Annual Report CBI 2020

Total employment supported

In 2020, the companies we supported in 2019 and 2020 provided 32,508 FTE jobs. This broke down as 60% full-time, 18% part-time and 22% seasonal employment. COVID-19 caused exports to fall and thus posed a threat to employment. In some cases, an increase in local sales compensated for job losses.

Female employment – Male employment

Within our projects, we seek to support and increase jobs for women. The share of women in employment was slightly lower in 2020 than what it was in 2019. The participating companies indicated that female employment opportunities were most affected by COVID-19.

Jobs for youth

Employment opportunities for young people are a key focus of our projects. In Rwanda, for example, we are generating enthusiasm among young people for the coffee sector, which is suffering from a rapidly ageing workforce. In Egypt, skills training for young people is tailored to the demand for skills in the IT sector.

Cocoa company in Liberia prepares for its first exports

Cocoa producers in Liberia are struggling with challenges in the value chain, low income, the Ebola crisis and now COVID-19. Recent armed conflicts have also affected the country. Despite this, cocoa company Monleh is determined to create a better future for women, young people and smallholders. The company wants to enter the European market and sell high-quality, sustainable cocoa. CEO Rachel Mulbah says that our coaching and training sessions on market opportunities, export requirements, quality improvement, marketing and certification have helped the company a lot. Through our support, Monleh has met with potential importers. Also, its cocoa has been selected to compete for the Cocoa of Excellence Award 2021. For Monleh, the future is looking bright.

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Total SMEs supported

As a consequence of the pandemic, we have made the switch to digital coaching. This allowed us to continue offering support to companies. In 2020, we helped 280 companies finalise their export marketing plan. A total of 144 SMEs achieved a satisfactory level of social responsibility practices (related to health and safety risks and environmental harm, for example).

Total exports

Of the companies that we supported in 2019 and 2020, 212 exported to Europe in 2020. The majority of those companies indicated that COVID-19 had a detrimental effect on exports. It particularly affected trade with Europe. Problems were posed not just by collapsing demand, but also by issues such as the physical barriers to reaching this market.


By the end of 2020, we had 32 projects in implementation. These were located in East Africa, West Africa and the Sahel, the MENA region, Asia, Central America (commissioned by DG DEVCO) and Eastern Europe (commissioned by DG NEAR). Another 14 projects were in development. 22 projects focused on agriculture, 13 on consumer goods (apparel, home decoration and home textiles), 10 on services (tourism and outsourcing) and 1 on industry (engineering).

Responding to COVID-19: Moldovan fashion company switches production focus

Moldova is ready to become an important supplier for fashion companies in Europe. In our project, we support Moldovan apparel companies with their exports. Womenswear producer PortaVita is one of the participants. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, demand from markets in Europe decreased significantly. Our experts helped PortaVita switch from producing womenswear to medical protection coats. This meant that PortaVita’s employees could keep their jobs. Most employees are women. PortaVita now produces 150,000 protection coats each month for Moldavan hospitals.

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Export enabling environment partners

We work with business support organisations and other partners in the export enabling environment. This includes governments, trade promotion organisations, export promotion agencies and sector associations.

Market Information

In 2020, the number of users of our market information rose by 33% compared to 2019. An estimated 260,000 owners and staff of companies and organisations in developing countries made use of the market information. We published several additional market studies in 2020 to help companies anticipate the opportunities and threats posed by COVID-19.

Web traffic

There was a marked increase in both the number of users of our website and the number of sessions (by 25% and 28% compared to 2019, respectively). This was aided in no small part by a large number of new market studies, webinars and social media campaigns and the improved findability in search engines. COVID-19 was another driver of the need for market information among our target audience.