Lessons from U.S. Manufacturing Associations for Kenya

Executive Summit

Frida W. Mbugua is a CIPE ChamberLINKS participant at the Manufacturing Alliance for Productivity and Innovation in Arlington, Virginia.

For the past four weeks, I have been participating in CIPE’s ChamberLINKS program in the Washington, DC area.

The program commenced on April 15, 2014 and runs for six weeks. I am based at the Manufacturing Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI) for the first five weeks, and so far it has been amazing. The President and CEO of MAPI, Stephen Gold, together with all the members of staff, have been very warm and welcoming and have made these four weeks a great experience so far. Gold put me in touch with other manufacturing associations, and I have had the privilege to learn so much from them.

I was with the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) for one week, Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) for three days, Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) for three days, and will be at the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) next week for two days. This opportunity has given me the chance to interact with various members of staff in different organizations, learn what they do, and learn how they run their activities while actively serving their members and maintaining valuable relations with the various government agencies.

My experiences at MAPI have taught me the importance of creating platforms for executives in the member companies of my home association, which allows them to come together and share their experiences as peers and assist one another in handling issues that are common to them. This is a new concept that I would like to borrow and take back with me to my home association in Kenya. Moreover, I have learned the importance of building strong leadership within the manufacturing sector that eventually leads to growth, profitability and a stronger sector as a whole.

NAM and ISRI have taught me the benefits of proactive advocacy. While at NAM, I had an opportunity to work with the public affairs team, led by Tiffany Adams, where I learned a lot about the benefits of team work, sharing tasks for a common goal, and the importance of innovation and flexibility in the approaches used in engaging governments on behalf of members.

I also had the opportunity to attend the Council of Manufacturers (CMA) board meeting, which was an eye opener for me on how to work closely with other business associations that represent manufacturers. In addition, I learned the importance of providing these associations with knowledge, resources, and a platform to network in order for the industrial sector in Kenya to grow both in terms of skill number and number of firms. The CMA is made up of approximately 240 manufacturing trade associations that work together on behalf of manufacturing in the United States.

I was also able to participate in this year’s SOCMA members’ Fly-in. The Fly-in offers an opportunity for industry representatives to influence the future direction of policies through face-to-face meetings with lawmakers and their staff.

Prior to these actual meetings, members receive training on the main issues affecting industry, how to effectively communicate with congressional offices, and network with fellow members. The Fly-in was a new concept that I had not experienced before, and that I would gladly take back home with me as a means to constantly engage parliament on important legislation that positively impacts Kenyan industry. It also taught me the importance of parliament getting to know more about both the industry and whom they represent and will affect when they pass legislation.

A striking feature in all these associations is the planning and organization of all their forums, conferences, and activities. The enthusiasm and confidence that each of them has in their activities even before they take place is remarkable.

My time spent in each of these organizations has been memorable, and when it comes time to say goodbye, it has been – and will continue to be – very difficult.

Thus far, this has been a worthwhile mentorship program. I am more knowledgeable now than when I started, and I intend to take this knowledge with me to my home association, the Kenya Association of Manufacturers. I am eagerly looking forward to the last two weeks, when I will be able to attend the MAPI Executive Summit, as well as meet the CIPE team who made this year’s ChamberLINKS program happen. I cannot thank them enough.

CIPE’s ChamberLINKS Program matches rising young stars from chambers of commerce and business associations around the world with similar organizations in the U.S. Frida W. Mbugua is a part of the program, placed at the Manufacturing Alliance for Productivity and Innovation in Arlington, Virginia.

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