APLU hosts NRF International Conference on Public Procurement and Innovation in Africa

The African Procurement Law Unit organized two high-level engagements on behalf of the National Research Foundation of South Africa (NRF) to explore the linkage between public procurement and innovation in Africa. At a one-day colloquium (pictured above) followed by a two-day conference, held between 13 and 15 November at the NRF campus in Pretoria, leading international scholars engaged with local policymakers, practitioners and scholars in both the areas of public procurement and innovation to explore ways in which public spending can be leveraged to accelerate innovation on the continent.

Opening the conference, Mr. Imraan Patel (left), deputy director general for research development and support in the Department of Science and Innovation, noted the need to use the opportunity that the state’s enormous spend on public procurement presents to build our innovation ecosystem.

The South African government spends close to R1 trillion annually through public procurement. Scholars from multiple disciplines explored issues such as public procurement as an innovation policy tool, the transformation potential of public procurement for/of innovation, the state of current supply chains, mapping firm innovation patterns in South Africa, the role of technology in procurement of innovation, pursuing functional and relational public procurement paradigms, innovation for gender-responsive procurement, defense procurement as a driver of innovation and public procurement in open innovation approaches. Best practices across the world were considered in building an appreciation of a fit-for-purpose approach to linking public procurement and innovation in Africa.

All presentations at the conference van be viewed on the NRF YouTube channel.

Public Procurement: Global Revolution 2024

The Global Revolution series of conferences has become a firm fixture in the public procurement calendar since its inception in 1997. The first in person event post-COVID attracted well over 200 participants, included 38 sessions and hosted over 100 speakers. As always, it brought together an impressive array of public procurement experts and talent, including representatives from most of the major international institutions working in public procurement, purchasing professionals, lawyers and consultants, as well as academics.

The Public Procurement Research Group (PPRG) at the University of Nottingham, under the leadership of APLU Fellow, Prof Annamaria la Chimia, will again be hosting this major conference in 2024. The dates for the 2024 conference is 17 to 18 June and the event will again take place at the East Midlands Conference Centre in Nottingham. APLU will also again collaborate with the PPRG on the conference.

The call for papers is now out and can be viewed on the conference website.

Second workshop on a national conversation on procurement reform in South Africa

The second workshop in APLU’s project to facilitate a national conversation on procurement reform in South Africa took place at the Birchwood Hotel & OR Tambo Conference Centre on 21 July 2023. Like the first workshop in February 2023, this second workshop brought together a large range of stakeholders in South African public procurement, including public procurement practitioners, academics, representatives of government suppliers, and policy-makers.

The second workshop focused specifically on the Public Procurement Bill B18-2023 that was tabled in the South African Parliament on 30 June 2023. The Bill proposes to consolidate all procurement regulation under a single regulatory regime and introduce significant reform to the procurement system in South Africa.

Delegates deliberated on a range of topics under the Bill, organised under five core themes:

TopicsInstitutional arrangements under the Public Procurement Bill
Nature and powers of the Public Procurement Office
Download slides for the theme 1 presentation by Dr Peter Volmink
TopicsA debarment system for South Africa
Professionalisation of public procurement
Download slides for the theme 2 presentation by Prof Sope Williams
TopicsWhat principles should drive targeted procurement in South Africa?
Download slides for the theme 3 presentation by Mr Tshiamo Sedumedi
TopicsThe procurement procedures that should be provided for in the South African procurement system.
Download slides for the theme 4 presentation by Mr Shaun Scott
TopicsThe optimal mechanisms to resolve disputes in public procurement
Download slides for the theme 5 presentation by Ms Thandiwe Seboletswe

First workshop on a national conversation on procurement reform in South Africa

The African Procurement Law Unit (APLU) initiated a national conversation on public procurement reform in South Africa during a two-day gathering in Johannesburg from 27 to 28 February 2023.

The initiative is a response to the call of the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture which noted that “any serious attempt to address the problems which beset public procurement must go well beyond state capture … the process of reform requires a coherent and comprehensive plan of action which needs to bring the public and private sectors together in a joint initiative to restore proper standards and discipline within the procurement system.”

The event drew over 120 delegates from the South African public procurement/supply chain management community to discuss all aspects of public procurement with the aim of framing a vision for the future of public procurement in South Africa. Delegates came from all levels of government, including key national departments such as Treasury; Justice and Constitutional Development; Public Works and Infrastructure; Trade, Industry and Competition and Defence as well as from public bodies such as the NRF; Public Service Commission; SARS; Competition Commission and SANRAL. Suppliers to the government as well as supplier organisations such as Consulting Engineers South Africa and the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa were present. Participating NGOs included Corruption Watch; the Legal Resources Centre; Amabhungane; Open Ownership, OUTA and the Public Service Accountability Monitor as well as some of South Africa’s leading procurement academics and lawyers.

The topics discussed ranged from the forthcoming public procurement legislation for South Africa, how best to deal with the restriction of poor performing and corrupt suppliers to government, the liability of public officials for procurement failures, the need for the state to buy local goods in order to support local industrial development, how to accelerate transformation via public procurement practices, increased use of technology to improve efficiencies in procurement and to reduce abuse and how best to deal with challenges to tender awards.

Prof Geo Quinot, APLU director and professor of law at SU, noted in his opening remarks that “public procurement is the backbone of service delivery in our country, of making real the aspirations of our constitution, of driving economic development. By coming together, all of us can strengthen that backbone to the benefit of everyone who live in our country.” Click here to listen to the full opening remarks.

The issues raised during the plenary engagements were categorised under five themes and discussed in more detail by smaller working groups. The themes are institutional arrangements; procurement integrity; targeted procurement; procedures & efficiency; and dispute resolution. The South African public procurement community intends to contribute to the ongoing reforms of the public procurement system and following the two-day workshop, the national conversation continues by way of workstreams where delegates will continue to explore the themes raised in the working groups.  For each theme, an issue paper will be collaboratively developed to set out inter alia the nature of the issue, its role in the procurement system, possible ways in which it could be regulated, suggested operating procedures and standard documents, and the skills required to manage the issue. The issue papers will include case studies, from South Africa and beyond, on how the issue has been successfully addressed. These issue papers will be discussed at further gatherings, including another national workshop in June. The outcomes can feed into the public consultation processes that will accompany new procurement legislation, and the crafting of regulations and other implementation instruments under a new procurement statute, once passed. Generally, the initiative aims to assist all stakeholders in improving procurement practice – from the regulators tasked with designing and overseeing the procurement system; to the leadership of organs of state in using procurement as a strategic tool; to procurement officials in their daily acquisition functions; to businesses wanting to supply goods and services to the state.

The South African procurement community believes that by bringing together the experiences of officials awarding tenders, of enterprises selling to the state, of regulators monitoring the spending of public money, of NGOs focusing on the impact of procurement on civil society and of academics researching and training on all aspects of public procurement, the South African society can collaboratively construct a fit-for-purpose procurement system that can deliver best value for money. 

​Listen to the closing remarks by Prof Quinot at the end of the first workshop at this link.

UNCITRAL Days in Africa

UNCITRAL Days are a series of events co-organised with institutions of higher learning to raise awareness of the work of UNCITRAL amongst the next generations of legal thinkers and policymakers, thereby furthering its efforts to promote the progressive harmonization and modernization of international trade and commercial law.

The theme of the 2022 UNCITRAL Days in Africa was “Modernization and harmonization of international commercial law framework in the AfCFTA context”.

On 3 November 2022 from 9:00 – 12:30 (UTC+2), the African Procurement Law Unit at Stellenbosch University co-hosted with UNCITRAL an UNCITRAL Africa Day workshop focusing on the public procurement dimension of trade law harmonization in the AfCFTA context.

For more details, including recordings of the presentations, click on the following link.

Seminar: Advancing women’s rights through public infrastructure procurement

Despite vast progress in the field of women’s rights, women still experience extreme discrimination in the form of gender pay gaps in workplaces, gender-based violence and harassment and time poverty due to unpaid domestic work. Women in rural areas travel long distances to access fuel and water, they suffer from air pollution caused by heating for the purpose of cooking and cleaning and are in danger based on a lack of lighting at public transport areas and outside public bathrooms. The latter indicates that infrastructure in South Africa does not adequately provide for the needs for women.

Public infrastructure is acquired by way of public procurement, which constitutes approximately 22% of a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). With infrastructure being the bedrock of any country, the procurement of infrastructure holds tremendous economic significance. For the last two to three
decades, procurement has been leveraged to advance many social objectives, including the advancement of women-owned businesses. However, this topic in particular has seen slow development the world over.

This seminar will be based on an upcoming collaborative paper between the academy and practice in the form of UNISA, George Washington University International and Comparative Law Studies and International Budget Partnership South Africa where solutions to advancing women’s rights in infrastructure procurement will be considered. Sanitation access in South Africa’s informal
settlements will be explored as a case for gender-inclusive procurement.

Workshop on Public Procurement Authorities

On 7 April 2022, APLU, in collaboration with Crown Agents and the Open Contracting Partnership, hoste an open online workshop to discuss one of the recommendations on public procurement reform in South Africa, put forward by the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into State Capture (the Zondo Commission), viz. the creation of a Public Procurement Anti-Corruption Agency.

In brief, the Commission recommended:

“In the view of the Commission and for the reasons which follow, the appropriate starting point for any scheme of reform must include the establishment of a single, multi-functional, properly resourced and independent anti-corruption authority with a mandate to confront the abuses inherent in the present system. That authority could be called the Anti-Corruption Authority or Agency of SA South Africa (ACASA).”

Judicial Commission of Inquiry into State Capture Report Part 1 (2022) par 664

This recommendation follows the proposal put forward in the draft Public Procurement Bill, published in 2020, for the creation of a Public Procurement Regulator.

Many other countries on the African continent and beyond have created public procurement authorities of various types. These provide rich experiences for South Africa to look at in considering the creation of a procurement authority of some sort.

This workshop hosted leaders from existing procurement authorities in Kenya, Ghana and Chile to share their experiences in setting up and running such entities. It will also create an opportunity for discussing the proposals put forward for creating such an entity in South Africa. More than 200 participants joined the workshop.

Information on the speakers, presentations and recordings of the sessions can be accessed here.

Procuring of cloud computing in the public sector

Worldwide there has been an increase in the use of cloud-based computing solutions within the public sector. The International Data Corporation reports that the global public cloud services market grew by 24% in 2020. In South Africa, the recently published draft national policy on data and cloud noted the importance of harnessing the “social potential of data and cloud computing” and put forward a range of policy proposals towards increased adoption of public cloud solutions.

However, it is also widely recognized that a skills gap can be a significant barrier to the effective adoption of cloud-based solutions in the public sector. This skills gap starts with the procurement of cloud services. In a 2019 study conducted by Deloitte in the Australian context, it found that a skills gap and procurement were two major barriers to adopting the use of public cloud by government agencies.

With these considerations in mind, the African Procurement Law Unit (APLU), in collaboration with the School for Data Science and Computational ​​Thinking at Stellenbosch University and Amazon Web Services, convened a roundtable discussion on building capacity in the South African public sector for the procurement of cloud computing. The roundtable, which took place on 8 July 2021, was exploratory in nature. The purpose was to start a conversation between all relevant stakeholders in the public and private sector about how public sector procurement capacity can be developed and strengthened to effectively procure cloud-based solutions. Participants in the roundtable included academics across a range of disciplines and institutions, public sector officials from government departments and public entities, suppliers and consultants.

A recording of the discussion can be found at this link and the presentations can be downloaded here.

It is anticipated that a smaller working group will take the proposals put forward during the discussion forward and convene a second roundtable to put forward concrete proposals to support increased procurement of cloud computing in South Africa.

Workshop on South African draft Public Procurement Bill 2020

Following the publication of a draft Public Procurement Bill in South Africa in February 2020, APLU in collaboration with law firm ENSAfrica and the Public Procurement Special Interest Group of the Administrative Justice Association of South Africa hosted a workshop in Johannesburg and Cape Town on 9 March 2020 to engage with the draft Bill.


The panel of presenters discussed the following issues:

Overview of the Bill, with special emphasis on the role of the Regulator – Geo Quinot

What does the Bill Not Deal With? – Pippa Reyburn

The Bidding Process – Peter Volmink

Dispute Resolution – Walter Bhengu

Peter Volmink, Pippa Reyburn, Geo Quinot & Walter Bhengu

Peter Volmink, Pippa Reyburn, Geo Quinot & Walter Bhengu

Procurement Day 2019: Focusing on PPPs

APLU’s annual Procurement Day took place on 7 May 2019 and was well-attended by a mix of researchers, practitioners and officials, interested in public procurement.


The speakers were:

  • Prof Cao Fuguo
    • Professor of Law, Central University of Finance and Economics School of Law in Beijing, China, Director of the China Institute for Public Procurement Studies
  • Dr George Nwangwu
    • Associate Director and Head of Legal and Project Finance for Africa PPP Advisory Services Limited, Nigeria and author of Public Private Partnerships in Nigeria
  • Dr Allison Anthony
    • Senior lecturer, UNISA College of Law, Deputy Director: APLU
  • Prof Geo Quinot
    • Professor of Law, Stellenbosch University Faculty of Law, Director: APLU

with APLU’s Prof Sope Williams-Elegbe moderating the discussion.

Speakers at the 2019 APLU Procurement Day (from left): Prof Geo Quinot, Prof Cao Fuguo, Dr Allison Anthony, Prof Sope Williams-Elegbe and Dr George Ngwangwu

Speakers at the 2019 APLU Procurement Day (from left): Prof Geo Quinot, Prof Cao Fuguo, Dr Allison Anthony, Prof Sope Williams-Elegbe and Dr George Ngwangwu

The focus of the seminar was the legal regulation of public-private partnerships (PPPs). The speakers discussed a range of issues relating to the regulationof PPPs from both a South African and international perspectives. Prof Fuguo and Dr Nwangwu shared experiences from China and Nigeria in the regulation of PPPs respectively, while Dr Anthony looked at the regulation of PPPs in the context of infrastructure development in South Africa and Prof Quinot discussed the regulation of unsolicited bids as a commonly-used mechanism in PPP procurement, including in South Africa.