Public sector buyers urged to award more contracts to women-owned businesses

Gurjit Degun
19 September 2014

Public sector procurement professionals are being encouraged to increase the number of contracts that are awarded to women-owned businesses (WOBs).

The International Trade Centre (ITC) has launched the initiative because it estimates that only 1 per cent of public procurement contracts globally are awarded to WOBs or women entrepreneurs. The ITC is the joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations, it assists small and medium-sized enterprises in developing and transition economies to become more competitive in global markets.

The ITC has also introduced a guide, Empowering Women Through Public Procurement, to help governments to develop guidelines for public procurement that will “facilitate the sourcing of more goods and services from women entrepreneurs”.

“Whereas many governments have for a long time used public-procurement policies as a tool to promote socio-economic objectives, few have used public procurement to unleash the economic potential of women entrepreneurs,” the ITC said.

ITC executive director Arancha González said that targets need to be put in place to ensure governments can better monitor the number of contracts being awarded to women entrepreneurs.

“Aware that we are starting from a low base, 50 per cent is a long way off. But if 3 per cent, 4 per cent or 5 per cent of government contracts went to WOBs, this would be an achievement," she said. "We are calling for a fairer system in which women have a better chance of bidding for public tenders. Investing in women-owned businesses pays dividends in terms of creating jobs and development. Women entrepreneurs tend to reinvest up to 90 per cent of their earnings in their families and communities, which links inclusive economic growth directly to development.

“Transparency, increased access to information, standardised templates, sufficient time for preparation or pre-qualification of WOBs could help ensure that more women would be eligible to submit procurement bids.”

González launched the initiative at the annual Roundtable of the Global Platform on Sourcing from Women Vendors in Kigali, Rwanda. Oda Gasinzigwa, minister of gender and family promotion at the Republic of Rwanda, said: "In Rwanda, existing gender sensitive laws and regulations offer a unique, fiscally responsible route to empower women, including public procurement. But we, too, have some way to go.”

Uganda Minister for trade Amelia Kyambadde, who also participated in the launch, committed to implement the initiative in her country. 

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