This last month SABA has been exceptionally busy expanding its network and influence on behalf of its members with governments across Africa and UK government departments such as the Department of International Trade and DFID.

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Meet Craig McLaren – Healthcare and Leadership Strategy Specialist


Executive Summary

Craig McLaren is a well-versed businessman who possesses an array of knowledge in healthcare infrastructure – logistics, supply chain – and business practice within Africa. Born in Scotland, raised in Zambia, and having lived for many years in the Middle-East, Craig has always valued and respected the diversity in peoples’ cultures and livelihoods. This understanding of these differences from a young age equipped him with the necessary skills to become Area Managing Director for Johnson and Johnson (J&J), encompassing Africa and the Middle-East. Craig has been influential in developing healthcare businesses in Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.

His extensive and expansive network across Africa, developed over his many years spent on the continent –  stronger in some versus others – means that he is probably a phone call away from a network connection who can link him with relevant people – commercially and at government level.

His key commercial networks exist through local distributors, J&J management in the countries mentioned above, industry trade associations he was instrumental in developing and at government level through their Ministries of Health.


Keynote achievements of his successful career include the collaboration with East & West Africa Colleges of Surgery for the establishment of dry skills labs for surgical skills training, a wet lab in Sharjah in UAE consisting of three-way cooperation between the UAE Ministry of Health, Sharjah University and J&J and the overall development of healthcare infrastructure across the Middle East and Africa. In addition, Craig prides himself in overcoming the grand challenge of bringing sense to the development of regulations across the region for medical devices but also to introduce a code of conduct to the industry and in particular to their distributor partners — ‘healthcare compliance.” This is now a set of standards aimed at stamping out unfair and corrupt practices and is a key requirement for Mecomed membership; a trade association Craig aided in developing during his tenure.


His 30+ year career is admirable not only in respect of the positive business impact he contributed to but also with regard to the promotion of successful corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives in many of these markets during his postings.


What did your work with J&J consist of?

His first posting with the company led him to manage a small office responsible for coordinating business opportunities between gulf countries. In 1997, Craig was promoted to become the Managing Director for the  Middle East for J&J which was responsible for the medical device and diagnostic business units.


Recognising his potential, Craig was then posted in Europe as a Vice president, where he was responsible for supporting 6 European Heads of business providing value propositions for e-business as well as spearheading the quality institute in EMEA.  During this time Craig enhanced his skills in communication, strategic planning and quality/business process improvement. His successes in this role equipped him to become an Area Managing Director responsible for the Middle-East and part of Southern Europe. Craig moved back to Dubai in 2010 and took on the responsibility of expanding J&J’s reach in African countries, together with expanding the business hub to manage Turkey, Middle East and Pakistan. He was tasked to devise a regional structure for the 6 operating companies under his wing. With this monumental task, Craig was sure to take divergent approaches between the Middle-East, Africa, Europe and Asia as they require “completely different market strategies due to the massive difference in healthcare spending between the regions.” Under J&J, Craig swiftly moved on to maintain numerous senior-level positions in emerging markets as well as in Europe. In total, Craig managed 14 business units for J&J across 80 different countries in his role as Area Managing Director with responsibility for Turkey, Middle East and Africa.


What was your biggest challenge in operating businesses in Africa and the Middle-east?

When doing business across regions, Craig finds it pertinent to understand local cultural nuances. “You cannot lump all of Francophone Africa into one. The Maghreb region, for example, has several cultural challenges between themselves which are important to address in a market appropriate way. You’re working environment and your team will not succeed and get along if you are unaware of how these cultures interact with one another.” To address these differences, Craig shifted his strategy in Africa to segment it not simply by country but further through distinguishing between rural and urban areas.


Additionally, culture can also be seen as the behavioural style of companies in the region. This can be influenced and shaped by a focused recruitment strategy so that the right profile of individuals joining will positively impact the local company cultures. Approaching his business strategies this way allowed Craig to successfully impact J&J’s presence in 80 countries between the continents.


How would you describe your engagement with the government? What were your challenges in this regard? Do you have any best practices advice?

Engaging with as many governments and key stakeholders as possible is crucial to the success of your businesses in Africa, but the key is deciphering who holds influence and the power of decision making in each market/country. One of the challenges becomes being able to understand and address the needs of the country and government you are doing business with so you can match your value proposition accordingly.


“From a J&J perspective we divided Africa into the relevance of size, opportunity and market need which allowed us to make meaningful contributions in the major focus markets we worked in; these consisted of Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa”. One of the challenges with government whilst working in the healthcare sector is making it clear that you are a business and not a charity, however with the narrative and intention of doing business within a country for a long period time, corporate social responsibility kicks in and addresses some of the major concerns and needs a nation would face such as healthcare professional’s training and other infrastructure requirements.


Craig engaged with various senior healthcare stakeholders and heads of peer healthcare organisations to better recognise the gaps in the market and the major issues of concern for the industry. In the process of doing this Craig helped to establish Mecomed, a healthcare technology trade association covering the MENA (Middle-East and North Africa) region. Mecomedhas now become the primary communication conduit for multinationals in dealing with government stakeholders, such as regulators.


What was your greatest challenge working with healthcare in Africa?

“Policy and healthcare compliance.” Working in Africa has its challenges and at J&J, the company prides itself in the responsibility it takes over its business partners and distributors. “In my early years the markets in Africa were only accessed via local distributors and so the real intimacy with customers was very remote. Additionally, there was no real control over the distributor, the quality of their reps etc.”


J&J have high compliance standards, meaning every employee and engagement is considered to be an extension of the company itself; thus, there is no room for leniency with regard to ethics and standards of behaviour when dealing with the local business challenges. “When I left, we had a clear set of values and vision for the businesses, for our customers and the communities we serviced locally through locally based partners as distributors.” Craig also paired these local distributors together with locally-based J&J managers in Africa to bring extra support to the distributors but also to manage key relationships with healthcare professionals, institutions and other key stakeholders.


The key was aligning all intermediaries to the same goals, as they were in effect an extension of our brand on the ground. The biggest impacts were in Egypt and East Africa. In addition, all markets are at a different place in their evolution and the set of challenges are often different. South Africa, for example, has a very developed and sophisticated private healthcare market where skill and capacity is good but access is limited. The accessible market in South Africa — the public sector — is underdeveloped and underfunded and therefore the relative difference in the quality of life and care varies dramatically between private and public.


The other common challenge across the continent is access to health in rural versus urban areas ( e.g. primary care for basic needs such as inoculations). The overwhelming need across the continent is for resources, but the resource most needed and often underserved is in the number of and the capability of healthcare professionals. So, training and numbers are the real issues, with infrastructure needs coming next.


What do you say to the narrative that working in Africa is more effort than it is worth?

“This is a terrible preconception, and those that believe it simply do not understand Africa and the opportunity it presents.” Craig finds that investing in Africa is a long-term plan and opportunity. The West sees the continent as having a slow return on investment and lose patience, however, China sees it otherwise and have gained a foothold on the continent. “You can create real sustainable value in Africa and SABA sees this opportunity.” Craig also personally believes that the world has benefited from taking the most precious of resources from Africa and they should ‘wake up’ to their responsibility to invest in and aid in the continent to a more sustainable progression of economic development.


What community impact did you have on the regions you work with? A community can be defined as both government and people.

When doing business in Africa, it is crucial to know your intentions; are your interests long term or short-term? Where your intentions are long-term, a good CSR strategy for local communities is crucial to the success of your business because not only does this gain goodwill with authorities but the impact on the community and your brand is unmeasurable.


J&J’s CSR work contributed to the development of the healthcare sector in terms of healthcare capacity and capability, which in turn comes full circle in aiding the success of the company in the long run. Craig lobbied for the establishment of several partnerships between J&J and local teaching hospitals. As mentioned previously, this consists of the creation of ‘dry labs’ for on-site simulation training of medical professionals’ skills in Kenya, Ghana and South Africa. “We also opened a wet lab facility in Sharjah, UAE with a faculty that also involved surgeons from Africa, so that the more advanced surgical techniques could be taught.” At its core, reinvesting in the community, especially in the healthcare sector benefits the progression and expansion of the sector as a whole.


In terms of ‘government/trade-specific community,’ the biggest was Mecomed which was a concept to bring the benefits of an industry voice for medical technology manufacturers to the emerging markets of the Middle East and Africa, and in particular with their regulators (the model for us was Eucomed, the trade association in Europe for medical technology). This now saves every company from the duplication of effort and it means that the same messages are received by all at the same time.

Initially, Mecomed was founded by 6 regional business heads and it now represents over 35 organisations — approximately 80% of the industry. The early focus was on the Middle East and North Africa, but now their reach extends to Sub Sharan Africa.


What do you do now?

Craig is a Non-Executive Director, Trustee, Business Advisor and Executive Coach. He is now responsible for assessing, managing and developing business strategy, strategic thinking, employee engagement and the effectiveness of teams for small and medium-sized businesses in his capacity as a business advisor. Craig is passionate about teams and culture development in organisations. “Where there is a good business culture in a team or organisation, you can execute strategy much more effectively.”


How and why are you involved with SABA? What is your hope for SABA?

Craig was approached by the Chairman, John Paterson to join the board of SABA during its conception. Getting involved with an organisation like SABA wasn’t ever a question as it combines his two geographic passions — Scotland and Africa under one roof. He also knew John from many moons ago when they were both residents in Dubai and had often discussed the challenges facing Africa. “I hope SABA grows into the African market and becomes a trusted partner to connect needs and opportunities with services and solutions between Africa and Scotland.  SABA’s potential to be a major connector in the investment facilitation process is vast.” Craig’s expertise in healthcare and regional management makes him a valued board member, this Global Scot is a major asset to SABA and its network.

Meet Roger Mullin — Technical and Vocational Education and Training Specialist


Executive Summary

Roger Mullin has engaged with numerous International Organisations such as UN agencies, SADC, the World Bank and individual governments throughout his career. This former Scottish MP is an Honorary Professor at Stirling University and has a diverse set of expertise where designing and running Technical and Vocational Education and Training Programs (TVET) is merely just a slither of what he is well versed in. Roger has spent 40 years promoting and implementing successful TVET programs across Scotland and Africa. His ability to navigate the different educational dynamics has equipped him with skills that set him apart from the rest. Coupled with his Humanitarian expertise with the Revive Campaign working on de-mining warzones, Roger is familiar with the many cultures and landscapes the African continent has to offer. Roger Mullin has experienced a renowned career that is impossible to cover in one piece of writing. Here we will explore Roger’s TVET experience and impact in Scotland and Africa. Throughout Roger’s career there exists a large degree of overlap of positions and projects that truly speak to his capacity and efficient understanding of his roles.


How did you first get involved in education?

Roger first entered the education scene in the late 1970s tutoring at The Open University and the University of Edinburgh and was appointed as a Head of Department at Stevenson College by the mid 1980s. Roger became more involved with Scottish policy for different Vocational training programs as he noticed the growing demand for effective vocational education, particularly for our youth. Roger then left his position and started his own research and consultancy firm where he worked with various educational bodies across the UK assessing the weaknesses in current vocational schemes. Roger was an advisorfor the National Council for Vocational Qualifications and wrote a paper for them critiquing the assessment process in competence based qualifications. He has consistently worked in his various capacities to reform vocational qualification schemes across the UK.


How did you get involved with TVET schemes in Africa?

Roger’s first project in Africa in 1992 consisted of reviewing the fishery sector in Namibia in partnership with a Scottish fisheries consultant. Following their report, the government invested in the first fishery college Namibia had ever seen — the Namibian Maritime and Fisheries Institute. This recommendation was based off one of Roger’s key philosophies of building the institutional capacity of a nation. “There can be no success where a company or organisation comes in, does the job and leaves. You need to build and transfer knowledge to the community; that is how effective change occurs.”


From Namibia where did you go and how did you get these projects?

Anyone working in Africa knows the power of word of mouth. Once the South African government heard about the work Roger was undertaking in Namibia they requested him to assess how to develop their staff at the Quintiles Science Park in Pretoria. Roger also worked with Icelandic colleagues in developing a fisheries and capacity building strategy for the Southern African Development Community (SADC, a group of 15 countries) to refresh its fishery approach and practice. As his reputation grew so did the demand for his expert services.


How did you get involved with International Organisations like the UN and Food and Agricultural Organisation?

“Word of mouth and the ability to respect and understand culture.” Roger attained his projects with the FAO, UNDP and the World Bank simply via word of mouth. “Building rapport is vital. It is important to engage with people as individuals at a human level. There must be respect and understanding of the other’s culture and the way in which they do business.” In one of the best of instances where Roger really engaged with his peers, he ended up being the best man at one gentleman’s wedding. “Once you build that initial relationship, then you may use your expertise objectively.” If you fail to build effective personal relationships, Roger believes you make doing business much more difficult.


Building rapport and being culturally aware is crucial to doing business in Africa and accomplishing your goals. What other advice would you give someone looking to make an impact on the continent?

Roger asserts that where one looks to make an impact and advise on any program — TVET or otherwise — the goal is not to write the report on the way there. It is impossible to make worthwhile change where one lands on the scene believing one knows all the answers and thereby fails to listen and learn. Often one’s perception of a situation from the outside becomes radically different once you step on the ground. “One shoe does not fit all, so we cannot expect to transfer knowledge effectively to different communities unless we adapt to local cultural norms.” Being open, understanding and a good listener are the main tools one needs to invoke when doing business and thereby importing change upon the continent.


You have spoken a lot about reform in Vocational Training, can you provide an example of some the reform you introduced in Scotland and abroad?

In 2001, Roger worked as an advisor to Scottish Parliament for its inquiry into Lifelong Learning. In 2011 to 2013 he was a special advisor to Cabinet Secretary Michael Russell working on the reform of the college sector in Scotland with a focus on Vocational Qualifications. He was responsible for the initiative behind merging numerous Scottish Colleges into larger regional colleges. For example, Roger helped facilitate the creation of Ayrshire College by merging Ayr College, Kilmarnock College and James Watt College. This change in the college system was needed to develop vocational education approaches to serve all of the people of Scotland. Roger’s achievements abroad may be seen most notably in the early research and subsequent recommendations to government that led to the creation of the Namibian Maritime and Fisheries Institutein 1996.


Education has always been at the forefront of your projects and policies. Can you please explain how you incorporated this into your work with the Revive Campaign?

The Revive Campaign works to encourage governments affected by landmines and improvised explosive devices to address the needs of victims.  In 2016 while a Member of Parliament, Roger was invited to address an annual United Nations meeting in Geneva where he argued for more political priority to be given to the humanitarian consequences of explosive weapons such as landmines and IEDs. In November 2019 , Roger attended a three day conference in South Africa considering the needs of Angola as it continues to seek to remove landmines.  He was one of only two delegates specifically invited to address the humanitarian consequences of landmines and IEDs.


How and why did you get involved with SABA?

Roger was running a session at the Institute of Directors in Edinburgh discussing the opportunity to trade with Africa almost two years ago where SABA’s CEO, Frazer Lang was in attendance and the rest as they say is history. The two shared a mutual interest in trading in and with Africa and have since worked together with the High Commissioner to Namibia, Ms Linda Scott. Roger has proceeded to work with the High Commissioner and Namibia generally following the Namibia Heads of Mission meeting SABA hosted in November 2019. Roger has sought to assist the High Commissionin identifying sources of PPE equipment for Namibia during the Covid-19 pandemic. As always, Roger has maintained a great connection with the High Commissioner and looks forward to pursing further relationships and projects with SABA.

Meet James Crawford — Energy & Local Content Specialist

Executive Summary

James Crawford is a profound international mind whose expertise goes beyond Oil and Gas operation and maintenance. His experience working for conglomerates such as Marathon Oil and Wood Group PSN in Directorial positions within the African continent in the last 30 years has equipped James with the skill set and tenacity to do business across Africa. As the Regional Vice President for Marathon Oil in Equatorial New Guinea and Managing director for Wood Group PSN’s UK and Africa business, James has influenced the development of the Oil and Gas sector as a whole — from promoting local content laws to introducing new labour laws that protect industry professionals in the 16 different countries he directly worked with. He is currently the Managing Director for Kuro — a global consultancy company whose expertise delivers services across a wide range of disciplines and industries.


Who is James Crawford?

James Crawford truly is a GlobalScot not only by virtue of title but by virtue of his worldly experiences that could make the most adventurous of lifestyles seem mundane.  James was raised in Lesotho and Sudan and has never lost his connection with the lifestyle, culture and experiences Africa had ingrained in him. Whilst a Scotsman by birth, James carries the heart of Africa within him. His established career and an incredible degree of work experience has not been inspired by fame and fortune but rather respect and understanding for a region he once called home. James’ familial connection with Africa drew him back towards the continent at the first opportunity he saw working for Wood PSN as the Managing Director for Africa. His respect for his former home may be easily visualised through his expansive industry and community work throughout his career.


Over his 30 years of experience working with less developed countries with Marathon Oil and Wood Group PSN, James has held senior managerial positions throughout his career as Regional Vice President for Marathon Oil in Equatorial Guinea, President of the Asset Solutions Business Unit for the Europe business and Managing Director for Wood Group PSN’s UK and Africa business. James’ career has encompassed the most trying times for the African content whilst working in Equatorial Guinea during the Ebola epidemic, with several states during the Global Financial Crisis as well as working through Civil Wars in a number of countries.


James has personally worked with 16 different African countries each presenting their own unique opportunities and challenges. His experience with government at every level is truly something to respect and admire. James pioneered numerous initiatives alongside his projects that improved and promoted the welfare of the local communities. He aided the development of local content laws and new business practices such as “shift patterns” in Cameroon. In addition to introducing new “ways of working” in the country, James played a key role in implementing labour laws protected his employees and accordingly influenced labour law reform.  James managed a 1200 person team in Chad, where skilled labour is typically scarce. The success in this posting didn’t only lie in the successful running of the Oil field but in the upskilling of the workforce were the most extravagant job title at the time was a local farmer. To see the progression of the workforce from “ farmers to crane operators was truly rewarding.” James’ contributions to society did not end with promoting legal change as he started numerous projects with the Wood Group that resulted in building small schools, partnering with charities to build orphanages and supplying communities with basic necessities like bedding and housing supplies. Whilst doing business has its knock-on effect of stimulating the economy, improving household wealth and technical knowledge, James understands that it doesn’t hurt to do more. These acts of kindness have attributed to the remarkable reputation James has acquired across the continent with communities and officials.


As a passionate African at heart, James truly understands, respects and admires the working environment the continent provides. He strongly maintains the philosophy that the risk of working in Africa is overstated and many of these perceived risks can be easily mitigated via building your network with experienced business professionals in the UK such as James himself and with local government, conducting hefty research prior to setting up your business and always being culturally aware of where you are. James stresses the importance of being open-minded and embracing the culture you expect to do business with. He insists that you “remember, you are not in Scotland, the rules here are different.”


The key to starting a successful business on the continent lies in your morals, transparency and your “apolitical” nature. James finds that those who fail to do business in Africa stumble at one of these hurdles. Through his decades of experience, James cannot stress enough how advantageous it is to be transparent and honest from the start in your dealings on the continent. By doing this from the onset the perception of you and your business by the community and the government is one of utmost professionalism which contributes significantly to the mitigation of risks during the course of business. Having engaged with a myriad of cultures and emphasising that each country has something different to offer; James maintains that transparency and honesty are welcomed across the board. There is no alternative and there is no better or easier way of doing business.


From living in warzones to more stable African countries, James welcomes the excitement the continent offers. His expertise in maintaining successful businesses in different regions speaks to the overall legal stability the continent offers. James has joined the SABA team as a board member for very similar reasons as to why he chose to work with Africa from the inception of his career. James loves to help companies grow and succeed just as much as he enjoys the impact successful business has on the livelihood of its employees.  Through his work with SABA, James hopes to continue to promote successful business opportunities in the Energy sector across the continent. He believes that despite the popular narrative, the skills and talent available across the continent are admirable and worthwhile and his evidence to support this claim lies in his successful career. SABA looks forward to working with James and his network to facilitate the success of Scottish business in Africa.


As almost every aspect of life has changed over the last few months, the same can be said for SABA. Covid-19 and the global halt of international travel have severely impacted our scheduled meetings and events for the year;

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This week was a fabulous tour showcasing Scotland’s maritime capabilities to Kenya’s Principal Secretary for Shipping & Maritime and Chairman of Bandari Maritime College in Mombasa. We met with Peterhead Fish Market, Maritime Scotland, Scottish Maritime College

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Our chairman John Paterson spoke recently in Nairobi at the LIWA Programme Trust Conference “Fostering Industry-Academia Linkages to Deliver Work, Ready Graduates”. The conference was attended by a number of senior government ministers as well as senior aca#demia and industry representatives.

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SABA has been invited to attend the UK governments flagship UK-Africa Investment Summit 2020. It will be opened by the UK Prime Minister and attended by a number of African heads of state. There will be a number of key side events in which SABA will be involved and also unique opportunities to meet some very senior African government and business figures.

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SABA is pleased to be supporting the FCO, Department for International Trade (DIT) and the Department for International Development (DfID) around the UK Governments’ UK – African Investment Summit taking place in January, with an emphasis on the inclusion of Scottish companies and institutions. As well as the main Summit on January 20th there will be a series of sector focussed satellite events which we will be distributed to our members.

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SABA is absolutely delighted to be partnering with the new Africa Scotland Business Network (ASBN) based in Cape Town. In their own words: The Africa Scotland Business Network is a Scottish diasporic business network of highly skilled business people and companies based in Africa.

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