African TSIs, governments aim to boost sourcing from women vendors

6 February 2014
ITC News

Women vendors in Africa are set to increase their competitiveness and gain better access to global markets after 19 institutions and individuals signed up for the Global Platform for Action on Sourcing from Women Vendors.

ITC hosted delegates from 11 African countries and the Philippines at the three-day workshop from 11-13 December to foster discussions about trade opportunities in the private and public-sector procurement markets.

The new signatories from six African countries signed letters of understanding with ITC on 12 December at the Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala, Uganda, as part of a workshop organized by the International Trade Centre (ITC) in partnership with the Ugandan Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives and the Uganda Export Promotion Board, called 'Fostering the participation of women vendors in procurement markets'.

The signing, which was presided over by Mary Karooro Okurut, Uganda's Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Affairs, underlines the commitment to increase the participation of African women entrepreneurs within the Global Platform and ensure that they receive preparatory and follow-up support needed to access global markets.

The Platform has corporate members with an annual procurement spending in excess of US$ 700 billion, a sellers' network of more than 50,000 business and professional women, and a growing number of TSIs. Ms. Okurut expressed full support for the Global Platform's activities and its efforts to enable more women entrepreneurs to supply products and services to government and corporations.

In developing countries, there are 8-10 million women-owned SMEs, representing 31% to 38% of total SMEs, yet they are not getting their fair share of contracts. Their access to trade and procurement opportunities is constrained by a number of factors, including limited information on procurement guidelines and regulations, and limited knowledge about selection and bidding procedures.

According to government representatives from Ghana, Sierra Leone, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania, women entrepreneurs do not bid for contracts except in South Africa, where participation is enforced by legislation. The other participants agreed to explore the possibility of addressing the needs of marginalized groups, including women entrepreneurs, through the local and domestic content policy framework of their procurement policies.

Access to information

The government representatives and corporations also agreed to ensure that women entrepreneurs have access to information about procurement opportunities and bidding requirements, training and simplified procedures, and registering as suppliers.

At the event several corporations, including the Coca-Cola Company; MTN Group, a multinational mobile telecommunications company headquartered in South Africa; and Tullow Oil, a multinational oil and gas exploration company headquartered in London, expressed their willingness to invest time and money to support women entrepreneurs. Representatives of those companies requested that ITC work with TSIs to improve the vendors' competitiveness by addressing the challenges that they face, including a lack of awareness and information on the procurement process.

Participants also discussed the draft training manual, 'Guide to leveraging public procurement in support of women-owned businesses'. TSIs contributed information, and public procurement experts from Ghana, Sierra Leone, South Africa and the United Republic of Tanzania shared best practices and experiences. Public procurement experts resolved to support women entrepreneurs to supply at least 5% of total procurement, in comparison with the current global average estimate of 1%.