Governments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region share many of the same challenges in meeting public service demands. They all, for example, build roads, purchase medical supplies, and construct schools. And yet, for many years, those responsible for the systems and policies used to purchase these goods or services (referred to as public procurement) have been unable to share their knowledge, challenges and solutions in a systematic and sustainable way.
In June 2013, all this changed.
With World Bank assistance, government-nominated representatives from eight countries in the region, Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Lebanon, Yemen, Djibouti, Egypt, and the Palestinian Territories established the MENA Network of Public Procurement Experts. Libya has since joined the effort. The World Bank’s MENA Procurement Team has been critical to the birth and development of this initiative, under the leadership of Regional Procurement Manager Yolanda Tayler and the guidance of Director of Strategy and Operations Gerard Byam.
According to Mr. Tarek El-Salem, Senior Training Manager at the Arab Administrative Development Organization (ARADO) of the Arab League, the Network addresses an urgent, regional need. He noted that, “The network is a great chance to tackle an important, often-neglected issue that most MENA region countries suffer from - the lack of a unified practice in the field of public procurement and the urgent need for capacity building.”
While designed to give these experts a common platform for exchanging their knowledge and experiences, the Network also endorsed two priority areas for regional collaboration at its inaugural meeting, namely: the development of capacity in the procurement workforce, and the modernization of procurement tools. In the short time since then, the Network has made substantial strides towards implementing these targeted regional initiatives, and promoting transformational changes in the medium- and long-term.
In a subsequent gathering held at the end of November in Tunisia, the Network added a third priority area of collaboration by approving the creation of a new and innovative initiative dedicated to improving business opportunities for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in government contracting. All three initiatives, led by subcommittees, were also strengthened through the addition of supporting Network members from other countries that will help in the implementation efforts.