The Role of Women in Public Procurement

The public procurement process involves three phases: acquisition planning and market research; source selection and contract award; and contract administration and close out. By carefully structuring the rules that govern each of these phases, governments seek to achieve various policy objectives. For most procurement systems, those objectives include value for money, integrity, equal treatment and efficiency. These objectives can and should include increased participation by women entrepreneurs in public procurement and in the economy more broadly.

The gender-based opportunities create diversity dividends through increased job creation, hence inclusive growth. Government procurement offers a unique, fiscally responsible route to empower women, combat poverty and promote inclusive economic growth. Public procurement accounts for as much as 10–15% of gross domestic product (GDP) in developed countries and over 30% of GDP in developing countries.

Inclusive economic growth has proven to be a prerequisite to achieving development goals. Inclusive economic growth with decent employment and decent wages has proven to be a prerequisite for achieving the Millennium Development Goals as per the United Nations.

Gender equality and women’s empowerment are set to be a cornerstone of the Post- 2015 Development Agenda, increasing the relevance of pursuing options through procurement to deliver on development commitments.

Investing in women-owned businesses pays dividends in terms of creating jobs and development. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the engines for job growth in the world economy, accounting for nearly 80% of jobs worldwide. Increasing their competitiveness increases their likelihood of success, expansion and job creation. Women entrepreneurs tend to reinvest up to 90% of their earnings in their families and communities, which links inclusive economic growth directly to development of the economy.

Research shows that there is a positive correlation between gender equality and a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. When women are excluded from the marketplace, the economy suffers. Promoting gender equality is a necessary boast to every economy, the same applies to using public procurement policy to stimulate entrepreneurial activity by women-owned businesses.

The case for public procurement as a tool to promote participation by women owned businesses is compelling from a developmental and economic perspective. A growing body of research shows that inclusive growth is critical to achieving many of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). At the time of publication, a stand-alone goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment was proposed for the Post-2015 Development Agenda, which succeeds the MDGs.

Research shows that there is a positive correlation between gender equality and a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. When women are excluded from the marketplace, the economy suffers and the same applies to promoting participation by women-owned businesses in public procurement. Public procurement is a powerful tool to achieve socioeconomic objectives because it operates at the intersection of the government’s regulatory and buying powers.

To date, however, women entrepreneurs have been largely excluded from this sizeable market due to lack of access to information on bids, understanding of procedures and ability to meet requirements. As both market regulators and participants, governments are in a unique position to change this and benefit from enlarging the pool of potential suppliers.

Women-owned businesses also require more targeted assistance to help them overcome a history of discrimination and marginalization and succeed in the marketplace. The guide discusses strategies such as margins of preference, reservations and capacity-building programs used by governments around the world to stimulate participation by women entrepreneurs and other marginalized groups.

In order to unleash the full potential of women-owned enterprises in Uganda, Government should rethink the public procurement policy and use it as a strategic lever to accelerate gender inclusive economic growth through the application of state spending power. This will necessitate reforms that foster more favorable attitudes towards women’s entrepreneurial activity.

Courtesy photo