Building networks in specialized business areas is an important basis for trade development. ITC has worked with Morocco and Uganda, among others, to set up specialized networks in purchasing, through the creation of national purchasing associations. These two articles highlight the experiences of these two countries in setting up and building the services of purchasing associations.
Morocco set up APAM (Association des Professionels des Achats et Approvisionnements au Maroc), a national purchasing and supply management association, in 1998.
Establishing an association can be a rewarding and fascinating experience. Gathering a group of people around a common idea, and welding them into a viable entity that develops its own momentum, is a challenging project that requires a methodology, determination and persistence.
Setting up an association is a collective effort. A project involving only one person is bound to fail, since the very essence of an association is that of a collective experience. Founders need to be both methodical and persistent in order to create a solid association, bearing in mind that individuals will have varying degrees of availability and motivation.
Concentrate especially on two steps:
* Understand your legal boundaries. Start by identifying and carefully reading legal texts relating to associations to help you determine exactly what is required to set up the association. This also helps you to understand the legal implications of using different sources and methods of funding.
Complement your research by contacting the authorities responsible for regulating the activities of associations, who should be able to provide necessary information.
* Market the concept and gather feedback.
Disseminate information about what you are doing to help you to recruit supporters and gather the funds or resources that the association may require. This step should also allow you to test the 'product' on the target audience, gather feedback, and adapt the project accordingly. Most importantly, it builds ownership with key clients.
Manage it like a company
Manage an independent association like a company rather than a club:
* Over time, an association will need to be self-financing if it is to remain independent and continue to function well. It will only survive and develop if it is managed efficiently and objectively.
* A purchasing and supply management association is more than a forum to exchange ideas and ideals; members gain value from sharing pragmatic experiences.
Making it last
During the first years of existence, many purchasing and supply management associations experience financial difficulties. Make it a priority to look for support and develop relationships with other national and international organizations. This provides a powerful leverage that helps the association, as with a living person, to open up to the outside world.
You can find useful contacts for partnerships at different levels:
* In the country: private companies; training institutes; professional associations.
* In the region: purchasing and supply management associations of the region.
* In the rest of the world: the International Federation of Purchasing and Materials Management; ITC; other national purchasing and supply management associations.
The value of events
Events are key to network building and information exchange. Thanks to its success in attracting private sponsors, APAM has been able to organize two conferences. The themes were:
* quality management in purchasing; and
* suppliers' evaluation.
It was also able to call on the expertise of known training institutions (namely Morocco's premier business school, the Institut Superieur de Commerce et d'Administration des Entreprises -- ISCAE) to organize these events. …