AHK Annual Report 2016: German Export Record – AHKs as the driving force for German foreign trade


47,900 members, 4,800 events, more than 700 delegation trips: The global network of the German Chambers of Commerce Abroad (AHKs) with more than 130 locations in more than 90 countries once again constituted a stable factor for the high export surpluses of the Federal Republic of Germany. German companies achieved a new export record in the previous year, which demonstrates and underlines the important role of German foreign trade.

“The AHKs are competent service providers, strong networks, and trustworthy representatives of the interests of trade and industry. Together with the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi), we were able to further strengthen the network in 2016,” summarized Dr Eric Schweitzer President of the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK). The first joint annual report of the AHKs provides an insight into the network and gives an internal and external overview of the achievements of the past year, comprising 1,900 employees as well as the 47,900 members.

Membership – providing a wide and varied range of attractive services for businesses of all sizes

The membership total of nearly 47,900 in the world-wide AHK network confirms that even in this era of increasing digital communication and the use of social media, face-to-face meetings and personal interaction remain essential and indispensable for businesses.

The most important benefit of a membership is provided by the unique network at the disposal of the AHKs, through which they are well connected with business people and politicians both locally and in Germany. This helps members make new contacts and meet crucial business partners and also gain access to exclusive events and services. They can also actively participate in and contribute to committees and special working groups with their expertise and ideas. Opinion surveys among members are also an important form of participation that helps the AHK identify and represent the expectations and concerns of the business community.

Twice a year the AHK World Business Outlook presents the situation, expectations, and risks of the companies connected to the worldwide AHK network. In 2016, the publication was based on a total of 5,600 responses given by German companies, branches, and subsidiaries to the AHKs’ joint survey. Companies of all sizes and sectors show how successfully they operate in many regions of the world. Once again, they planned more investments and wanted to hire more employees. The report also shows where the businesses had to deal with recessions and crises. In 2016, in addition to demand in individual countries, the greatest risks for global business included the concerns about deteriorating economic conditions and the lack of skilled labor.

The German media reported extensively about the AHK World Business Outlook. But individual AHKs also used their respective country results to point out the special challenges locally and to simultaneously present their expertise in the markets.

AHK Network - expansion and strengthening

Expansion and strengthening of the AHK network was made possible through support of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi). The delegations in Serbia and Ukraine were transformed into AHKs. The foundation ceremony in Serbia took place on April 14 with DIHK’s managing director international economic relations Julia Arnold. DIHK CEO Dr Martin Wansleben and Matthias Machnig, state secretary in the BMWi, inaugurated the AHK Ukraine on October 11 with more than 500 people in attendance. A new AHK network location was inaugurated in Zambia on May 24 by former German President Horst Köhler, Thomas Silberhorn, parliamentary state secretary in the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, and Benjamin Leipold, managing director German Chambers of Commerce Worldwide Network (AHK): This branch office of the AHK Southern Africa was set up together with the ExperTS program of GIZ, the development agency of the German federal government.

Hosting events worldwide

During the last year, the AHKs organized a total of 4,800 events throughout the world. They ranged from industry and educational events, where experts spoke on current topics, to member events for discussing local issues all the way to receptions with high-ranking politicians and business people – from Germany and all over the world. With these events, the AHKs not only provide businesses with the chance to meet with experts and learn about current developments. In addition, the participants simultaneously benefit from the wide network of contacts of the AHKs in Germany and the host countries. More than 460,000 participants confirm the great need for and the enormous interest in the information and platform provided by such events.

The AHKs are the first contact in foreign markets for many companies. Under the service brand DEinternational, the AHKs provide companies worldwide with professional consultation and support for successfully starting and expanding their business abroad. The AHKs form a bridge between the markets and cultures. AHK employees are multilingual and know the opportunities and risks of the respective host country.

The AHKs provide services suited to the individual needs of each company. These range from address research to target market analysis to finding suitable business and sales partners to help with establishing a business. The services also include providing legal, tax, credit rating, and customs information, help with finding qualified staff, and support with trade fair activities. The AHKs have been well acquainted with the local conditions for decades and can help companies quickly find their way around in the unfamiliar environment so that their business ideas can be successful. In 2016, the AHKs achieved revenues of almost 130 million Euro with their services worldwide.

Delegation trips - important impressions for companies at the market entry

Delegation trips provide companies with important support for entering a market. They give companies the opportunity to inform themselves about business opportunities and relevant conditions in the country of interest. Such visits also make it possible to forge valuable contacts with potential business partners and key local people and to get to know political, cultural, and economic specifics about the target country. Such a first impression is an important prerequisite for establishing long-lasting successful businesses. The AHK provides support in advance, organizes the program, and is ready to provide advice and practical support at meetings.

The services offered range from preliminary market explorations to finding concrete business partners. A number of delegation trips are sponsored by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi). These include, for instance, Export Initiatives, which especially benefit SMEs. The AHKs also organize trips to Germany for entrepreneurs from all over the world during which they can inform themselves about business opportunities in Germany and can forge valuable contacts.

In performing these tasks, the AHKs receive a great deal of support from the Chambers of Commerce and Industry (IHKs), trade associations, and trade and investment promoters in Germany. In 2016, the AHKs organized more than 700 delegation trips and thus helped more than 10,000 participants take their first steps into new markets.

Trade fairs - Number of foreign exhibitors in Germany is increasing continuously

The AHKs with their excellent networks in 90 countries are an ideal global partner for the German trade fairs in their worldwide promotion of their trade fair formats. With more than 200 representation agreements with German trade fairs, the AHK network is a strong marketing partner of the German trade fair industry. The intensive work on location abroad ensures that the number of foreign exhibitors at German trade fairs in Germany and abroad continues to increase. Meanwhile there are more than 100,000 foreign exhibitors at German trade fairs.

Through individual conversations, large events, and other advertising campaigns, the AHKs each year attract thousands of visitors to German trade fairs from the AHKs’ host countries. Not only the trade fairs benefit from these visitors, many of whom are AHK members, but also the German retail, hotel, and restaurant industries. Furthermore, the AHKs organize – often in regional collaboration – sector-specific delegation trips to German trade fairs. In 2016, these efforts were able to attract more than 300,000 visitors and about 12,000 exhibitors.