Swisscontact – Swiss Foundation for Technical Cooperation is a Swiss non-profit-organisation, which carries out projects aiming at reducing poverty in developing and transition countries by private sector development. It has been founded in 1959 as a politically and denominationally neutral organisation and has 60 employees in Switzerland and approximately 1,200 staff abroad. The main fields of activity are fostering skills development, small and medium enterprises, financial services and resource efficiency.
Swisscontact was founded in 1959 under the name of Swiss Foundation for Technical Cooperation by leading figures from the Swiss business world, universities and politics. The first initiative came from Anne-Marie Im Hof-Piguet (1916-2010), who was of the opinion "that because of its wealth and as country without a colonial past, Switzerland should play an important role in development aid".
In the 1960s, Swisscontact set up vocational training colleges in Africa, Asia and Latin America and provided further training for the instructors at these colleges. This was followed in the 1980s by the launch of schemes aimed at promoting small and medium enterprises (SMEs), after graduates from the vocational training colleges had said that there was an urgent need for expert advice when setting up businesses. It was also evident that SMEs were experiencing considerable difficulty in obtaining commercial and investment credits. As a result, the organization introduced programmes favouring the creation of micro-finance institutions. After training car mechanics, Swisscontact also went on to develop integral solutions for preventing air pollution.
The organization was renamed in 1972, but retained its old title as a supplement.
Swisscontact has 60 employees in Switzerland and approximately 1,200 staff abroad. It carries out over 100 projects in 34 different countries to promote economic stability. The board of trustees consists of about 30 people from the business world, university and politics.
Swisscontact is specialized in project implementation, accepts assignments from public and private partners and carries out projects that have been put out to public tender. The organization also runs a programme of its own activities that are financed from donations and contributions from the state.
The foundation with headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, is certified with the ZEWO seal of quality from the Swiss agency responsible for monitoring charitable organizations that raise donations in Switzerland. Two important partners of Swisscontact are the governmental organisations Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).
Swisscontact is convinced that employment and income open up pathways out of poverty and can reduce economic disparities. An innovative private sector strengthens structurally weak regions and enables disadvantaged groups to become active market participators.
All activities of Swisscontact can be divided into four areas of operation:
Since 1959 Swisscontact has been committed to providing vocational training and further education, the assumption being that professional competence is the key to the economic and social development of a country. Swisscontact started off by setting up technical vocational training colleges (for mechanics, electricians, electronic technicians, etc.) based on the Swiss model in countries where infrastructure was lacking. Over the past 25 years the main focus in the promotion of vocational training has shifted to instructing vocational training college instructors and setting up national vocational training systems on the one hand and to holding shorter courses on the other, in particular for unemployed youngsters and disadvantaged sectors of the population (in development cooperation usually called «skills training»). In simple basic courses, they can acquire knowledge that will give them the chance to find a job or become self-employed. Emphasis is always placed on getting as many women as possible involved in the schemes. At present, around 45% of those who have benefited are women.
Swisscontact supports practical vocational training by:
- Vocational education and training: Swisscontact works locally through existing institutions and training centres, usually by training teachers and instructors or with the establishment of teacher training institutes.
- Labor market insertion: This includes instruments like counseling, placement services, work programmes, employment incentives, internships, occupational and life skills training, start-up incentives.
Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the largest employers in developing countries as well. Swisscontact aims at strengthening the competitiveness of small and medium-sized businesses. The organisation's market system development approach, referred to as Inclusive Markets addresses the constraints and opportunities of markets for disadvantaged people.
To make markets more inclusive, Swisscontact refers to three different approaches:
- Value chain development: This approach focuses on a certain sector with growth potential. It supports small businesses, especially farmer organisations, to establish themselves as suppliers in national and global value chains by training and technical assistance or quality management.
- Regional and local economic development: In cases where geographic isolation is the primary constraint, the specific local development potential is taken as a starting point.
- Entrepreneurship: Swisscontact supports innovative, risk-oriented individuals to seize business opportunities by facilitating business enabling environments, access to financial services and to non-financial resources such as information and know-how.
In practice, these approaches are often combined.
In development cooperation, all financial services provided for people on low incomes in developing countries are bracketed together under the collective term microfinance. Their aim is to give small and medium enterprises access to banking services that allow them to maintain or expand their companies. Swisscontact does not grant microcredits, but instead assists local microcredit banks, insurance companies and savings and credit associations with advice and further training.
Swisscontact's activities in financial services include:
- develop financial products services and products with local partners for small enterprises
- capacity building in financial skills
- develop new technologies and improve infrastructure
- improve the regulatory framework
Swisscontact is working for an economically, socially and ecologically sustainable development and is considering the responsible use of natural resources a prerequisite to achieve this. The organisations believes that services related to climate protection and associated technologies represent a growth market and will in future be able to provide people with jobs and income in developing countries as well. An example of this is recycling of reusable materials.
Swisscontact lends its support by:
- Situational analyses
- Public relations work to increase environmental awareness
- Advising authorities on drafting laws and decrees
- Training instructors and professionals and strengthening the dialogue between different actors and civil society
- Transfer of technologies and processes
Senior Expert Corps
Since 1979 Swisscontact has a pool of retired professionals called the Senior Expert Corps. Its members are supporting SMEs in developing and transition countries in solving technical and operational problems on a voluntary basis. If necessary they provide further training to the personnel and management of the company. One assignment lasts a maximum of three months. The pool contains experts in: marketing and management consulting, electrical, civil and mechanical engineering, hotel and tourism services, food engineering, education, medical and health care services, agronomy and forestry engineering, construction and other specialized fields.
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- Elisabeth Feller: Die technische Entwicklungshilfe schweizerischer Unternehmer, in: Ostschweiz - Westschweiz - Eidgenossenschaft. Denkschrift für Fritz Hummler, Zürich 1965. p. 65-70.
- Anne-Marie Im-Hof-Piguet (co-founder of Swisscontact): Unterwegs zu einer Akademie der Menschenrechte; Ein Lebensbericht. Marie Sandkorn Verlag, Basel 2005. S. 28ff
- Matthias Jäger, Peter Stricker. Cheese, Industrial Dreams and Labour Market Realities; 50 years of Swiss-Nepal cooperation in the field of vocational education and training. Zürich, 2007.
- Ka Schuppisser: Das Engagement der Privatwirtschaft in der Entwicklungshilfe. Die Gründung der Schweizerischen Stiftung für technische Entwicklungshilfe 1956-1959 und ihre Konflikte mit dem Monopolanspruch des Schweizerischen Hilfswerks für 148 aussereuropäische Gebiete (SHAG), in: Hug, Peter/Mesmer, Beatrix (Hg.): Von der Entwicklungshilfe zur Entwicklungspolitik. Bern 1993, S. 189-200 (Studien und Quellen 19).
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- Franziska Diener: Die Schweizerische Stiftung für technische Entwicklungshilfe (Swisscontact) 1956 – 1971. p. 19.
- "Swisscontact Annual Report 2016". Retrieved 26 June 2017.
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- Swisscontact worldwide (26 February 2013). "Claudia, mecánica" – via YouTube.
- "Swisscontact Brochure on Skills Development" (PDF). Retrieved 18 July 2016.
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- "The Supermarket Revolution Moves Into Honduras".
- Swisscontact Approach to financial sector development
- "Swisscontact Brochure on Microleasing" (PDF). Retrieved 18 July 2016.
- "Swisscontact Brochure on Resource Efficiency" (PDF). Retrieved 18 July 2016.
- Zürich, Swisscontact, 8005. "Senior Expert Corps - Swisscontact".
- "Pensioners put to work abroad".