The Sunday Mail
Local businesses need to be competitive enough to increase their supply share contribution to the United Nations procurement system to above US$1 billion annually, an official has said.
The United Nations (UN) is an international organisation founded in 1945.
It presently comprises 193 member states, including Zimbabwe.
The UN system covers a wide range of programmes, funds, centres and specialised agencies with different institutional and functional structures, through which it procures goods and services from different entrepreneurs.
In an interview on the sidelines of a two-day seminar on doing business with the UN, hosted by the country’s national trade development agency, ZimTrade, which ended in Harare on Thursday, the UN chief of global procurement support section, Mr Balakrishnan Amirthalingam, said: “The UN is one of the biggest international organisations providing support to various programmes all over the world.
“The annual procurement volume is something like US$29 billion, and this amount is for the UN system as a whole, including the secretariat, funds and programmes.
“So, 193 countries are member states of the United Nations and are all participating in the tenders that are regularly done throughout the year.
“It is necessary for Zimbabwean vendors to understand that they are also competing with similar vendors from other countries. The vendors should provide full compliance, including the standards and the best price possible. Based on that, the award is made.”
He said the UN was going to improve the share of the Zimbabwean market in the whole UN business to over US$1 billion annually.
“Zimbabwean vendors just need to be competitive internationally,” he said.
Last year, local businesses supplied the UN Secretariat with goods and services worth US$185 473.
The international organisation sources a variety of goods and services in sectors such as information and communications technology (ICT); air transport; building and construction; food and catering; transportation; real estate; security and professional services.
Last week’s seminar was aimed at equipping local companies with relevant information on doing business, on a large scale, with the global institution.
Mr Amirthalingam urged Zimbabwean firms to register with the UN Global Marketplace before participating in the organisation’s international tenders.
“To increase the participation of Zimbabwean vendors to the UN, there could be several steps the vendors have to do, starting with the registration itself. Registering with the UN Global Marketplace – a UN global vendor portal – is required as a prerequisite for all vendors on the portal,” he said.
“Apart from registering with the UN Global Marketplace, the vendors also have to regularly update their contact details, including the commodity codes (UN standard product and service codes).
“Once the vendors are invited, they have to participate in the tenders, and to the best of their abilities. They should be in full compliance with the tender documents, and offer the best price so that they can be winners in the competition,” he said.
Last year, the UN sourced goods and services from suppliers in 223 countries and territories, with growth across all geographical regions.
Procurement from developing countries, nations in transition and least-developed countries (LDCs) was worth US$18,4 billion or 62 percent of the total UN procurement for last year. Procurement from LDCs has improved year-on-year since 2016, reaching US$4,5 billion in 2021, representing a US$416 million or 10,2 percent increase compared to 2020.
The increase was predominant in Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe and Asia. In her remarks during the seminar, ZimTrade export promotion manager, Mrs Vuyiswa Mafu, commended the UN Procurement Division for raising awareness on what local companies need to do to increase volume of trade to the international body.
“This also indicates a very strong commitment from the UN itself to assist us participate in their procurement activities. It is a multi-billion-dollar market that we must take advantage of and our companies need to be registered in the system,” she said.
“We also need to be reminded that it’s not just about registering. Many companies may be registered, can be registered, but, as long as they are not active within that portal, registering will mean nothing and you will not be able to do business with the UN,” she said.
Once registered, Mrs Mafu added, companies should persistently look for opportunities within the UN system, taking advantage of tenders within the international body.
“We need to be aware of these market opportunities and increase that market share,” she said.
Representatives of participating firms said the seminar was an eye-opener.