I am pained by the memory of an adhoc conversation that happened at one of our famed annual technology themed summits some years back, where a mid-level government executive, in the middle of a chat on government opportunities boldly opined that, “we” in reference to the larger technology community need to stop agitating for procurement changes skewed towards citizen contractors and instead appreciate that “kazi ni kazi” loosely translated to “you take what comes your way”, and that supplying reams of printing paper or flowers still constitutes business and keeps the lights on.
We must understand that the clarion call for the enforcement of the thirty percent local content rule in public procurement especially in matters technology, which I hope you understand cuts across all sectors, is a long game that aims to cover both knowledge transfer and boost the health of citizen contactors ensuring job security and less repatriation of funds boosting our overall economy while also giving us much needed credentials of work done at scale to venture out and conquer new markets. The very nations that now dock here to supply us were very deliberate in their strategy to grow their own local enterprises.
I have in the past made a case for the place of the local contractor and the citizen contractor and stated that there can be a balance. What is the difference between the two? A local contactor can be a multinational corporation – MNC that establishes a fully staffed office in the country to transact business; while a citizen contractor is a majority local owned entity.
It is indeed a no-brainer, but it is clear that we need champion organizations to agitate for this, track it and also publicly communicate the outcomes outside the additional daily battle of transparency in government procurement. This game is played at the negotiating table, where our government representatives fly out west and east to close on funding by way of loans and grants. These funds come with conditions but we must push back on the “take it or leave it” stance that seems to hold strong. Blindly signing the dotted line will in the long-term disenfranchise us and when you connect the dots, also points to a scary future where key assets are owned, operated or maintained by majority foreign owned entities and with that our birthright in many ways.
Our government must unequivocally work with us and for us; with this policy enforced in both word and deed. We can have our cake and eat it, and we must!