PDT Heads to South Sudan
“to seek opportunities to deliver early peace dividends by utilizing local procurement and otherwise enhancing, to the extent possible, UNMISS’s contribution to the economy;”
This is from the mandate of the United Nation’s Mission in South Sudan, otherwise known as the world’s youngest country. Including local procurement in its mandate is quite new for the UN and a clear indication that the UN is looking for new ways to maximize its impact and give ownership of the development process to those its meant to benefit.
For an organization like PDT, this is extremely exciting. We exist to help international agencies and companies increase their local procurement by providing products and services that encourage and facilitate a buy local approach. We do this because we believe that market development and job creation are one of the essential keys to peace and stability in countries recovering from conflict and disaster.
In a fledgling economy like South Sudan, buying local is not as easy as it sounds. Along with a number of other barriers, there is often very little information available about the domestic marketplace, including how to find local businesses. Therefore it is easier, and quicker, for organizations and companies to import the goods and services they need rather than buying from a local merchant. This includes everything from office furniture to beverages.
It’s easy to presume that South Sudan is unable to meet the consumption needs of international buyers. Just over half of the population lives below the poverty line. Seventy-eight percent of households depend on farming or livestock for their livelihoods. Only 27 percent of the population over 15 is literate. The country ranks sixth highest in infant mortality rate. And just 1 percent of households have a bank account.
Surely there is a lot of work to be done in South Sudan. But like every other country, it is full of talented and smart people who, with some support and opportunities, can take a greater role in the development process – and ultimately the future of their country. This also requires a commitment from the international community to think about what’s important over the long-term, not just what needs to be accomplished today. We think it’s amazing that the UN has taken steps to acknowledge this by including local procurement in its mandate, especially because research has shown that the UN’s economic impact in developing countries is enormous. We hope other organizations will climb on board the local procurement train.
PDT is currently on the ground in South Sudan talking with various stakeholders about how to support this effort and move it forward. We’re excited to see what lies ahead for South Sudan and hope that job creation and private sector development will rank high on the list of priorities for both national and international actors.