The High Level Forum on Public Procurement Reform in Africa: Sustaining Economic Development and Poverty Reduction during the Current Economic Crisis

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On 16-17 November 2009, the African Development Bank (AfDB) is hosting in Tunis the high-level forum on public procurement reforms in Africa. The forum is an opportunity for African governments (and the IFIs) to discuss and agree on the process that will emphasize African priorities regarding the use of procurement systems in African countries as a mandatory means for medium- and long-term development policy. To facilitate the use of national procurement systems and conform to the AAA requirement, the AfDB is finalizing a new strategy in this regard.

The forum discusses ways of maximizing the potential for public procurement to leverage national economic development and investments planning for infrastructure development. Considering that public procurement accounts for as much as 70% of government budgets across Africa, the strengthening and use of African procurement systems is therefore crucial not only for minimizing the effects of the current financial and economic crisis, but also to restore a level of economic growth and development sufficient to reduce poverty. The debate is conducted with a view to favoring strategic procurement policies and good procurement systems that are essential to the effectiveness of public spending and public financial management as well as the promotion of sustainable development.

The first forum was held in December 1998 at the AfDB headquarters in Côte d’Ivoire and it brought together representatives of thirty African governments. The Abidjan conference on public procurement reforms helped in highlighting key challenges in the modernization of procurement systems in Africa; brought about a consensus among African governments on the importance of public procurement for the promotion of good governance; and furthered the reform of national procurement systems with a common strategic framework, focusing on improved accountability, transparency and efficiency.

Since the Abidjan conference, several African countries have embarked on procurement reforms programs with the support of the AfDB, the World Bank and other development partners, and the assistance of sub-regional organizations such as the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), which have adopted regional directives on public procurement. However, several weaknesses and challenges persist. These include ineffective implementation of reformed procurement systems, especially the building of procurement capacity and institutions. These weaknesses need to be overcome. Ten years after the Abidjan conference and the implementation of procurement reform programs, participants at the Tunis high-level forum will discuss ongoing procurement reforms on the continent.

The forum on public procurement reforms in Africa is being organized by the (AfDB), in partnership with COMESA, WAEMU, the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) and the World Bank (WB).