Sub-Saharan Africa – Spend Matters to Chair a Procurement Conference in Kenya

On Saturday evening, after my daughter's birthday party (she turns 11), I am hopping on a series of flights taking me to Nairobi, Kenya, arriving late Sunday evening.  The following morning, I am chairing and speaking at the East Africa Procurement Summit 2013 – a 3-day procurement conference.

This is not something that Jason and Pierre put in my job description as a Principal Analyst; usually I examine solutions and practices around sourcing, supplier management, supplier diversity and related areas. But it is a region and trip that fascinates me on so many levels.

It is essentially a pro bono undertaking by us at Spend Matters, and partially done out of curiosity – what is the level of process, organizational and solution maturity among procurement professionals in Kenya, and the broader African sub-continent?

I am speaking on both strategic sourcing and on risk management topics. But, unlike with similar activities here in the USA, I have little advance knowledge about my audience, their pain points, common issues etc. It will be an interesting week to say the least. And you’ll be able to read all about it on Spend Matters as I report back in the coming weeks.

As background, Kenya is around 1/3 larger in size than California, and with a slightly larger population (43 million versus California’s 38 million) but with an economy that is operating at a fraction of the output of the USA.

Per capita GDP in Kenya is less than $2,000, but this is heavily influenced by the fact that 62% of the population is younger than 25 - and unemployment averages around 40%.  In other words, those actually with jobs earn a good deal more. And Nairobi, the capital, is largely (allegedly) developed to western standards, although some areas of the town are less safe at night. But coming from Spend Matters locales in Atlanta and Chicago, one could say the same thing about the more blighted areas of these large US cities.

As a former British colony, the country has a well developed bureaucracy (both good and bad there) and a population that is quite capable in English. The economy is generally speaking heavily focused on agriculture but Nairobi has worked hard to become the financial capital of the region with several British and a few US banks (Citigroup for example) active there.  There’s not much of a manufacturing base in Kenya however – it is sorely needed to do something about those unemployment numbers.

The conference is a story in itself and speaks to the fluid nature of the region. It was originally slated for mid-February, but was moved to end of March to avoid the presidential elections that recently concluded (or so we hope, the losing side has filed an appeal with the country’s supreme court) without the riots and bloodshed that plagued the 2007 elections.

My preparations for the event have been interesting – I am both chairing the event overall, as well as speaking on strategic sourcing and supplier risk management. I can only presume to understand the challenges buyers and companies face in Kenya – so my presentations will have to be flexible around what stage of maturity they are in. I have dusted off a few slide stacks around Sourcing 101 that have been sitting in the digital archives for some time. They are likely still quite relevant.

On the risk management side, I will introduce the audience to the US perspective on topics such as Code of Conduct, Governance, Labor practices, Ethics, Conflict Minerals – since many firms are probably interested in understanding how to become better qualified suppliers to the Fortune 500 set and also need to manage and hold their own supply chains to the standards of Western Europe and North America.

Stay tuned for coverage from the event and what I learn next week.

Karibu – welcome to a new chapter in Spend Matters global procurement coverage!

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