Public Private Partnership (PPP) refers to government service or private venture which is funded and operated through partnership between the government and one or more private sector companies.Typically, the private firm assumes significant financial and operational risk when it provides a public service. Put simply, imagine the government as a business (wo)man who is also the land owner.
S/he has a not only a huge piece of land but more so a business to run and a family. S/he is not particularly an expert farmer. The landowner has two choices; s/he can sublet parcels of land to other specialist farmers and concentrate on business and family or they can choose to go it alone and try to do everything. Clearly, the second option is quite stretching and ill advised. Communists and socialists tried it in the last century and we know the results, thus far. The government’s chief duty is to govern, to administrate. As much as possible it should do just that. This is the rationale of PPP
From the foregoing, it is clear that we have a lot to do in getting PPPs running well in our region.It cannot be gainsaid that we need to have a strong and properly organized and vibrant private sector.
It is with this in mind that, I suppose, on February 3rd and 4th, the School of Finance and Banking (SFB) organized an international conference on Public Private Partnership. A lot was discussed and successful examples of how PPPs have been implemented elsewhere were given. Hopefully we will implement it successfully here too. We thank SFB for the great initiative!
Before we can successfully implement PPPs, however, we must develop our private sector. Business and professional associations must be developed and strengthened. There should be a deliberate government initiative in this. The platform that these associations provide is necessary for fostering growth of the relevant business and professions.
Home grown solutions to the problem of a weak private sector can best be done on the platform of the East African Community, and not at country level alone. Intra-sectorial partnership for the private sector must be developed to reach, or better, surpass, the level of governmental co-operation that we see in East Africa today.But not only should there be co-operation.
Competition should be encouraged between firms in the region. The common market opens doors for this, but more needs to be done. We need to be a truly free and common market in the region. Contrary to the view some still hold that it will kill industries within their national borders, this simultaneous co-operation and competition will actually weed out the inefficient industries and strengthen the efficient ones. Whereas it might be good for a nation to have local industries, it is far better and in its best interests for the citizens to have highest quality products and services at best possible prices.
Mostly, governments think of PPPs only in huge projects such as infrastructure. Creativity and innovation is called for here. We should seek opportunities to use what we have (the small private sector) where possible. This will not only demystify PPPs, but also result in sustainable development of the economy and, most importantly, growth of the private sector.
The main threats to PPP are; one, corruption and two; lethargy. Unless the fight against corruption is won, this initiative will be most tempting for the corrupt among us. There is also the problem of best laid plans not being implemented. This came out very clearly at SFB. We have all manner of excuses; but the real problem is we never quite get round to hitting the road running.
We need to match reality to the rhetoric.
Sam Kebongo is a skills and business advisory services consultant. He teaches entrepreneurship at Rwanda Tourism University College.