Public procurement plays a vital role in economic growth and development, as it provides opportunities for businesses to supply goods and services to the government.
In Tanzania, the Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) in partnership with The Chanzo conducted a research study to understand the barriers and solutions to include women-led businesses in public procurement.
The study sheds light on the challenges faced by women entrepreneurs, the existing initiatives, and provides recommendations to foster their participation and success.
Let’s delve into the key findings and recommendations of this insightful study.
Understanding the Challenges
The study surveyed 59 women-led businesses in Tanzania, both those that have supplied to the government and those that have not. It was observed that most businesses operate in consumer-used item sectors, while those who have secured government tenders mainly focus on catering, cleanliness, and selling uniforms or protective gear.
However, these businesses encounter several challenges. One significant barrier is the lack of adequate capital for growth and expansion. Additionally, almost half of the businesses in the sample operate informally without proper registration. Lack of knowledge on engaging in public procurement and the perception of corruption also hinder women’s participation. Moreover, women face exclusion in sectors such as construction due to a prevailing culture of marginalization.
Existing Initiatives and their Limitations
In 2016, the Tanzanian government implemented important amendments to the Public Procurement Act, which aimed to allocate 30 percent of annual procurement volume to special groups, including women, youth, persons with disabilities, and the elderly.
However, the performance of this initiative has been unexpectedly weak. Since its inception, only about 120 special groups have registered, and the total contracts provided under the scheme by July 2021 amounted to a mere 0.002 percent of the planned procurement for the financial year 2020/2021. This lackluster performance can be attributed to the low awareness among the public and the non-compliance of procuring entities. Additionally, the requirement for special groups to organize themselves in groups excludes many women entrepreneurs who operate as sole proprietors or have formed companies.
Recommendations for Inclusive Public Procurement
Based on the study’s findings, several key recommendations were proposed to foster the inclusion of women-led businesses in public procurement:
Amend Laws for Inclusive Schemes: The existing legislation providing for a 30 percent preferential scheme for special groups should be amended to include other business formats operated by special groups, such as sole proprietorships and companies, rather than focusing solely on “groups.”
The Ministry of Community Development, Gender, Women, and Special Groups should actively participate in the implementation of the 30 percent preferential schemes across all procuring entities. Collaboration between various stakeholders is essential to drive meaningful change.
Public Awareness Campaign
A sustained multimedia public awareness campaign should be launched to inform women and other special groups about procurement opportunities. This campaign should emphasize the benefits of participating in public procurement and provide guidance on the processes involved.
Capacity Building and Support
Stakeholders, including government agencies and civil society organizations, should provide funding support for capacity building initiatives tailored to women’s businesses. This includes training programs, mentorship, and access to resources that enhance their competitiveness in public procurement.
Building a robust multi-stakeholder network of support for women’s businesses is crucial. Collaboration among government agencies, NGOs, private businesses, and women’s business networks will facilitate knowledge-sharing, resource pooling, and provide a platform for advocating women’s participation in public procurement.
Inclusive public procurement is key to unlocking the potential of women-led businesses in Tanzania. By addressing the challenges faced by these entrepreneurs and implementing the recommended solutions, the government and various stakeholders can create an enabling