"Buying from Africa for Africa" An International Trade Centre success story

Consider that in the United Nations system, agencies spend more than USD 9 billions on goods and services every year, of which 60 % is destined for humanitarian relief or development assistance to African countries. How-ever, according to the Inter-Agency Procurement Services Agency, just 10% of total UN procurement in 2003 was supplied from African countries.
With the support of Norway, the ITC programme has boosted that share and as a result several aid agencies have modified their procurement practices to promote regional sourcing. Today about 15% or more comes from Africa, more than 50% comes from the developing countries, and the figures are going up… However, achieving this has not always been an easy task… Much persistence and the breakdown of misconceptions on both sides as well as building capacity through technical cooper-ation were the remedies required.
The fact is that people tend to believe that Africa exports only a few primary commodities and that local producers are unable to supply high quality materials at competitive prices. The African firms, on the other hand, believed that the market was too complex for access and that the aid agencies did not want to procure from African sources. Both were proved wrong.
"Buying from Africa for Africa" An International Trade Centre success storyThe ITC started working with the aid agencies to determine their needs from the local market. It identified potential partners meeting the requirements set by the aid agencies and organized training and capacity building sessions on both sides. The final step was to organize face to face meetings in order to establish direct contact between the two parties.
It is a common place that most trade fairs and exhibitions dedicated to the aid market are held in developed countries, making participation by African countries difficult. Therefore, there were very few face to face encounters between aid agencies and African enterprises in the past.
Since the very beginning of the programme, ITC has organized face-to-face meetings with suppliers and UN procurement officers from the different aid agencies in order to change perceptions and to increase contact between these two « worlds ».
"Buying from Africa for Africa" An International Trade Centre success storyLast June the programme even went a step further when it proved its sustainability. For the first time, 55 South African suppliers and more than 20 United Nations procurement officers met to explore on how to expand South African business among UN buyers for relief items in a meeting organized by the DTI, South Africa’s Department of Trade. As the continent’s main exporter, South Africa has been the leading African supplier to the UN and, together with Kenya, hosts many procurement offices. However, its share in UN procurement is still very small, therefore there is still great scope for the development of local business through the aid procurement market.
So, while the results of the business day are being assessed, the planning of other similar « days » is under preparation.
For further information contact Sylvie B?temps Cochin at the ITC…
Sylvie B?temps South-South Trade, Promotion Programme, Office for Interregional Programmes International Trade Centre (ITC) 54, rue de Montbrillant 1202 Geneva 10, Switzerland