“It’s not about the pieces, but how they work together.” This anonymous quote captures the essence of successful investment promotion strategies for communities across the globe.  I was reminded of this during my recent work under the USAID Tanzania Enabling Growth through Investment and Enterprise Program (ENGINE).   

The ENGINE Program objective was to increase private sector investment leading to inclusive, broad-based economic growth in the Southern Agriculture Growth Corridor of Tanzania and Zanzibar.  It applied a market systems development methodology to accelerate change and stimulate growth by reforming local government authorities (LGAs), supporting small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) with additional business development services, and encouraging new investment products for SMEs in agriculture industries.   

As the President of AJC Solutions, I completed short-term consultancy projects for ENGINE by partnering with local experts to create Investment Promotion Strategies (IPS) for five LGAs in Tanzania and Zanzibar. We used a participative and collaborative approached based on action learning to provide a project deliverable that is realistic, achievable, and conforms to the local government’s context.  

Our process to create these IPS required extensive engagement activities that included 15 technical workshops with over 200 representatives from government, businesses, and community organizations.  We systematically collected investment data from relevant institutions, conducted a comprehensive assessment of existing administrative systems, identified regulatory reforms for investment promotion and investment facilitation activities, and created customized investment profiles that included prioritized investment opportunities, established targeted industry sectors, site location determinants, and GIS-enabled marketing materials.  

During this participatory process, many government practitioners voiced their skepticism about the role that they could play in the city’s strategy to promote investment. We frequently encountered comments similar to, “My department isn’t involved in that,” “Why do you need access to my data?” and “I don’t think my team can contribute.” Initially, there was resistance throughout the conversation. However, by listening, I validated their position, appreciated their role, and empathetically empowered them to define their own contribution to the process.   

Eventually, participants began to see themselves less as individual stakeholders and more as a team. They began to discuss how their administrative processes, data collection systems, interactions with businesses, and network of community stakeholders could play a critical role in promoting investment in their community. We began to hear comments similar to, “My team can do this,” “If we share data this way, we can accomplish this,” and “How can my team be more engaged?”   

The technical guidance and sincere participation of the numerous stakeholders throughout the process will make these IPS useful tools for each LGA.  It is my hope that they motivate regulatory authorities, businesses, private sector associations, and community stakeholders to strengthen their connections and increase their cooperation for investment promotion. After all, it’s not about the pieces, but how they work together.