TEM Lab: Building Partnerships in Senegal

By William Barnes, Guest Writer

Our team, consisting of Colin Agnew (MBA ’15, USA/Canada), Billy Barnes (MBA ’15, USA), and Mohamed Vall (MBA ’15, Mauritania), was selected to represent Thunderbird as consultants in Senegal working with four different organizations. The objective of the assignment was to develop and improve the capacity of Agriculture Education and Training organizations to identify, negotiate, implement, and monitor public-private partnerships within the framework of agricultural projects.

Training employees at CIFOP. (Photo courtesy Billy Barnes)
Training employees at CIFOP. (Photo courtesy Billy Barnes)

We worked with four different organizations in four weeks, so one organization per week: Platform of Senegalese Agribusiness Professionals Organizations (POPAS), Coalition of Women Against Illegal Immigration (COFLEC), International Center for Practical Training of Mboro (CIFOP), and The National Training Center for Fisheries and Aquaculture Technicians (CNFTPA).

Three of the organizations are located in the capital city of Dakar, and one (CIFOP) is located about two hours north of Dakar in an area called Mboro.

Touring a catering unit under POPAS ((Photo courtesy Billy Barnes)
Touring a catering unit under POPAS ((Photo courtesy Billy Barnes)

One major challenge was trying to accomplish our objective implementing the traditional Public Private Partnership (PPP) model. In the traditional model, the public sector partners with a private entity to leverage their efficiency and to have them bear the risk in the project. The organizations we consulted with did not have the capability to enter into a traditional PPP, but were mostly looking for public or private partners to provide funding.

With this perspective in mind, we spent a lot of time working with each organization through interviews and meetings with leaders and employees of the organizations, visiting the production units and training sites of the organizations, and meeting with potential partners and arranging partnership meetings with the organizations. We also dedicated time toward training the organizations about partnerships and how they are a give-and-take relationship which foster win-win situations. We focused the trainings around these three main points:

  1. How to evaluate their own organization using SWOT and value chain analyses.
  2. How to interpret that data into what they need and what they can offer in a partnership.
  3. How to communicate this information clearly to potential partners with the proper follow-up.

All the hard work and training during those first four weeks of our trip paid off! We were successful in helping the first three organizations initiate the process of forming partnerships with potential partners, and we helped the final organization better maintain the partnership they previously formalized.

It was an amazing experience to be in Senegal and to work with these four organizations. The aha moment was a very satisfying to experience; it happened while we were presenting our recommendations and training to the client organizations.

Colin playing soccer with a local on the beach (Photo courtesy Billy Barnes)
Colin playing soccer with a local on the beach (Photo courtesy Billy Barnes)

What sets Thunderbird students apart from any other MBA student can perfectly be illustrated through the TEM Lab experience. Our team successfully navigated through the web of cross-cultural communication and developed great relationships with many great people, adapted quickly to a new culture including eating very tasty Senegalese food, and learned how to speak a bit of Wolof (the local language). On weekends, we saw took off to see the sights, such as Gorée Island, the African Renaissance Monument, the Pink Lake, and also body surfed in the ocean.

For specific details about our TEM Lab experience in Senegal, please visit our blog.

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