The government accountability and public procurement agencies in East Africa have joined the East African Procurement Forum and exhibition amidst discontent about foreign competition for local contracts.

The 14th Forum has been organised under the theme: “Open Contracting as a vehicle for Sustainable Development,” is aimed at transparency in the procurement industry. It is open to local, regional, and international firms seeking to offer services or supply in the East African Community.

It comes at a time when Ugandan firms are calling for affirmative action by the government when giving out public contracts. Unfortunately for local firms, a number of government projects are executed on a pay-later basis or compensation basis for investment. Local companies simply lack the capacity to operate under such conditions.

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The Forum is hosted by the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority and organized by Fathil International Projects (FIPRO) a regional marketing firm.

FIPRO representative Fred Kanongo has said that the big deals are likely to be taken by multinational agencies against Ugandan and East African firms.

He suggests that for local contractors and suppliers to get contracts, the host agency and government departments have to ring-fence for them.

He also says that there’s a need to boost the capacity of local contractors and producers to be able to compete on their merit. A similar strategy should also be applied to suppliers of products to fence off suppliers from developed countries, according to Kanongo.

PPDA Executive Director, Benson Tumuramye says this is the first time that the East African Business Expo and the Forum will be running concurrently with the aim of bridging the gap between suppliers and buyers.

“We have always had The East African Procurement Forum every year, but without opening up the platform to suppliers. This year, we have partnered with FIPRO, who will organize the business expo alongside the procurement forum over a four-day period,” said Tumuramye.

He said that they are expecting 500 exhibitors, something Ugandans should take advantage of.

East African Community Affairs Minister and first Deputy Prime Minister, Rebecca Kadaga, said she is participating in the program as part of the agenda to eliminate trade barriers in the region.

The government and the business community have been urged to use this opportunity to fortify trade relationships in East Africa.

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