Our New Report: Women Businesses left out in Government Procurement in East Africa

We are pleased to share our new report on the barriers and solutions to women’s participation in public procurement in Eastern Africa produced by Africa Freedom of Information Centre with our partners, The Open Contracting Partnership and The Institute for Social Accountability. Gender inequality is a major challenge that concerns everyone, however, without tackling its root causes, the journey will be longer and tedious. The study finds among others that whereas governments spend nearly 60% of their national budget every year, women-led businesses take less than 1% of the contracts!

The study sought to uncover the challenges and solutions that prevent women-led enterprises from participating in public procurement processes. The study was conducted in five East African countries. Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya and Ethiopia.

This low participation rate is due to many factors, including restricted access to funding, a lack of information and understanding about procurement processes, and discrimination and bias towards women in the procurement sector.

Access to funding is cited as a significant hurdle for East African women-led companies.

Due to a lack of collateral and other criteria, women entrepreneurs frequently struggle to obtain funding from financial institutions. As a result, they are unable to compete in procurement processes with larger and more established enterprises that have better access to finance.

The lack of information and understanding about procurement processes was also cited as a key hindrance. Women-owned firms frequently lack the information and skills required to participate in procurement procedures, such as identifying procurement opportunities, preparing bids, and adhering to procurement standards. This lack of knowledge and skills makes it difficult for women-led businesses to compete with other businesses and to participate in public procurement processes..

Discrimination and bigotry against women were also cited as a barrier to participation in the procurement sector. Women-led firms are frequently subjected to prejudice and bias in the procurement sector, as they are not taken or are perceived as less capable than their male counterparts. This results in a lack of faith in their ability to offer quality goods and services, limiting their ability to engage in procurement processes even further.

To overcome these barriers, the AFIC and partners proposes several solutions

One solution is to increase access to finance for women-led businesses. Targeted financing programs designed to meet the unique needs of women entrepreneurs. These programs could include microfinance, grants, and other financing options. The research proposes that these do not ask collateral or traditional financing requirements.

Another solution is to improve the information and knowledge available to women-led businesses. This information should be about procurement processes. This could can be through targeted training and capacity building programs. These should provide women entrepreneurs with the skills and knowledge to enable them take part in procurement. This would include training on how to prepare bids, follow procurement regulations, and develop business relationships with procurement officials.

Finally, the research proposes addressing discrimination and bias against women. Women especially in the procurement sector through awareness-raising and advocacy efforts. These efforts would include promoting gender equality. Addressing the underlying attitudes and biases that prevent women from participating in the procurement sector. We invite you to read more in this report here.