Public procurement is a critical part of the economy, and all members of society must have access to opportunities in this sector. However, women in Uganda suffer many barriers to engaging in public procurement.
The Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act, 2003 governs the public procurement process in Uganda. The public procurement process provides a platform to get services such as consulting, infrastructure projects, public sector supplies, public works or utilities that meet specific needs. According to the Ministry of Finance performance report for 2019-2020, public procurement accounts for an average of 18.57% of public sector spending in Uganda. It is a significant source of business opportunities for private firms.
Ugandan women have made impressive progress in public procurement participation in the past three years. According to data from the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA), public procurement participation by women has increased from 16.75% in 2016 to 22.27% in 2019, with UGX 72 billion (USD 19 million) awarded to women-owned enterprises. Despite this progress, the public sector is still overwhelmingly dominated by male entrepreneurs and business owners who own nearly 80% of public contracts.
How do these hurdles limit the potential of women-owned businesses?
- Lack of information on public contracting opportunities means that women entrepreneurs and business owners are not aware of what is available, limiting their chances of winning public contracts.
- Lack of access to finance means that women entrepreneurs and business owners cannot bid on public contracts or may struggle to finance the project if they successfully win a public contract.
- Gender bias and discrimination limit the ability of women entrepreneurs and business owners to compete equally with their male counterparts.
What solutions have been proposed to address this issue?
To enhance public-private partnerships, the government has been making efforts to increase transparency in public procurement by improving access to information on public contracting opportunities through the e-procurement portal. Women entrepreneurs and business owners can register on the public procurement portal to receive notifications about public contracting opportunities. The public-private partnership between the Government of Uganda and USAID has also helped to promote women’s participation through women’s empowerment programs, such as the Women Entrepreneurship Program (WEP), which focuses on strengthening the capacity of public and private sector stakeholders to facilitate the access by women-owned businesses to public procurement markets.
Why is it essential that we remove these barriers and increase opportunities for women in public procurement, and what impact would this have on Uganda’s economy?
There are many reasons it is essential to remove these barriers and increase opportunities for women in public procurement. First, increasing opportunities for women would result in a more inclusive economy in which everyone participates. Second, by removing these hurdles and increasing access to finance and information, we would empower women entrepreneurs and business owners to contribute significantly to the economy. Finally, increasing opportunities for women in public procurement would positively impact the economy, as women-owned businesses are more likely to reinvest profits back into their businesses and the community.
This is an important time for Uganda’s economy, and we must work together to remove these barriers to empower women entrepreneurs and business owners. Let’s make public procurement work for everyone!
What AFIC is doing to solve the problem
With support from the Growth and Economic Opportunities for Women – East Africa (GrOW EA) initiative; a joint venture between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) is implementing a two-year study (2021-2023) in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda that seeks to examine barriers to women’s participation in public procurement in East Africa and propose solutions to these challenges with the goal of improving their access to government procurement opportunities and betterment of their livelihoods and families.
In conclusion, public procurement is a significant source of business opportunities for private firms looking to do business with the public sector. However, many hurdles prevent women entrepreneurs and business owners from participating in public procurement. These hurdles include lack of information on public contracting opportunities, lack of access to finance and gender bias/discrimination. The government has been trying to address these issues, but we must do more to increase opportunities for women entrepreneurs and business owners. By removing these barriers and increasing access to information and finance, we can empower women entrepreneurs and business owners to contribute significantly to the economy. Let’s work together to make public procurement work for everyone!