The South African defence industry will on June 13 and 14 have the opportunity to learn first-hand what is needed to become an accredited supplier to the United Nations and specifically its peacekeeping and peace support operations in Africa.
The first ever UN Procurement Summit South Africa takes places at the CSIR Convention Centre and is, according to the marketing and liaison manager of a major portable accommodation supplier “the place to be for the local defence industry as well as other sectors allied to it”.
More than half – nine – of the UN’s 16 peacekeeping missions currently underway are in Africa and 80% of the world body’s peacekeepers are deployed on the continent.
This requires massive logistic support to succeed, according to the summit organisers, who maintain the event is “an unparalleled opportunity for South African-based vendors and business to engage and potentially partners with the UN and other local and international organisations”.
In keeping with the thrust of the event the majority of speakers – five – are from the UN with another two heading up linkage sessions on day one.
The UN speakers are Stephan Cutts, assistant secretary general, UN Office of Central Support Services; Dmitri Dovgopoly, UN director of procurement; Annemarie van den Berg, UN director of logistical and services department; Gregory Kuchler, UN chief communications and IT section procurement division; and Paul Buades, UN director, global support centre.
Amadu Kamara, UN director mission support Somalia, and Stephani Scheer, UN director mission support South Sudan, will head the afternoon linkage sessions.
The summit is set to be opened by South African defence secretary, Dr Sam Gulube, with Armscor chief executive, Kevin Wakeford, another local speaker.
The second day of the Summit will see a panel discussion on paving the way forward for South African industry to deliver to UN Africa operations. The UN, Denel, Armscor, the National Defence Industry Council and the Department of Trade and Industry will be represented on the panel.
Indications are at least some of the senior UN representatives will visit some local defence industry representatives with a KwaZulu-Natal-based temporary accommodation and tent manufacturer confirming it is expecting a UN delegation after the summit.
Last year the United Nations invited South African companies to register and bid for billions of dollars worth of tenders issued each year by the organisation. Sean Purcell, Chief Field Procurement Service, UN Secretariat Procurement Division, told delegates at the October 2015 Denel Aerospace, Maritime and Defence conference that South Africa is ideally located to be a supplier to the UN, but is not a major one at the moment.
He pointed out that the UN spent $17.2 billion on procurement in 2014, up from over $16 billion in 2013. South Africa accounted for .98% of total spend of the United Nations last year at $169 million – however, 90% of this came from a single air services contract awarded to a local company. Purcell noted that without the contract, SA spend would have been around $10 million.
Purcell said that when the UN establishes a peacekeeping operation, often there is no infrastructure available and everything has to be built up from scratch. Most peacekeeping money is spent in the first two years of an operation, primarily on construction. For 2014, the major items procured by the United Nations included food; pharmaceuticals; vehicles, computers and software; shelter and housing; telecommunications; lab equip; chemicals; building materials and security equipment. The main services utilised were air charter (220 aircraft fly on a daily basis); security; engineering; construction; freight; consultancy and communications.
Purcell said that to become one of the 988 companies that do business with the United Nations, companies have to register with the UN. This can be done through the UN Global Marketplace (ungm.org), where tender opportunities can also be viewed.
Last year there were over 300 vendors from South Africa registered with the United Nations, down from 493 in 2014 and up from 109 in 2013.
Although being encouraged to bid for UN work, some local defence companies voiced concerns about doing business with the UN. Some of the concerns were that the tenders sometimes require large volumes only big companies can handle and that often goods and services are requested within a very short timeframe. Another concern was contracts with excessive or unrealistic specifications.