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Towards gender balance: Understanding the barriers and solutions to include women-led businesses in East Africa.

The World Bank (2020) estimates that public procurement accounts for between 13-20% of global GPD every year, amounting to a staggering USD 9.5 trillion . Public procurement thus represents an unprecedented opportunity to boost local economies and drive development and growth.

Unlocking this potential, however, is critically dependent on robust mechanisms that hold governments accountable and allow for fair competition and equitable access to the gains of public procurement – especially for women. Unfortunately, gender bias and rigid power dynamics reproduce discrimination and oppression in how government money is planned, procured, implemented and monitored, disadvantaging women and putting an effective halt to social, cultural and economic development for both the women, their families and society at large.

To address the root causes for the inequitable access to public procurement opportunities for women, Africa Freedom on Information Centre (AFIC) is launching an exciting new project aimed at improving the understanding of policies and practices that exclude and include women-led businesses in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda; Towards Gender Balance: Understanding the Barriers and Solutions to Include Women-Led Businesses in East Africa.

Led by AFIC, the project will be implemented in collaboration with The Institute for Social Accountability (TISA) and the Open Contracting Partnership (OCP). Funding for the project comes from the East Africa component of the GrOW programme (Growth and Economic Opportunities for Women), supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and IDRC.

The project will look at both policy environment and its implementation in regard to women’s access to public procurement. In doing so, the project will employ a gender approach to capture and take account of the experiences of women entrepreneurs and business owners, and the challenges women face in de facto accessing these opportunities within each of the five target country contexts. Extensive consultations will take place, inviting for women’s perspectives on the socio-cultural and economic obstacles they face in their attempts to access public procurement.

AFIC and its partners will continue to build on strong existing relationships with key public institutions and partners. By engaging business communities, governments and policy makers, media platforms, and, most importantly, women business owners, the project will push an inclusive, informed and evidence-based advocacy strategy for overcoming the barriers to women’s fair inclusion in public procurement processes throughout the entirety of the project and beyond.

To ensure effective change for women in the region and useful knowledge generation for future programming, AFIC is proactively engaging with donors and stakeholders in creating synergies and strategic partnerships in regard to the economic period of recovery from the effects COVID-19 by exploring opportunities for disseminating findings and ways forward through regional (EAC, AU) and global fora (OGP).

The project will run from January 2021-December 2022 (24 months) and will consider all COVID-19 SOPs as prescribed by the target countries in which the project will be implemented.

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