Thiery Tsou Fematouo
On the behalf of our group of participants from various African countries and from Haïti, I would like to tell you how privileged and honoured we feel to be participating in this important Master programme on “Governance and Management of public procurement for Sustainable Development”. (Gouvernance et Management des Marchés Publics en Appui au Développement Durable.)
First of all, we would like to thank the authorities of this Centre, along with those of the University of Turin, Sciences Po Paris, Expertise France, Compagnia di San Paolo and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, who have made this programme possible. You are giving us an opportunity to learn the theory behind the science of public procurement and, at the same time, the chance to network with internationally renowned experts and practitioners in this field.
We would also like to thank the organizers for all the efforts made so far to welcome us. Since February 16, we have been here on this Campus in Turin and we are aware of the huge effort the team is putting in to make this experience unique, rich, useful and unforgettable. In particular, we are grateful for the helpfulness, friendship and smiles of all the different facilitators.
As you may know, in our developing countries, public procurement is increasingly becoming a key activity in supporting government strategies. Public procurement is vital for development: it lies on the critical path between the State budgets allocated to programmes and projects, and the achievement of developmental results.
Cameroon is a country in Central Africa, in the Gulf of Guinea. My country is currently engaged – courageously, let us say - in restructuring its economy. We expect to achieve our national objective, referred to as the “cap de l’émergence”, by 2035. Public procurement in Cameroon is today the privileged means used by the State and its agencies to support the country’s economic and social development. Public contracts are vital in promoting construction works and in the acquisition of goods and services. In 2011, for instance, 5,300 public contracts were awarded, worth a total of approximately 1 billion euro.
Local actors are also demanding better governance, starting from the top with the President of the Republic himself. This is why, in December 2011, the President decided to create a Ministry responsible for public contracts, answerable to the President’s Office, and to launch a reform. Today, I work in this Ministry with two other participants on the Masters programme. The reforms are on-going but, in the opinion of many informed observers, they have been held back by the poor qualifications of strategic and operational staff.
Working at the heart of this key Ministry, every day I encounter problems associated with a lack of human capacities in the field of public procurement. I am a graduate in engineering studies. However, in my position, I have to work not only on complex technical issues but also on complex legal, economic and management issues for which I have not been trained.
Recognizing this deficit, the Minister encourages executives to seek training opportunities in order to raise their level of expertise. Unfortunately, most of the training courses available locally are presented in seminar format. The trainers are generally people who have acquired expertise on the job, without understanding the whole system and all its aspects. On this Master’s course (GOMAP), on the other hand, all the necessary knowledge, techniques and tips on Governance and the management of public contracts are brought together.
Today I am here on this programme, but I must say that the road to Turin was neither short nor easy. And not just because of the physical distance. Taking a plane to come here was nothing compared with completing the administrative and financial arrangements, with both our own institutions and the Italian Embassy, to make this journey possible. Some of us needed to travel across countries to obtain visas, which is like asking a French citizen to go to Moscow to get a visa for India… This demonstrates just how motivated we are!
In my own case, I was fortunate that getting my visa was not really a problem. We had excellent support from the Italian representatives and the ILO office in Yaoundé. But it took two years of difficult negotiations to persuade the authorities in my country to partly sponsor my participation. However, with great support from the ITCILO, I was able to mobilize the funds in the hours before I actually took the plane to come here...
At any rate, I am here and we are here, and as English people say: so far so good!
What I can say from these first two weeks here in Turin is that the programme is a wonderful opportunity to share with each other on technical aspects, as well as to share the richness of our different cultures, break down some barriers and - why not? - to make some friends. We also hope that it will be an opportunity to spend an enjoyable and unforgettable time in Italy and in Europe.
Dear organizers and sponsors, please see the flowers of tomorrow in the seeds you are planting today on this programme. We can assure you that the experience you have provided has been extremely aspirational, and today's aspirations will become the inspiration for tomorrow’s success in our home countries. On my own behalf and on behalf of all the other participants, thank you very much.