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Creating and managing successful partnerships for IFI Projects

Introduction - The importance of partnering

Regional and local firms (defined as those within borrowing countries) win a substantial and increasing share of international financial institution (IFI) funded contracts. Partnering with local firms is therefore a critical success factor in winning IFI funded projects for several reasons:

More and more firms are establishing local companies or entering into joint ventures and other strategic alliances with active local partners to establish market presence and enhance their chances of winning IFI procurement. Increasingly, foreign firms are also now subcontracting to local firms. Subcontracting with international firms that have IFI experience enables a company to gain experience in a specific country and reduces the cost of responding to Expressions of Interest (EOIs) and Requests for Proposals (RFPs).

How to find a partner

Steps to finding a partner include profiling the ideal partner, searching for and identifying prospective partners, contacting, and meeting prospects, and assessing your preferred choice of partner.

Profiling the ideal partner

Decide what skills and experience you require and what traits are important to you. Examples of factors to consider include:

Searching for prospective partners

Contacting and meeting prospects

It is advised when meeting potential prospects that you try and schedule meetings to take place in their offices as this enables you to assess human resources, technical capabilities, etc.

Identify key decision makers and involve them early.

Make the most of your meetings by being prepared to ask a lot of questions as well as promote why this firm should want to partner with you (bring brochures, PPTs, etc. to highlight what you bring to the table). Remember that a good local partner will likely have many suitors.

Assessing the preferred partner

Once you have identified a firm that meets your criteria, undertake due diligence.

Most due diligence can be carried out through internet searches, inquiries to Embassies and High Commissions, etc. However, you can also hire firms to provide you with a more detailed background check on your potential partner.

Partnership arrangements

Partnering is used to describe strategic alliances, joint ventures, and teaming arrangements. Some arrangements will be one-off contract driven agreements, while others will be collaborations for longer periods of time.




Mitigating risks and tips to consider before committing to a partnership

In any relationship or partnership there may be a risk of disagreements or misunderstandings. These can be exacerbated by cross-cultural differences or time pressures. Companies must be aware of the reputational, financial, and legal risks involved in order to protect themselves when going abroad. While there are risks in partnerships, these can be managed. Be sure to fully assess the firms/individuals with whom you are considering a partnership. Once you have selected a firm, carry out due diligence and ensure that agreements and expectations are understood and communicated. Approach partnerships with something to offer rather than focusing simply on what you can gain.

Scope of work and deliverables, time frame and milestones, contract amount and payment terms and conditions of working together should all be clearly defined from the outset of any partnership agreement.

This could include discussions on:

You may also want to outline how you will handle conditions governing follow-on work with the client, and methods for resolving disagreements.

In discussions with potential partners during the Expressions of Interest (EOI) and Request for Proposal (RFP) stage, keep exclusivity in mind. IFIs have guidelines pertaining to local consultants / firms being included in more than one bid so you'll want to address this with your potential partner.


Creating and managing balanced and mutually beneficial partnerships for IFI projects is an essential factor for success in competing for IFI business. As regional and local firms win more and more IFI-funded contracts, the value of working with them goes beyond local knowledge and price competitiveness. From a long-term strategic perspective, it makes sense to work with those who are already positioned for success. Successfully identifying the skills and type of partners required, tapping into the above-mentioned resources, meeting potential partners in person and then carrying out thorough due diligence on the most suitable ones is worth the time and the financial resources required.

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