Government spends billions of kwacha every year buying goods and services from the private sector, but women-owned businesses supply only 1 percent of this market, a study shows.
The survey, Open Government Contracting (OGC) done in 2019 but released this week in Nigeria, Malawi and Kenya by Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and the Africa Freedom of Information Centre calls for immediate review of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets (PPDA) Act to ensure equal issuance of tenders to both men and women.
Part of the report reads: “Most of the respondents indicated that public contracting is male-dominated. The consultations, which included one-on-one interviews and focus group discussions with over 80 women entrepreneurs drawn from Lilongwe, found that less than 1 percent of the respondents had ever received government contracts.
“The women indicated that they face considerable barriers and challenges to accessing procurement tender and winning procurement contracts, including high minimum capital requirements to register as a vendor, inadequate access to credit and gender bias in tendering process.”
According the report, many women lack understanding of tenders, and there has been no effort by procuring entities or other organisations to build their capacity in this regard.
It adds: “The research established that access to procurement information was a challenge for women entrepreneurs. Most women entrepreneurs interviewed cited newspapers as their only source of procurement information. However, not many women can afford to buy newspapers every day.
“Literacy levels among women are very low compared to their male counterparts, which suggests that women entrepreneurs are unable to effectively participate in public procurement because they are not able to access adverts and other procurement information.”
CHRR executive director Michael Kaiyatsa said in an interview Wednesday said it is appalling that women, who make up about 53 percent of the Malawi population, continue to be underrepresented in many key areas, including business.
He said: “Women have as much right to do business with the government as their male counterparts. Government must put in place deliberate measures to increase the percentage of contracts going to women and youth in Malawi. For this to happen there is need to review the law regulating procurement.
“Malawi should borrow a leaf from Kenya where the procurement law has reserved 30 percent of government procurement of goods, services and works for enterprises owned by women, youth and people with disabilities. This is the only to enhance women’s equal participation in public contracting,” he said.
The report come days after a World Bank report where Malawi scored 77.5 percent, down from 80.6 percent in 2020 on measures the laws and regulations that affect women’s economic opportunity in 190 economies.During presentation of the 2020/2021 Mid Year Budget review, Fiannce Minister Felxi Mlusu said Government was committed to empowering informal sector entrepreneurs through cooperatives and associations to upgrade their skills and enable them produce quality products for the local and export market.
“In this regard, in December 2020 Government under the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act enacted regulations to empower SMEs to participate in public procurement of goods, works, and services.
“However, these SMEs are required to register their businesses with the Registrar of Companies and the Malawi Revenue Authority for tax purposes,” he said.