German business is driving quality and qualification in Georgia

At the heart of the success of Made in Germany lies the notion of high quality, and fundamentals of this are what German companies usually transfer into other countries where they operate. Quality is part of the corporate culture and often simply required to be able to adequately supply customers back home or in other locations.

In Georgia, this is not all about Germany  the efforts to achieve or maintain high quality are encouraged by European approaches like the EU-Georgia Association Agreement. This came into force in 2016 and includes the goal of creating a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) amongst the partners. One commonly expected effect will be the enhancement of quality, particularly with respect to food safety, sanitary and phytosanitary measures or technical standards.

Related EU activities are supporting the set-up of quality management and quality infrastructure systems to ensure that high European standards can finally be met.

SME development for the DCFTA – being implemented in Georgia by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) – is another EU co-financed project which is stimulating quality. Within the framework of the European Union’s EU4Business Initiative it promotes business clustering initiatives for Georgian SMEs to become more competitive. Companies within the business sectors of apparel, furniture, ICT and film are being strengthened in their chances to profit from the opportunities of the DCFTA.

Nonetheless, the resulting export potential for enterprises in Georgia are not limited to the EU, since European standards are also accepted by many non-EU countries, and Georgia has implemented the highest number of Free Trade Agreements in the region.

In their efforts to promote quality, German companies and their partners are not relying on publicly subsidised approaches alone. To counter low quality and fakes in the construction industry, for example, HeidelbergCement Caucasus and the Georgian Building Group initiated the formation of the Georgian Cement Association. Through regular blind tests and the distribution of information on quality and safety issues it is emphasising the importance of adequate standards for construction materials.

To achieve quality, qualified staff are required. In this regard, the efforts of German companies and German development assistance in Georgia go hand in hand. Knauf Gips Tbilisi, for example, a German company producing building materials, opened a new training center and central office in Tbilisi receiving funds from DEG, Deutsche Investitions und Entwicklungsgesellschaft, one of the world’s largest private-sector development financiers. To maintain its claim to keep the same quality standard in Georgia as in German factories, Knauf urgently needs skilled personnel and users. Therefore, the company trains builders, architects, engineers and students of vocational schools in dry construction.

The German Business Association (Deutsche Wirtschaftsvereinigung/DWV), as the second biggest bilateral business agglomeration in Georgia, is also supporting quality and qualification in its host country by a variety of measures. One is through serving as the official representative of Senior Experten Service (SES) in Georgia. The SES is Germany’s leading organisation for experts whose voluntary assignment reinforces know-how transfer to public and private institutions, associations or SMEs in more than 90 developing and newly-industrialised countries. The scope of knowledge represented by the SES Experts covers around 50 industries and 500 individual fields. This successful model of cooperation is based on cost-sharing. Main fields supported by the experts in Georgia have been agriculture, construction, administration and public services, finances, healthcare and the services – mainly tourism – industry. In particular, know-how with respect to quality issues is transferred. More recently, SES experts have focused on qualification (such as in higher education) and – most noteworthy – vocational training.

The engagement of the German business community is not only profiting from its European links and support by development assistance but also by an overall strong German-Georgian interchange with respect to the social and cultural environment. Apart from the above-mentioned institutions Tbilisi hosts the German Embassy, a Goethe Institut, a German International School, an information center of the German Academic Exchange Service, as well as a large number of German foundations and similar institutions. In Kutaisi, one of the two largest cities after the capital, there is even a Georgian-German Centre, which for more than two decades has been generating a variety of services within the German-Georgian context. The sheer number of institutions speaks for itself.

German business – with all its facets and interconnections – therefore remains a key partner for Georgia, driving both quality and qualifications.

The views expressed in this opinion editorial are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Emerging Europe’s editorial policy.