It’s hot, it’s dusty and it’s dangerous. It’s Helmand.
This week I’m in Helmand province on the Lashkar Gah Provincial Reconstruction Team compound with PDT Field Manager, Leigh Ryan. I’m here to begin the process of measuring job creation that results from PDT-A suppliers winning contracts. The survey will provide a valuable indicator into the non-monetarized impact of our programmes. Whilst this is interesting in itself there is another entity at play here which is equally blog worthy – the dynamic between our national and international programme staff and how they cope with promoting the private sector in one of the most insecure provinces in the country.
The Helmand office is one of the most challenging to operate because of the additional security restrictions. The field manager is situated on a military base, the national staff in the city. The field manager is unable to visit the office because of concerns that his international presence would put the staff in danger. The national staff minimizes their exposure by coming to meet him on base infrequently.
Leigh says “despite the constraints and restrictions of Helmand and specifically Lashkar Gah, the team has managed to establish PDT-A as the main source of knowledge on international buyers in the business community and on Afghan business in the buyer community”. Building trust in the community is made easier for the team because of the tangible benefits PDT-A’s services bring. Since the PDT-A office opened in March 2009, PDT-A registered suppliers in the province have won over $16.8 million USD of contracts. In addition, suppliers are able to access previously unheard of contracting opportunities through the tender distribution service, vendor days and buyer specific procurement training.
The benefits aren’t one way though. Buyers using PDT-A services are able to become better informed about the local marketplace, supplier capabilities and get their specific needs matched up to suitable local vendors, all of which is an integral means of meeting Afghan First local procurement objectives.
Whilst Leigh refers to the team as his “eyes and ears” on the ground, he is an equally valuable part of the team with eyes and ears inside the camps of the various militaries who have huge spending power and institutional mandates to buy locally.
Leigh has been working hard to become established as the Afghan First point of contact across the province’s many bases and to vociferously declare that the PDT-A team can make peoples jobs easier whilst increasing their mission impact. You might have heard of Bastion – the sprawling military base/ city but Leigh is also active on Camp Leatherneck, Deleram, Camp Dwyer and PRT Lashkar Gah and works with the Estonians, Danish, British Military and US Marines.
It’s no picnic though. “This isn’t a 5 day week job it’s a 7 day a week job” remarks Leigh. “What’s key is networking. If you meet someone in the canteen be proactive and hold the meeting in the canteen”.
Luckily for PDT-A Leigh has enough enthusiasm to network for PDT-A and the Afghan businessmen and women who can’t necessarily get access to the buyers to do it for themselves.