Uganda: New Study – Only 1% of Women-Led Business Firms in Uganda Participate in Public Procurement

Kampala, Uganda — Uganda’s public procurement sector offers immense economic opportunities to the citizens but there remains a stark gender disparity as only 1% of women-led firms actively bid for public tenders, a new study shows.

The study carried out by the Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) titled, ‘Understanding the barriers and solutions to include the women-led businesses in public procurement in Uganda’ also indicates that the majority of women-owned enterprises (45%) that do business with the government are in the supply sector.

Launching the report in Kampala, AFIC Executive Director, Gilbert Sendugwa said the Ugandan government spends 60% of its annual budget on procurement but women only take mere 1% of the total value.

“There is (also) a lack of measurement of the way procurement is captured. It is not gender disaggregated which makes it difficult for entities to measure the extent to which individual entities implement reservation schemes, such as confirming how many contracts women-led businesses win”,

Olive Kabatwairwe, a lead researcher at AFIC, said that there is a weak legal and policy framework on women in procurement.

“There are no specific regulations for women in procurement despite the provision in the PPDA Act that that women be included as a special interest group to benefit from a provision of 30% on local content,” she said.

“In the quest to increase women’s participation in public procurement, in 2021, the government amended the PPDA Act 2003 to incorporate women among special interest groups (youth and people with disabilities) to benefit from the 30% provision on local content.

“Although the amendments were passed in 2021, a year down the road, the regulations to guide the implementation of this provision have not been approved. This implies that women still have to wait a little longer to see the amendments operationalised to benefit from these provisions,” she added.

The research was conducted in five East African countries of Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia.

Tanzania has the biggest share of women-led business

However, Tanzania had the highest percentage of women-led businesses at 48.1% beating the rest of the East African countries. Tanzania reserves 30% of government contracts to women-led businesses but awards contracts to women in groups. This is the same model for Kenya.

Women-led business participation in public procurement in Rwanda stood at 11%. Ethiopia does not have data on women-led businesses participating in public procurement though there are women led businesses in the country.

The women, according to the findings expressed barriers associated with compliance with bid preparation and submission deadlines.

“Where bids are expected to be submitted in person in the mornings, this can create challenges for women who are expected to be fulfilling other care responsibilities during these hours,” notes the report.

The report notes that although the government is in introducing E-procurement, Uganda’s internet penetration rate stood at 29.1%of the total population at the start of 2022, with rural areas less connected to the national grid. This, the report notes that the majority of the population especially women will be unable to submit their procurement bids.

For instance, another survey carried out by World Wide Web shows that only 19% of Ugandan women are online/understand virtual systems, compared to 27% of Men.

The report further notes that women-led businesses experience difficulty accessing information due to a lack of knowledge on where and how to access business opportunities since entities occasionally hold pre-bid meetings. Moreover, most of them are informal and located in the rural setting.

The findings also revealed that women engaged in the study could hardly recognize the reservation schemes or the recent policy provisions in the PPDA Act as direct initiatives in advancing women’s participation in public procurement, majorly because they are not known and have not been popularized.