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[looks like a “pay to network with government officials” event + economic intelligence gathering] Annual ICT conference

I’ve made some enquiries and noted two potential issues that I would like to bring to the attention of fellow listers (especially those in government). My opinion is based on a brief exchange with the Dubai-based organizing company, as well as my understanding of the information published on their website as at today:

ISSUE 1:
It costs USD $1,495/- per delegate just to attend. Networking is pitched as a benefit and included in the agenda. That combination makes the event look like a “pay to network with government officials” business. Some questions..

a. Is this model of “exclusive networking” with public officials for payment not some form of corruption?
b. Are events that, by design (whether intentional or not), appear to offer special access to government officials, for payment, not unlawful and/or unconstitutional?  Perhaps legal experts can shed some light on this.

c. Assuming attendees are attending in official capacity, as is appearent, why are government resources (time, expertise, human resources) being used to enrich a foreign company?

d. Further, I noted that the organizing company official refers to the delegate attendance fee (~Ksh 150,000/-) as an “investment”. Investments have returns. What is the expected return that attendees are looking at?

e. Is this how people get preferential access (to unfairly influence skewed policies / strategies and/or unfairly win tenders)?

f. I thought government officials would be sensitive/alert to such apparent traps, now that there is an ongoing war on corruption…? Is there a formal vetting/screening process for such events to avoid trapping or embarrassing senior officials? If not, please see suggested checklist below which can be used as a stop-gap measure.

ISSUE 2:
The event is organized by a “consulting” company in DUBAI whose business is (according to their website): ” to provide business insight and intelligence to our clients and give them visibility in uncharted terrains.”

The speaker line up comprises high profile public officials from Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia  – who apparently will be giving “presentations” on a broad range of public sector initiatives (as well as strategies and public policy issues), to an exclusive audience of paid up delegates.

Since it is the speakers who come from the “uncharted terrains” (and have been screened to maximize public sector participation), it follows, logically, that they cannot be the “clients” – they are the SOURCE of the sought insights. So who are the “clients” / recipients and how do they plan to use the information gathered? Has anyone asked that question?

I inquired about the speaking slots and was advised that the company has a policy that only Government officials and sponsors can give presentations. To me that signals an economic intelligence gathering event (with very broad scope!).

DISCUSSION:
This is the kind of meeting that government should organize with local (citizen owned) businesses, startups, final-year students, researchers and/or innovators to show them where they can explore opportunities and try offer them home-ground advantage and a foundation for rapid growth. But what are we doing instead?

I fear that we are literally giving away valuable economic information that could be used to disadvantage our own local businesses competitiveness (and lead to greater unemployment, increased poverty and associated political risks). I think this casualness with potentially sensitive economic information is one major reason our country remains poor and our businesses struggle to compete regionally and globally.

This is not about “protectionism” or “nationalism” (terms that neo-liberals use to influence bad policies in poor countries). It’s about developing sources of competitive advantage at nation level. Ever wondered, for example, why prosperous (non-oil dependent) countries don’t do such kind of events – unless they are (or have strictly vetted) the organizers and are in full control?

What if foreign businesses (and/or top management in co-owned enterprises) have been doing better than their local counterparts, not because they have talent for better business models, but because they, and their governments, play a smarter strategic game that leverages our gullibility / shortsightedness for unfair INFORMATION ADVANTAGE?

Don’t our CEOs have any interest in competing / expanding outside Kenya?

SUGGESTED INTERIM SOLUTION:
As a stop-gap solution, I’d like to propose the following 10-point EVENT VETTING CHECKLIST for government institutions to help screen all proposed events / conferences. This could be a starting point for the development of a robust information management framework:
1. What exactly is the purpose of the conference / event?

2. Who is organizing it and why that particular entity (what unique value proposition does it offer to Kenya)?

3. How will the Kenyan people and businesses benefit (Short, mid and long-term)? There should be someone assigned to follow up on these benefits and give a status report within the identified milestones.

4. Why can’t Government (relevant Ministry) organize an alternative event – on its own terms, and in public interest?

5. Is it a for-profit event? Are attendees paying? If yes, refer to 4.

6. If the entity is profiting from government participation, was there a competitive bidding to give local event organizers a fair chance?

7. Is it in line with the constitution (or other laws) for Government officials to be the main participants in a private, exclusive, for-profit event? Does it create opportunities for a privileged few to gain unfair economic advantage?

8. Has a sensitivity analysis been conducted on the event, its organizers (if foreign), affiliations (if foreign), goals, objectives? Has the company signed a conflict of interest disclosure form? Are the company shareholders local residents (or have sufficient local assents if foreign) to guarantee legal recourse for breach?

9. Have risks been identified and planned for (accept, mitigate, transfer, avoid)? Is there a risk matrix for the event?

10. Are contributors trained on intellectual property, its value to businesses and economic risks associated with conferences/events? Will there be a post event debriefing, where high risks have been identified?

Links:

1. Event link:https://bricsaconsulting.com/event/3rd-annual-information-communication-technology-africa/

2. For a company that has been organizing high profile international public-sector events over several years, their twitter page has only 128 followers. https://twitter.com/bricsaconsultin
Brgds,Patrick.
Patrick A. M. Maina[Cross-domain Innovator | Public Policy Analyst – Indigenous Innovations]

On Tuesday, May 14, 2019, 12:34:42 AM GMT+3, Barrack Otieno via kictanet <kictanet@lists.kictanet.or.ke> wrote:

Hi Fiona,
Many thanks for your email. Is it open to the public? Just come across the information for the first time.
Best Regards

On Sat, May 11, 2019 at 10:20 AM Fiona Makaka via kictanet <kictanet@lists.kictanet.or.ke> wrote:

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Good morning Listers,
Do we have a representative participating in this conference?

Regards,
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| Fiona Makaka |
| Associate – Telecommunications, Media and Technology |
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| T:  +254 (709) 830 100  |   | E:  fmakaka@tripleoklaw.com |

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| A:  | 5th Floor, Block C, ACK Garden House, 1st Ngong’ Avenue, off Bishops Road, Nairobi, Kenya  |  View Map |

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