Buy in Africa, Sustain Local Communities

Article excerpt

A Côte d'Ivoire food company's contracts with aid agencies has provided jobs and income for local communities. ITC's buyer-seller meetings for the aid sector player a part.

When Marie Diongoye Konaté first encountered ITC at an exporters' association meeting in Bamako, Mali, in March 2005, she was very much struck by the "Buying from Africa for Africa" initiative it was promoting. It was an idea to which Ms Konaté wholeheartedly subscribed. It was also a primary motivation behind Protein Kissee-La (PKL) S.A., the Côte d'Ivoire food processing and trading company that she set up in 1994 and of which she is currently Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. The company is located in the Vridi industrial zone, near the port and airport of Abidjan.

Ms Konaté's story seemed to provide a useful model of how the Buying from Africa for Africa initiative could work in practice. She had already gained experience of making available emergency supplies to relief agencies through her work with the European Commission's ECHO programme and French non-governmental organizations Action Contre la Faim and Médecins sans Frontières. So ITC invited Ms Konaté to share her experience with other Africa-based firms and international relief agencies during an ITC-organized buyer-seller meeting held in Dakar, Senegal, later the same year.

The Dakar event proved to be a turning point for PKL, with each agency given the opportunity to define its contracting requirements and each firm the possibility to present its products, while ITC provided on-the-spot back-up documentation and information for participants. According to Ms Konaté, immediate direct benefits for PKL included meetings with ten buyers from the aid agencies, having her company listed on agency databases and gaining valuable insights into supplying food aid for the African market.

Since then, PKL has won seven invitations to tender in a period of 11 months. It also supplied some 5,000 tonnes of food aid to the World Food Programme (WFP), valued at euro1.8 million, of which euro1.1 million has been returned to the local communities in payment for raw materials, with other spin-offs including euro200,000 for services such as transport and euro20,000 in PKL regular employees' and daily workers' salaries. Further, the WFP contracts have provided direct benefits to hundreds of local farmers and indirect benefits to some 80,000 people in local communities.

According to Ms Konaté, for each euro100 of food purchased by the WFP, euro60 was returned to the local rural economy and the remaining euro40 to the national economy. She says the real strength of the Buying from Africa for Africa initiative is to guarantee local firms' long-term economic viability, allow them to create jobs, train staff, develop their activities and customer base and have a positive impact on the quality of life of local communities.

Barriers to local sourcing

Aid agencies agree that buying goods and services through local field offices makes good business sense because it lowers transaction costs and shortens delivery times. Currently, however, local sourcing accounts for just 10% of the total humanitarian aid in Africa. PKL's Marie Konaté says constraints exist within the system, not least the prejudice against local products and the difficulty in gaining direct access to aid agency decision-makers. …