A study by the Conference Board of Canada found that small (and medium) sized enterprises owned by recent immigrants to Canada, are more likely to export, and they are also among the fastest-growing SMEs. This series highlights some of their stories.
After five years of exporting equipment from Canada to his native country of Mali, Sory Sacko says his proudest accomplishment is being known among his clients in Africa as an ambassador for Canada.
“Last week, I was in discussions with a Turkish company that is building a Sheraton Hotel in Mali and they called us Canadian ambassadors,” said Sacko, who has an IT diploma from Université de Saint Boniface and an MBA from Athabasca University in Alberta. “I’m proud to be identified as a Canadian because people think Canadians do a really good job.”
Sacko is the executive vice-president of Saint-Boniface Sound & Lights Ltd., a company that provides equipment and service to its clients in Central West Africa. As the exclusive distributor for Advance Pro Canada, its products include audio-visual equipment, such as audio and video conferencing solutions for boardrooms, screens and audio equipment for conferences, multimedia screens for marketing purposes, and security technology (e.g. security video systems, X-ray machines and metal detectors).
As a one-stop shop, Saint-Boniface Sound & Lights first consults with its West African clients on their specific needs, then designs and programs systems here in Canada, which it then ships out. On the ground in Africa, it installs and maintains the equipment and trains its clients’ staff on how to use the equipment.
EDC resources to help you export
Currently, it exports to Mali, where Sacko and his partner, Amadou M. Diop, were born, as well as Senegal, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire.
With French as their native language, the company’s principals are actively exploring opportunities in Guinea, Niger, Togo and Benin.
Clients include government agencies, non-governmental organizations, top hotels (including the Radisson and Sheraton chains), foreign embassies based in Africa, United Nations missions in Africa and banks.
Over the past five years, sales have grown by 700 per cent. Staying connected to Mali was part of Sacko’s plan, even as far back as when he came to Canada to study.
“That was always on my mind when I came to Canada, because things are so much better here,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking about the business side. I was thinking about getting expertise here to improve lives in Mali, but I ended up in business.”
Once he knew he wanted to stay in Canada and do business in Mali, exporting was immediately the only business plan and he advises other recent immigrants who are here to study to choose a subject that they can take back, in one way or another, to their native country. He has since received support from Export Development Canada and the Trade Commissioner’s Service, both of which he highly recommends for other business-minded immigrants.