The Business Year

KW23_EC_GBCK_ChristophSaager_PORTRAIT

KUWAIT - Economy

Christoph Saager

Vice Chairman, German Business Council of Kuwait

Bio

Christoph Saager joined Standardkessel Baumgarte Group (SBG) in 2009. After he graduated during his military career with an MBA from the University of the Federal Armed Forces in Hamburg, he served as military officer and a civil servant in various federal authorities, the Ministry of Defense, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs mainly in Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. His last employment was as first secretary in the German Embassy in Kuwait.

"We have changed considerably and were obliged to adapt to the new situation. No personal meetings were permitted during the pandemic."
The German Business Council of Kuwait has played an important role in the country, providing members with invaluable advice and networking activities as well as events and reports.
What was GBCK’s experience of the pandemic, and have you changed the way you conduct your activities?

We have changed considerably and were obliged to adapt to the new situation. No personal meetings were permitted during the pandemic. For us, this was our core means of communicating and sharing information with our members. We have set up a group on WhatsApp for German Business Council members to communicate the facts. In the early stages of COVID, there was a lot of conflicting information shared on social media, especially about the situation in Kuwait. We found an approach in which we focused on sharing the facts to the members. That was really an appreciated game changer for many members because at that time, many were operating on a day-to-day basis. There was just the visual side, and nobody knew what was going on or where we were headed. It has affected both the business and the private dimension of everyone’s life. Offices were closed, and home offices were established for the first time. We used video conferencing to host our events online, but we were looking forward to having them in-person again. Now, we are back to personal meetings after restrictions eased, but it gave us a lot of food for thought on how to communicate in the future.

Have you revised or changed the application process, allowing people and companies to join even though they are not from those countries?

Yes. In the beginning, we had a waiting list because of the limited space available for events held at the residences. The board then decided to focus on the quality of our services by focusing on a core membership with the added value of guests, depending on the topic of our business event. This enables us to be more flexible when it comes to venue changes and opens our doors to non-members that add and receive value from the event. With every new year, we review our membership process and events and adapt to the current situation. This has been even more the case since the pandemic.

Are there any particular plans and expectations for the German Business Council going forward into 22 in terms of enhancing its activities or changing the way you operate?

We all volunteer to sit on the board, which we do on top of our daily jobs. We will continue with our core program, the monthly “Stammtisch,” which is an informal get-together where everyone can join and the official business meeting for sponsors and members, which usually happens at the residence of the Ambassador. When inviting speakers, we will continue to focus on important topics and once a year, we attempt to realize a site visit to one of the more interesting projects in Kuwait. Just after the restrictions were lifted in 2021, we visited the new airport, which was interesting for our members, content and contact related. We would like to come back to this initiative in 2023. This is a popular event for the members and the diplomatic core alike. Overall, we try to offer a broad range of support to our members. Our improved set-up allows us to also be specific in response to demand. Usually when companies request information relating to Kuwait, such as customs clearances, set-up of offices or schools for their children, we allocate these questions and information to one of our (board) members in that particular sector. Furthermore, we keep our members up-to-date with reports and economic information as well as about business-related events. We work closely with the German, Austrian, and Swiss embassies and are well-connected to local organizations, which complements to the quality of services we offer.

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