Ghanaian-owned social enterprise Booomers International know all about collaborating with partners from abroad. They’re working with Germans My Boo, who offer green solutions whilst supporting social development in the communities where the products are made. My Boo supports the production team in Ghana with equipment and tools to produce quality bamboo bicycle frames, which Boomers assemble into complete bike units ready to be sold in mainland Europe. The companies most recent collaboration – the world’s first Bamboo Electric Bicycle – launched at the Euro Bike Show in Berlin last August.
Boomers have employed over 40 young people in rural parts of the country, paying them above the minimum wage and offering other benefits including a free lunch and free healthcare. Jobs for rural youth also provide benefits to their family members who depend on them for income. This helps curb rural-urban migration, which is chiefly motivated by poverty and inadequate jobs in the rural communities. In addition, both Boomers and myBoo are contributing to solving one of the world’s biggest problems, that of carbon emissions.
So how do international partnerships work? Booomers International CEO Kwame Danso outlines the benefits and challenges.
Adapt and understand
“MyBoo was my first international partner and it was demanding. They initially dealt with us as their franchise instead of partners because they wanted to make sure we are able to deliver to their specification. They came from a different cultural background as Europeans, with a different work ethic, so it was initially difficult for us to handle, but we all adapted eventually.”
“We make sure we deliver the best products to myBoo. We consider their customers our customers and this makes the bond between us even stronger. I remember when we started this partnership, it was difficult for us meet the deadlines for delivering the frames for reasons beyond our control. This resulted in rifts between us as it was causing issues between myBoo and their customers. But along the line, we had to develop a mechanism together to address this for smooth operations.”
“Honesty leads to trust. We are always open to talk about issues and honestly point out each other’s flaws. Sometimes, the truth is bitter but this enables us to work on our mistakes and move on as a stronger team. Progress of things in Ghana sometimes could get slow due to the bureaucratic nature of things. I remember sometime in 2013, when we had to clear some equipment sent to us, we had to pay an honorarium to the officials at the port to avoid the delays. We had to let our partners know the reality on the ground even though it was shocking to them and they disagreed with it. It was the only way we could have had the equipment early enough to get the work going.”
Manage your concerns
“Building an international partnership is not all rosy. [At the very beginning] I became apprehensive because I thought they would one day take my company away from me. That perception changed when we received a lot of support from myBoo to ensure we develop and become a successful business.
Tell your story, too
“Sometimes, people think myBoo owns Booomers International even though Booomers has its own structures and ownership. We had an extensive discussion with myBoo about this and we both agreed to showcase and promote each brand in the partnership during our marketing and communication activities.
“Trust is another great ingredient required to make partnerships work. We never hide anything from myBoo so far as it concerns the two companies and I believe they do not hide from us anything we need to know. This gives us the joy of working together. When we commenced our partnership with myBoo, we lacked funds to build our office and workshop so I spoke to them about it and they gave me a loan which was paid back within a year.”
Have a common goal
“It is always better when the two parties have a common goal and aspiration. It’s more like a marriage – if the two parties have goals that are aligned, they enjoy their marriage. In my case, we all had a vision to make a change whilst selling the best ecological product to the world. It wasn’t about just making bicycles – each of us had the enthusiasm to support social programs that provide more resources and employment opportunities to empower people in rural Ghana.”
Make your contracts work
“Ensure contracts are well spelled out and everyone understands the clauses. Seek legal advice before signing any contracts to avoid doing anything that could land the two of companies in legal tussle.”
Agree on investment, and return
“Partners need to invest in various forms into the business and it must be clearly stipulated what the returns on that investment will be, whether monetary or in any other form. Booomers and myBoo believe in education and we have agreed to work on funds to embark on a legacy project. This will be a school to create the next generation of African leaders and will have a capacity to accommodate about one thousand school children when it’s completed in December this year. Enrolment will start in 2018.