Feature Stories



Africa High Level Public Procurement and Electronic Government Procurement Forums

V S Krishnakumar,

Practice Manager, Solutions and Innovations in Procurement, Governance Global Practice, The World Bank Group

TheAfrica Region of the World Bank co-hosted the AfricaHigh Level Public Procurement Forum (HLPF)titled “Harnessing Public Procurement for Socio-Economic Growth”and e-Government Procurement Forum(eGPF) titled, “Harnessing Digital Procurement for Improved Service Delivery and Developmentalong with the African Development Bank (AfDB), from April 3–7, 2017, in Johannesburg, South Africa. Mr. Vinay Sharma – Director of Procurement & Fiduciary Services, AfDB [incoming Director -SIP/GGP, World Bank] represented the African Development Bank.
The target audience was high-level decision makers from Finance and Economy Ministries, ICT policy heads,Heads of Country Procurement Authorities, key public procurement policy makers, senior public procurement practitioners, development partners, academicians, related professional bodies and international NGOs. The list of dignitaries included, to name a few, the honorable Governor of Kaduna State in Nigeria and representatives of the Ministers of Finance in South Africa and Egypt.With 250+ senior and technical-level government officials from almost all African countries, representatives from Brazil, Chile, Kyrgyzstan, Philippines, South Korea, Ukraine, and Vietnam, as well as representatives of Transparency International, WTO, OECD, COST, USTDA, FIDIC, ITCILO, UN, CIPS, NEC, Government Technical Advisory Center of South Africa, WAEMU, EBRD, UNCITRAL and Open Contracting Partnership, the event propelled way forward to spur improved service delivery and socio-economic growth by leveraging modernized public procurement system in the African countries.
The OECD Head of the Public Procurement Unit Mr. Paulo Magina, who joined the HLPF as one of the Panelists, mentioned, “The High Level Forum truly surpassed my expectations, as it was able to get together an impressive number of practitioners and policy makers from all over the continent and beyond, to discuss public procurement topics of the utmost importance. The breakout sessions and panel discussions were very well set, with a good level of speakers, with time for debate and allowing for interaction with the audience. The OECD, as a global platform for knowledge sharing and good practice dissemination, stands ready to collaborate with the AfDB, the WB and the African countries to modernize public procurement systems across the continent and contribute to elevate the already high standard of procurement practices that can be found in many places.”
Key takeaways:Regarding HLPF, the participants acknowledged the need to develop and implement workable strategies to mitigate the challenges identified within public procurement reforms. The participants also acknowledged that the public procurement reform requires sustained country ownership, political will and commitment, together with appropriate technical solutions.With respect to eGPF, the representatives recognized the value e-GP can bring in establishing a more effective, efficient, and sustainable procurement environment, benefiting not just the government and participating vendors, but the public at large by providing unrestricted open access to procurement information and business opportunities. A Community of Practice (CoP) of public procurement officials in the African region has been established as a platform to exchange knowledge and experiences over e-GP.
‘’From my perspective it was fascinating as an outsider from the region quite how much has been done by many countries in the region,’’ said Mr. Richard Gargrave of the EBRD Procurement Department.  ‘’Many countries are far more advanced in implementation of comprehensive eProcurement reform than I had imagined‎. As a result of the forum you would hope that learning about the success stories from the region will encourage the counties which are at the early stages of their reform projects to increase the pace of development.  In particular, it will be interesting to see how the transnational co-operation develops as a result of the forum and whether this leads to the development, for instance, of a hub system which could be used by countries with similar language and trade ties.’’ 
Next steps:As part of the HLPF, the participants agreed to take urgent strategic and tactical actionsin order to accelerate and sustain achievements by: (1) Elevating public procurement to a strategic function to enable it to contribute to realizing the sustainable and socio-economic aspirations of the African countries; (2) Strengthening the integrity of public procurement systems; (3) Substantially increasing capability building in public procurement and contract management through capacity development and professionalization of the public procurement function; (4) Ensuring public procurement is effective in making PPP succeed in Africa; and (5) Harnessing Information Technology (IT) for efficient public procurement. With respect to eGPF, the participants agreed on the following key  action items: (1) Each country will develop e-GP implementation strategy and design e-GP systems will consider the use of cloud services, open contracting, geo-tagging, smartphone applications, social media and integration with other relevant e-Services; (2) Progression of e-GP in Africa will be driven by innovation and integration with other e-services; (3) Develop and adopt indicators to measure the extent of e-GP implementation based on the objectives of the country reflected in the e-GP strategy; and (4) The countries will analyze and use procurement data to influence procurement policy decisions, performance monitoring, and the development of SME marketplace.
Each Forum concluded with a Resolution (2017_HLPF-Resolution and 2017_EGPF-Resolution) adopted by the representatives, by May 1, 2017, with specific action items for each area of focus addressed during the panels’ discussions. The next Forum will be held in 2019 in Senegal.
Media coverage: The event had extensive media coverage in South Africa - An example: http://gallery.cnbcafrica.com/video/?bctid=5387389420001.
"The combined HLPF/EGPF event has demonstrated that, notwithstanding challenges, great strides have been made in public procurement reforms and eGP development in Africa,’’ said Mr. Kwadwo Osei-Lah of the Government Procurement and Competition Division, WTO. ‘’I left the event with three main takeaways: (1) that public procurement in Africa is increasingly becoming a strategic function, with local industry development an important objective; (2) that eGP is a vital tool for improving transparency, governance, value for money, and SME access to opportunities in public procurement markets; and (3) that there is a trade dimension that, however, needs to be further developed and harnessed in order to deliver improved overall outcomes linked to the AfDB Hi5 goal of integrating Africa. In these circumstances, strategic public procurement in Africa today is, beyond the basic process of buying goods and services, closely aligned with creating the very conditions necessary for peace, opportunity and prosperity for current and future generations of Africans, consistent with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In short, it is, in my view, a question of 'development procurement'.’’
“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”  – Nelson Mandela