Making governance work in the Middle East and North Africa means ensuring that governments are able to respond to their citizens’ needs and demands.
The World Bank is supporting Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries to achieve that goal by facilitating a collaborative process for leaders from the region to work together through the MENA Network of Public Procurement Experts (the Network).
By bringing together the leaders of the region’s contracting systems, the Network is giving governments the tools and awareness to make their public spending more efficient, effective, and transparent.
In May, in Cairo, Network representatives from seven countries gathered at the home site of their partner, the Arab Administrative Development Organization (ARADO) of the Arab League, to exchange knowledge and experience on the region's most important topics and priorities in the realm of procurement.
In Cairo, the members of the Network learned about open government to promote collaboration, disclosure and participation in government. The participating officials also discussed their own role in ensuring public procurement holds a prominent place in their own country dialogues, especially when action plans are forged to make government more open. The regional Network has the potential to be an important vehicle for moving the openness agenda forward within the public contracting space. And, it provides a welcoming community for like-minded individuals to brainstorm how they can strengthen the connection between government and citizens.
The Network is also working to achieve better outcomes in public procurement through the utilization of data and information technology. A sub-committee led by the Government of Morocco has developed an electronic portal that enables countries to use technology to share useful information amongst each other, and with citizens. In this last meeting, administrators were finalized for each country to begin the work of providing the country-level materials and soliciting national participation and sign-ups.
A third achievement forged in Cairo was an agreement on the way forward on a regional strategy for building capacity in public procurement in MENA. The preparation and dissemination of the strategy was built on a few core guiding principles –namely, that it builds on what is already existing in each of the countries; that it is inclusive of all relevant stakeholders, and that it is phased over time. Members agreed that the regional Network should be used as leverage to promote increased capacity. When MENA countries have more people who are trained and equipped to manage procurement systems effectively, they will be better able to achieve improved service delivery and development outcomes, particularly on the reconstruction and recovery situations currently facing the region.
Finally, the Cairo meeting served as an opportunity for the Network to move to the next level on their goal to increase the access of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to the public market. To date, with financing from the MSME Facility of the Arab World Initiative, the Network has already launched training programs in eight countries, reaching out to hundreds of small businesses who require more information and knowledge to prepare bids for public tender.
The Network members shared the successes and lessons learned thus far from these endeavors, and discussed next steps for how to make this innovative program more sustainable, as well as how to measure its impacts – are the businesses that are being trained winning more bids? How many jobs are they creating for MENA’s youth?
The MENA region faces many daunting challenges ahead, and traditional approaches of going at it alone have not proved sufficient to solve them.
The Network shows that collaboration is the path towards progress. When decision-makers engage with each other across borders, they forge new coalitions of reform to implement solutions that respond to citizens' needs.
It is when we work together and draw from each other’s experiences that we can ensure we are exploring cutting edge innovation, so that procurement delivers on the results it promises.