DAI’s Claudia Manning Speaks at SASDC Synergy Conference

June 28, 2013

Claudia ManningClaudia Manning, Managing Director of DAI’s [Johannesburg office][2], spoke to delegates this week at the South African Supplier Diversity Council (SASDC) Synergy Conference about challenges facing the country, particularly about the various instruments that could be used by government and the private sector to ameliorate unemployment. The SASDC is modeled on the successful U.S. National Minority Supplier Development Council.

More than a quarter of economically active people in South Africa are unemployed, with unofficial estimates even higher. By comparison, Brazil, currently experiencing its most severe social protests in decades, has less than 10 percent unemployment. In South Africa, more than 50 percent of South African working-age youth (under the age of 25) are unemployed.

Manning spelled out some positive interventions to address the jobs crisis, including:

  • Government has emphasized local content in its procurement, in the interests of creating local jobs. “Signaling its serious intent on this, the government recently drove an initiative in which business, government, and labor signed a Local Procurement Accord, in which all parties committed to increasing their proportion of local content—and creating local jobs,” Manning said.
  • Big business has signaled its cooperation—but this needs to be driven at executive level. “Corporate South Africa has still not cracked the code of how to open up their supply chains to small suppliers, and especially to black suppliers,” she said. “The solution lies in being more innovative in opening up opportunities for sound, bona-fide black suppliers—opportunities beyond routine transactions in low-value discretional spend—and more committed to investment in small, especially black suppliers, accompanied by technical assistance and mentorship to grow their capacity.”

“I know that I’m preaching to the choir here. Thus far 27 South African corporations have recognized that the cause of supplier diversity is a worthy and valuable one, and have joined the SASDC. More than 200 black businesses have become certified members of the SASDC, signaling their desire to enter the mainstream of the economy,” she said. “But it will take sustained, principled, far-sighted leadership to make such efforts truly mainstream in South Africa’s corporate strategies. Unless there is a real commitment—led by corporate boards and executive management who recognize that the benefits of this approach far outweigh the risks and costs—such organizations will likely fail to bridge the gap between the included and the excluded.”

The SASDC’s Annual Synergy Conference is a two-day event where participants deepen their understanding of the concept of supplier diversity.

DAI’s work with black suppliers in South Africa dates back to 1998 when the U.S. Agency for International Development hired DAI’s South Africa team to implement the South Africa International Business Linkages (SAIBL) program.

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