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125 years of
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125 years promoting entrepreneurial success in foreign markets

World market leaders, top global exporters and hidden champions: German companies are so successful primarily because their products and services are in demand worldwide. The German Chambers of Commerce Abroad help to transform national into international success. They build bridges, facilitate access, provide contacts and solve problems. They are the #PartnerWorldwide – for companies, willing to expand their business activities abroad or which have already established their international presence decades ago. In 140 locations in 92 countries.

Market development

The AHKs take companies into foreign markets

Let's go overseas!

From Hambühren to the rest of the world: Lizi Alexander-Christiansen and her company Chriwa have expanded to Central and South America with the help of the German Chambers of Commerce Abroad, even though there were a few challenges to overcome.

How the AHK network supports companies as they expand their business activities in Germany and in their host country

Exploring the German market

Exploring the German market

AHKs offer a free initial consultancy to provide companies with information to evaluate the market potential for their products. Beyond the initial support AHKs can also provide customised information and organise delegation trips to Germany.

Finding business partners

Finding business partners

Thanks to their business network and the strong ties with the Chambers of Industry and Commerce in Germany (IHKs), AHK experts can help to establish contact with potential partners in Germany.

Setting up in Germany

Setting up in Germany

AHK experts are first point of contact for companies seeking to expand their business activities towards Germany. Through their partner Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI) the AHKs support companies to identify the right business location and to facilitate the settlement in Germany, such as solving visa issues.

Participating at trade fairs

Participating at trade fairs

Germany is #1 when it comes to trade fairs. The AHKs act as official representative for selected trade fairs in Germany and offer services for international visitors and exhibitors.

Recruiting staff

Recruiting staff

If companies are to succeed abroad, they will need qualified employees, if possible bilingual and with international work experience. AHKs are familiar with the local employment markets and can tap on their own network of contacts to help companies recruit suitable staff.

Vocational education and training

Vocational education and training

Germany is known for its hands-on dual education system, which combines practical training in a company with the complementing curriculum of a vocational college. Following a common high-level quality standard, AHKs offer services, filling the gap of skilled employees in their host countries.

125 years of the AHKs

The AHKs have continuously evolved

The milestones in the
history of the AHKs

“Our work methods have changed”

In her interview Maren Diale-Schellschmidt speaks about how the work of a Chamber of Commerce Abroad has changed and why cultural nuances are an important factor to be considered.

Maren Diale-Schellschmidt

Maren Diale-Schellschmidt

Delegate of German Industry in Nairobi, Kenya (AHK Kenya)

You have been head of the AHK in Nairobi since 2016. How has the location developed since then?

Maren Diale-Schellschmidt

Very well – German companies are expanding more and more into African markets. We look after not just Kenya, but the entire East Africa region. The office opened in Nairobi in 2012 with two employees. When I arrived in 2016, that number had already increased to ten, and now there are 25 of us. We are close to the companies here, in a very dynamic environment. For me personally, it is a very satisfying and exciting work.

What role does the AHK play in Kenya?

We are primarily point of contact for German companies, providing market information and facilitating business ties. However, we are also familiar with the linguistic and cultural subtleties. These are often more crucial than you think. For example, people address each other by their first name here in Kenya – this often confuses Germans at first. The style of communication is not as direct as in Germany either, so tactfulness is needed.

Do you mostly work alone or with other organisations, too?

We have partnerships with embassies, vocational and educational organisations, local and German ministries, chambers of commerce and other business associations. An example of our partnership with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the German agency for international co-operation, is the “ExpertTS” programme: The staff are employed at the AHK and co-funded by the GIZ. They aim to strengthen the links between entrepreneurial involvement and development work.

Wir haben ganz klein angefangen

You have worked at various AHK locations since 1996, such as in South Africa, the Balkans and the Baltic region. How has your work changed since then?

The issues for companies have barely changed: They are looking for new markets, need market information and want to find business partners. However, our own work methods have changed significantly: Fast electronic communication across continents means that the AHKs within the network work together much more closely than they used to. We share experiences and ideas about important industries and specific issues – for instance in the area of environmental technologies and in vocational training. A recent example of interregional co-operation is our active targeting of start-ups to involve them in the work of the AHKs.

How do you work with the start-ups?

In Kenya, our work with young companies has become very important. There are many attractive start-ups here, particularly in the areas of fintech, medical technology and recycling. We help them to internationalise and we connect them with German companies. Both sides welcome it. Last year, 50 representatives from start-ups at 22 AHK locations travelled to Germany to meet companies, investors and start-ups.

Local support

The AHKs offer companies concrete assistance

A head start in Japan

From Monheim am Rhein to Tokyo – The software developer EPLAN has successfully entered the Japanese market with the support of the AHK in Tokyo.

Carsten Metelmann

“The AHK offers a forum enabling us to achieve more than we could operating on our own.”

Carsten Metelmann,
Vice President International Sales at EPLAN
EPLAN

Software solutions for mechanical and plant engineering – these types of highly specialised products require explanation, advice and close cooperation with customers at a local level. To pull all of that off in a foreign culture requires tact and sensitivity. The software company EPLAN, which is part of the Friedhelm Loh Group, took the plunge into the particularly important Japanese market in 2011, with the aim of establishing a sales presence there. “In Japan, trustworthiness is key. For that, the environment in which you present yourself as a company is critical,” says Carsten Metelmann, Vice President International Sales at EPLAN. For its first two years, EPLAN therefore used an “incubator office” on the premises of the AHK in Tokyo, where it benefited from the chamber’s infrastructure as well as advice from its management team.

Tokio

“Thanks to the AHK we immediately had a strong presence, even though we only had two local employees. The AHK’s expert insight into the Japanese market was also important for us,” says Metelmann. This was particularly critical for discussions with major Japanese companies. It enabled EPLAN to generate orders even though it didn’t yet have a branch in the country. The medium-sized enterprise now has 15 employees in three offices in Japan. And it has a working relationship of many years’ standing with the AHK Tokyo, remarks Metelmann, “We regularly share what we have learned at chamber events. The AHK offers a forum enabling us to achieve more than we could operating on our own.”

Mechatronics apprentices for North America

Brose has trained mechatronics apprentices in the USA since 2013. Together with the state of Michigan and the local AHK, this automotive supplier has developed a vocational education and training programme here, based on the German model. Brose has around 26,000 employees worldwide and 5,600 of them in the USA, Canada and Mexico.

Arnd Herwig

Arnd Herwig

Vice President Development at Brose North America, Inc. and member of the board of the Michigan chapter of the AHK USA-Chicago.

Mr Herwig, why did you establish your own training programme in the USA?

Arnd Herwig

We had enjoyed strong growth in the USA and were experiencing difficulties recruiting qualified employees. In the United States, there are no binding quality standards for vocational training equivalent of the certifications of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry (IHKs) in Germany. We therefore looked for ways to adapt the dual model that we know from Germany for the American market.

What sort of response has that met with?

The model has been a success. At the start in 2013, we had four apprentices at Brose North America, and now we have 18. And most of them stay with our company after completing their training. Our training concept motivates our apprentices, but also their colleagues who now have the opportunity to pass on their expertise to the next generation.

Wir haben ganz klein angefangen

How did the AHK support you with this initiative?

The AHK in Chicago supported and advised us right from the start. The German IHKs are also an important partner in the area of quality assurance. It is not possible to translate the German concept on a one-to-one basis. For instance, there are no vocational colleges in the USA, so we work with local community colleges. The AHK’s portfolio of vocational education and training services has been expanded and includes the development of curricula and a “train the trainers” programme for companies’ training supervisors.

How companies benefit from the network

Events

Events

Every AHK regularly carries out market-specific conferences and networking events. For companies, these are good opportunities for both strengthening existing contacts and creating new ones. Additionally, they have the chance to stay informed about the latest developments in the country.

Delegations from Germany

Delegations from Germany

AHKs regularly host delegations from Germany. Being part of the AHK member network helps to stay up-to-date about and to establish contacts with visiting companies and organisations from various industries as well as scientific researchers and policy makers from Germany.

Working groups and committees

Working groups and committees

Through the AHK working groups and committees, companies take part in shaping the work of their local AHK, planning initiatives and discussing the current situation in the country. Resolutions and findings are used as starting point to discuss with policy-makers and authorities.

Advocacy

The AHK network strengthens the position of companies

What about when things go wrong?

The role of AHKs is not limited to providing assistance to companies when everything is going smoothly. They are also there to support whenever there is a need to overcome obstacles, whether large or small.

Achieving more together

Medeja Lončar is the head of Siemens in Slovenia and Croatia. She is active in both countries’ AHKs on behalf of her company.

Siemens

A dialogue with local industry and representatives from the world of politics is essential for Siemens in Slovenia. “Two things are crucial: the transfer of knowledge from Germany to Slovenia, particularly in the fields of Industry 4.0 and automation. And further economic progress for the country,” says Medeja Lončar, who serves as the president of the supervisory committee of AHK Slovenia and is also a member of the board of AHK Croatia. She emphasises, “One-fifth of Slovenian exports go to Germany. So, exporters need to know about the precise state of the German economy.”

Ljubljana

For this reason, Siemens closely cooperates with the AHK in Ljubljana. In collaboration with its member companies, the AHK sensitises government representatives and leading business figures on future topics. They also work together to organise trade conferences as well as workshops and training courses, focusing on competences in industry 4.0 among others. For this global company, Lončar can only see benefits from this sort of involvement “We strengthen our position by working with other companies under the umbrella of the AHK.” What is good for small and medium-sized enterprises also provides benefits for Siemens.

“German Chambers of Commerce Abroad are of inestimable value”

The German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) funds approximately one fifth of the work of the German Chambers of Commerce Abroad. Member of Parliament Andreas Mattfeldt (CDU - Christian Democratic Union party) and budget rapporteur to the BMWi elaborates on how companies, the government and politicians benefit from the work of the chambers.

Bernhard Steinrücke

“Through the German Chambers of Commerce Abroad, we build trust, a network of companies and connect entire economic areas.”

Bernhard Steinrücke, AHK World Speaker