somali people find employment.”

Image: Successify

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