The Ministry of Women Affairs has restated its intention to address existing structural barriers that women entrepreneurs face and accelerate action to promote gender-responsiveness across procurement processes, practices and institutions, so that change can happen within a reasonable time frame.
This was disclosed by the Honourable Minister Of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen while delivering a keynote address at the Project Launch AFDB – UN Women, Women’s Economic Empowerment through Affirmative Procurement Held at Frazer Suite on Thursday, 18th August, 2022.
While maintaining that the Ministry of Women Affairs will be working with UN Women through this project, to address these barriers and ensure women owned businesses have enhanced access to procurement opportunities, Tallen lamented that Women-Owned Small and Medium Enterprises (WSME) are still severely underrepresented as suppliers, and at best, are represented at the lowest tiers of supplier’s categorization.
In her words; “It is important to note that there are structural barriers that limit access to procurement opportunities for women entrepreneurs. They very often, encounter difficulties due to limited information around the drafting of bids and lack technical capacities to execute contracts. They also lack access to information and networks to respond to procurement calls. Long delays in payment from government procuring entities also discourages small-sized women-owned businesses from participating in the bidding process. These challenges are more pervasive within the informal economy.
“Even for women-led businesses in the formal sector, participation in public procurement is still limited due to factors such as, high pre-qualification costs and inability to secure pre-financing commitments from financial institutions. Women led businesses associate government procurement with cumbersome, time consuming, and complex processes and therefore are not interested in engaging with the government. Many women access information about procurement opportunities through men, this points to insufficient mentoring and networking relationships among women led businesses”.
Tallen who noted that awareness and understanding of the various steps in the public procurement process is low among women-led businesses, lamented that Women who engage with the public procurement process are sometimes vulnerable to sexual harassment and gender-based violence.
According to her, “This situation is exacerbated by the absence of a grievance-redress mechanism within the governments’ procurement space, as well as the lack of gender indicators in the annual procurement audits conducted by the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP)”.
She therefore maintained that the status–quo on limited access to procurement opportunities, reinforces the negative stereotypes regarding women in business, limiting their contribution to economic growth, while perpetuating their dominance in the Nigeria informal sector.
The Ministry however affirmed that one of its priorities is to “Collaborate with relevant Stakeholders to develop and implement Economic Empowerment Programmes for Women”, which therefore gives credence to the Buhari-led administration’s drive to recognize that enhancing access to public procurement opportunities for women entrepreneurs has the potential for improving women’s economic participation, which is a requisite propagator of inclusive economic growth and National Development.
She therefore appreciated the Women’s Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) for committing resources to the initiative and commended both the African Development Bank and UN Women for their continued commitment and collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs in advancing gender equality and the empowerment of women in Nigeria.
On her part, UN Women Country Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Beatrice Eyong disclosed that the project launch focuses on inculcating gender responsive procurement processes as a panacea for advancing economic empowerment to
women entrepreneurs and women owned/led businesses in Nigeria.
According to her, “At UN Women, we have taken the bold step through this project to initiate specific
programmatic action plans to address this emerging concern. The project is expected to contribute to women’s economic empowerment by strengthening equal opportunities to access procurement and strengthening the capacity of women-owned/led businesses”.
Eyong disclosed that the interventions will focus on addressing systematic barriers faced by women including access to technical skills, financial capital, and management to compete in procurement projects.