The Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) Contracting Contingency Contracting Office (CCO) hosted a Djibouti Economic Outreach Symposium at the Kempinski Hotel, Djibouti, Dec. 19, 2017.
Commonly referred to as Vendor Day, the symposium is designed to get local business owners together and make them aware of the opportunities and process of doing business as a vendor with the U.S. government.
The event was opened with remarks from Merry Walker, U.S. Embassy Djibouti Economic and Commercial Officer.
“I welcome all of the vendors to this event,” Walker said. “For those who already work with the Task Force, I appreciate your dedication to their mission and to the sustained military operations in the region. Your work is invaluable, and we are glad that you are our partners in the fight against violent extremist organizations. And to the U.S. service members present, thank you for your service not only to the U.S., but to this region and the world at large. We value your sacrifices to make the world a safer place, and enable an environment for continued economic growth and sustainable development.”
According to U.S. Army Maj. Nicole Thompson, a contracting officer assigned to the CJTF-HOA Contingency Contracting Office (CCO), Vendor Day focuses on sustainable development and stabilization of CJTF-HOA’s area of responsibility (AOR).
“We are stimulating their economic growth by giving the vendors the opportunity to expand their offerings and to service the military, and not just locally here in Djibouti,” Thompson said.
Because CJTF-HOA’s AOR expands over several countries, the products and services the CCO contracts have the possibility of being utilized in various countries, improving the marketability and reach of the companies.
While Vendor Day is not designed to allow vendors to submit bids for contracts, it does allow them to present their businesses’ profiles and portfolios to the contracting officers.
“Usually the vendors come with pretty strong information, but as you sit and do interviews with them, you often find that there is really valuable information that’s not included in the portfolios and profiles they initially sent,” Thompson said.
According to Thompson, the CJTF-HOA CCO will often make suggestions to have vendors update their profiles or send the information in writing so that the office can update its databases when they need to look for vendors who provide needed products or services.
Being based out of Djibouti, the CCO is able to work with local Djiboutian businesses frequently, but their efforts are not limited to Djibouti. They have been expanding their outreach by working with other U.S. embassies in the CJTF-HOA AOR to contact vendors and help stimulate those local economies as well.
“It’s been a really great process,” Thompson said. “Our past Vendor Day in Ethiopia was the first one that we actually had an embassy (representative) present with us for the Vendor Day. That provided an excellent perspective, and it helped us to recognize some of the gaps that we had in the way that we push out the requirements that we have to our local vendors.”
On top of working with the embassy, the CCO is also able to operate under the Africa First Initiative. Formerly the Djibouti First Initiative, it allows the CCO to give preference to products and services that come from certain African countries.
“For the local economy, it gives the local business owners an opportunity to stimulate their internal growth, because the things that we buy here are usually reoccurring,” Thompson said. “If we’re able to tap into those vendors and their services, when needs arise for (CJTF-HOA) we’re able to be more responsive and meet the needs more quickly, and we’re also able to give those vendors business.”
The CCO plans to try to have a Vendor Day event at least once every quarter. Businesses can obtain information about CCO through the U.S. embassies to their countries.