What can SMEs expect to gain from Expo 2020 Dubai's new Online Marketplace?
This week in Dubai, Expo 2020, “a global destination for millions of people to share ideas, showcase innovation, encourage collaboration and celebrate human ingenuity”, according to The National UAE, unveiled its global online marketplace (OMP). According to a report by Trade Arabia, the OMP is a free-to-use platform designed to “create a long-lasting economic impact by supporting companies of all sizes, especially small and medium-sized enterprises”.
The platform enables users to showcase their products, ideas and available services to Expo 2020 participants, as well as other registered businesses, according to the report.
Small and medium-sized enterprises will be able to promote their supply chain management and procurement elements “in both new and established markets by posting tender opportunities, which are visible to vendors and suppliers worldwide”.
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Richard McGuire, vice president of procurement, Expo 2020 Dubai, said in a statement: “through the OMP, we aim to encourage innovation and drive global economic progress by helping companies to connect, collaborate and expand their operations, while creating one of the largest networks of this kind in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region”.
According to Trade Arabia: “more than 200 participants including nations, corporations, non-government organisations and educational institutions” are taking part in the event. The report continues, noting that “Expo 2020 has so far awarded 4,500 contracts, more than half of which have been won by SMEs.”
“At Expo 2020, we understand that SMEs are the backbone of any economy,” said McGuire, “which is why we have introduced a number of initiatives and platforms designed to increase their reach and visibility.”
Will Public Procurement Budgets Increase in 2021?
Procurement is more than just a private enterprise. COVID-19 reminded us that sourcing materials is an essential part of the government’s role. Throughout 2022, tiny departments sourced massive amounts of personal protective equipment (PPE), medical supplies, and emergency vaccines and testing kits. Even non-procurement professionals were pulled into the fray, as frantic timelines demanded nothing less.
According to Celeste Frye, co-founder and CEO of Public Works Partners, the crisis brought procurement to the attention of skilled employees who had never considered it. As non-procurement personnel stepped up to help their coworkers, many found that they’d stumbled upon a critical and rewarding job. “Existing public employees have seen the essential nature of the work”, Frye said. “[They’ve] gained some critical skills and possibly [grown] interested in pursuing procurement as a longer-term career”.
Small, Local Suppliers Take Charge
Frye, whose firm helps organisations engage stakeholders and develop long-term procurement strategies, thinks it well worth the effort to open one’s mind to new opportunities. Cooperative contracts, for instance, can help public departments and municipalities save money, time, and effort. By joining together with other towns or cities in the region, public procurement teams aggregate their purchasing power and can drive better deals.
These cooperative contracts have the added benefit of advancing equity. Smaller suppliers that struggle to compete with established firms for government contracts can act as subcontractors, helping big suppliers fulfil bits of the project. Once they get their foot in the door, small, local, and disadvantaged suppliers can then leverage that government relationship to take on additional projects.
Especially as governments start to pay attention to procurement resilience, public procurement departments must expand their requests for proposals (RFPs) to take into account innovative solutions and diverse suppliers. According to Frye, Public Works Partners—a certified female-owned firm—has benefitted from local and state requirements that specify diversity.
Post-Pandemic Funding Swells Procurement Budgets
And the pandemic won’t be the end of it. City governments need to build sustainable energy infrastructure such as solar panels, charging stations, and recycling plants, ensure that masks and medicines are never in short supply, and source new technologies to keep up with cloud and cybersecurity concerns.
Public procurement budgets will likely increase to match demand. As Peter Ware, Partner and Head of Government at Browne Jacobson, explained, “in a non-pandemic world, the [U.K.] government spends on average around £290 billion on outsourced services, goods, and works...anywhere between 10% and 14% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Post-pandemic, city procurement will only increase as national governments provide local divisions with emergency funding.
And in truth, government employees might jump at the opportunity. Frye noted that public procurement could give immediate feedback on new programmes: “[Procurement] is where new laws and policies ‘hit the road’ and are implemented”, she said. “Professionals in these fields get the satisfaction of creating real change and seeing quantifiable outcomes of their work”.