One of the key areas of focus of Adrian Borg, International Business Development Manager of HandsOn Systems, is to expand the company’s operations in the African continent. With Ghana hosting the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which started trading on 1 January 2021, HandsOn sees the country as a gateway not just to the Western region but to the entire continent.
Late last year, a delegation from HandsOn Systems, led by the company chairman Anthony De Bono, paid a courtesy call on the Deputy High Commissioner of Ghana in Malta, Ag. Head of Mission, Mr Amanor T. Daku Mante. HandsOn Systems international business development manager Adrian Borg, who attended the meeting, along with CEO Geoffrey Farrugia, described the meeting as fruitful and interesting.
“It is important to network with the diplomatic representatives of the countries in which we are operating since they can give us insight on how business can develop, and build contacts in both the public and private sectors, helping us to infiltrate the country in the most seamless and effective manner,” Mr Borg said. “The term of the previous High Commissioner came to an end last November and Mr Amanor T. Daku-Mante is acting as the Head of Mission, pending the arrival of a successor.”
During the highly cordial meeting, the Maltese government’s initiatives to develop trade relations with Ghana were discussed, especially in view of the establishment of a subsidiary of HandsOn Systems in Ghana in 2018. Ag. Head of Mission, Mr Amanor T. Daku-Mante and his team showed great interest in the company’s initiatives and its technology, which it is already deploying in the country, and expressed a willingness to help the company with key introductions and overall support.
Although the primary focus in West Africa is Ghana, HandsOn Systems’ strategy is to use Ghana as a stepping-stone to other countries in the region, including Benin, Togo, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast. “Ghana is considered one of the most stable and the point of departure for this region from a business perspective,” Mr Borg said.
The African Continental Free Trade Area, founded in 2018, already has 54 of the 55 African Union members as signatories. The free trade area is the largest in the world in terms of the number of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organisation.
The agreement initially requires AfCFTA members to remove tariffs from 90% of goods, allowing free access to commodities, goods and services across the continent. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimates that the agreement will boost intra-African trade by 52 per cent by 2022.
Mr Borg is in daily contact with the team in the Ghana subsidiary, headed by a manager and including a technician and a support executive. “What I have managed to do since I joined HandsOn Systems last May is to start growing a network of partners who have the contacts and have developed the clientele in these countries, enabling us to go to them with our technology.
“We are constantly on the look-out for companies operating in these countries. We set up meetings with them, create partnership agreements with our products and they themselves will be able to open certain doors for our technology which they did not offer previously. For them, these become part of the products, services and solutions they offer to grow their business, at the end of the day,” he said.
Mr Borg has so far concluded three partner agreements with companies with a market reach outside Ghana in the countries in the region. “Our strategy after this period was to review our products and see what industrial sectors fit those products. We produced a matrix with the various sectors, like agriculture and automotive, to address these types of industry with our products and services.
“We are sowing the seeds so that in the future we will be able to harvest the fruit. I believe in this strongly. I believe in the growth that is possible with our people. They are a young, dynamic team, motivated and enthusiastic. We have to keep them that way. My days are spent reaching out to them and offering them all the support I can.”
He would like to travel to Ghana to meet these partners and the staff in person, but the pandemic has ruled that out. A trip has been scheduled for this year but so much depends on connectivity since many airports are closed and he would not want to get stranded anywhere. Any visit would build on those in the past both by the company’s chairman and the CEO, who were assisted in the country by Malta’s High Commissioner Jean Claude Galea Mallia.
Mr Borg singled out Mr De Bono as being a highly influential catalyst in building the business in Ghana. “He has huge contacts with the President, King of the Ashanti Region, the government as well as with certain entities and highly important personalities in that country. He was hugely influential in this area and helped me personally a great deal by giving me crucial information on how to conduct business in the region.
“Mr De Bono is a person I look up to. He is a big asset to the company, and I consider him a big asset to myself. I try to get as much information as I can from him. You always learn from people with experience.”
Because of the nature of the job, Mr Borg, 44, works long hours – also because sometimes virtual business meetings have to be held late in the evening. Still, he strives to achieve a balance between his work and family life. After graduating in general and industrial electronics from the Fellenberg Institute, he obtained a B.Sc. in IT from the University of Malta and an MBA in Business Management, which he did part time while he was working.
He has always worked around systems administration, management, operations and business development in the private sector and focused on gaining experience in these areas – both technical and commercial. He spent the last 10 years before joining HandsOn Systems with the Malta Football Association.
The first quarter of 2021 looks highly promising, with the adjudication of various tenders in the markets where HandsOn Systems is active. In Ghana, two large projects, one with a leading bank and the other with an electricity provider of the country, will be announced for the deployment of HandsOn Fleet, the company’s GPS tracking and fleet management solution.
“We will continue to work hard to try and diversify. Hopefully, it will be a better year than 2020 and we will see the growth we are targeting. Our projections are that the growth will be achieved, if not exceeded,” he said.