Message from PURCO SA Chairman - Chris Liebenberg

As I reflect on the past year at PURCO SA, I am deeply cognisant of the local and global conversations about relevance and renewal within Higher Education. While our sector grapples with the disruption and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, Higher Education leaders and policymakers are reflecting on the state and purpose of Higher Education and how it must adapt to retain its relevance in a post-pandemic future. There is a general consensus that South African universities have reached a turning point where we need to more clearly demonstrate our relevance and value to our broader society. A common thread is that universities need financial sustainability to guarantee their existence, but in our highly unequal society funding and student affordability are ongoing challenges. Improving operational efficiencies and diversifying our revenue streams are also identified as critical as a buffer against financial cuts by key funders, including the State. Technology is touted as a potential game-changer in Higher Education renewal. Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to rethink the bricks and mortar paradigm and accelerate digital transformation of both learning and administration systems. Lockdowns accelerated this inevitable progression and promoted a realization that technology can help to make education more accessible to all. Technologies such as online collaboration tools, virtual reality and AI afford us an opportunity to reach more students; increase our relevance to the working world of the future; and tap into global expertise to reshape learning materials and delivery, and radically improve how our institutions are administered.


For me, these conversations emphasize the leading role that PURCO SA already plays in this renewal. We have been delivering procurement collaboration between southern African institutions for more than 40 years, and our Consultancy Division has both the expertise to help guide our institutions through many of these essential changes and the ability to provide an array of shared services. PURCO SA has evolved to become far more than just an efficient, cost-effective and successful collaborative bulk buying organization - although our foundational roles of facilitating tenders and managing contracts for Members remain among our core strengths.


The key goal for Higher Education institutions is to prepare young people for the future, which means that the application of available funds needs to be focused on student outcomes, research, and our academic faculty, with particular care to minimise administration costs while improving efficiencies. PURCO SA helps to achieve these objectives through our 5-pronged collaborative value offering.

• Share expertise, overcome resource constraints and reduce costs through Tender Management;

• Reduce administrative burden by piggybacking existing contracts for common goods and services negotiated by our Contract Administration team; and earn national discounts and rebates;

• Access professional, affordable consulting and staffing support across all operational areas through our Consultancy division;

• Use the shared PURQ academic information platform to support students, reduce workload and generate annuity revenue for Members;

• Receive skills training through our Development initiatives so Members and Suppliers are better able to flourish, create jobs and contribute to the growth of the economy.

PURCO SA offers strategic inputs and practical services that address many of the operational needs of the sector, providing crucial support to help Higher Education redesign itself for the future.


The COVID-19 pandemic continued to inflict disruption and uncertainty on the Higher Education landscape during the past 12 months. Personally though, I believe it has given us an unprecedented opportunity to rethink, reshape and emerge stronger and more relevant than before. We simply must do that, otherwise we will ultimately jeopardise the future of our youth and our country. This is a pivotal point in Higher Education development, with many solutions readily available. Our Higher Education Members and the PURCO SA team have an abundance of academic and operational intellect and skills that we can tap into. With the assistance of our Board of Directors, our PURCO SA team and all our Members I fully intend PURCO SA to be at the forefront of leveraging this invaluable asset. As ever, I am grateful for all the support our Consortium receives, and for the contributions and enthusiasm of all our stakeholders.

Chris Liebenberg
PURCO SA Chairman
Senior Director of Finance University of the Free State

The full Chairman’s message is available on the PURCO SA Annual Report for your perusal:

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