More than I50 women entrepreneurs participated in an intensive three-day practical training on how to bid for government tenders. The training aimed at equipping women entrepreneurs with knowledge, practical skills and confidence to apply for and win government tenders, was organized by the Joyful Women’s Organization (JoyWo) a local NGO with over 70,000 members countrywide,in collaboration with the Public Procurement Oversight Authority (PPOA) and UN Women.
In her opening remarks the Patron of JoYWo, Mrs. Rachael Ruto said: “this training is a milestone towards women’s economic empowerment. Many Kenyan women are being choked by poverty and need to be assisted out of this grim situation. They should therefore not be afraid of exploiting the 30 percent government tenders set aside for them.”
Dubbed “Winning in Tendering” the training covered a wide range of topics such as understanding the government tendering process; how to fill standard tender documents; where to find finances to support Local Purchase Orders (LPOs); how to access government funds that have been established specifically for women and youth; and where to seek redress in cases of grievances. In addition, the participants benefited from a practical demonstration session by National Treasury on registering on-line for Access to Government Procurement Opportunities (AGPO). They also got an opportunity to interact first hand with a government procuring entity.
The “Winning in Tendering” training was conceived to build the capacity of women-led businesses so that they are able to take full advantage of the existing public procurement opportunities.UN Women sponsored the workshop and provided technical assistance towards the design of the training curriculum through its Women’s Economic Empowerment programme, which has a key focus on enhancing women’s access to the State market.
Duringthe financial year 2013/2014 the annual government budget was estimated at KES 1.6 Trillion. Of this about 30-40 percent is spent on public procurement making the Government the largest buyer of goods, works and services. While this represents a huge market, to date, very few Micro and Small Scale Enterprises (MSEs)are represented in the government supply chain. In an effort to promote inclusive economic growth, in 2011 the Government put in place the Public Procurement and Disposal (Preference and Reservation) Regulations 2011. Popularly referred to as the “Scheme” the regulations promote the participation of disadvantaged groups (which includes women) in public procurement.
In 2013 President Uhuru Kenyatta announced that 30 percent of government spending(amounting to approximately KES 300 billion) would be set-aside for women, youth and persons with disability. As a follow-up to this directive, in June 2013, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance Mr. Henry Rotichissued a circular that relaxes a number of requirements thus making it easier for women and youth to access the government market. Despite these opportunities, the actual participation of women and youth still remains low.
Speaking at the forum, the Nairobi County Governor Dr. Evans Kidero,congratulated JoYWo, PPOA and UN Women for organizing the training targeting women entrepreneurs. He saidhis county was in the process of negotiating with financial institutions so that payments to suppliers are made on time through banks and that 30 percent of government contracts in Nairobi are actually awarded to women, youth and persons with disabilities.
The Director General of the PPOA, Mr. Maurice Juma, said: “PPOA, Public entities and women entrepreneurs need towork together to ensure that the lawfavoring women in public procurement is implemented to the letter since SMEsarethe driving force behind any successful economy.”
He further urged the women entrepreneurs to think big and focus ahead asthere are a lot of opportunities for women in public procurement, particularly in infrastructure projects. He advised the participants to get into joint ventures so that they can benefit from high value tenders such as road construction.
The Chairperson of the UWEZO Fund, Ms. Wanjiro Gathira took the participants through the fund regulations and eligibility criteria and urged the women to register their businesses. She further encouraged women to form associations so that they are not locked out of tenders that are capital intensive and require suppliers to supply in large quantities.
UN Women’s Programme Analyst for Women’s Economic Empowerment, Ms. Banu Khan, stressed that “knowledge is power” and encouraged the participants to read and familiarize themselves with the public procurement laws and regulatory frameworks so that they understand what the law provides.
In the post-workshop evaluation, the participants reported that they felt “more confident” and ready to apply for government tenders after thetraining. Further, in response to the question on what impact the three-day training had on them, this is what some of the participants had to say.
“This training has awoken a sleeping giant in me. It has made me see that it is possible to do business with government and that it is not a far- fetched dream. I had heard about the 30 percent set-asidefor women and youth but I did not know until now that these government tenders are within my reach,” said Ms. FridahWaitheraOkello.
“The training has made a big transformation in my life. I used to think that tendering is only for the rich and big company owners. I am so glad I came as I now know the opportunities that the government has created for women and youth.I will go for it,” Ms. JemimahKituyi.
“Currently, I am in the transport business but now with the developments in the railway sector and the new port in Lamu, I have realized that it is important to think ahead. Through the training I learned that I can diversify and get into construction business and bid for government tenders at the County level. I am now planning to buy construction equipment and even lease it out to others,” Ms. ViolaTirop.
“What struck me most during the workshop was the importance of knowing and understanding the law. I have always wanted to apply for tenders but I was scared and did not have the confidence. Now I am informed and I know how to register a company. I don’t even need a lawyer as I am sure I can find my way,” Ms. Joan Nesbit.
“Before this training I did not have the information on how to win government contracts. I have realized that information is power and I am now ready to bid for government tenders. My dream is to be the first woman in Kenya to own and run a supermarket chain,” Ms.JemimahKetu.
“Before this workshop, the view I had about tendering was very different. I did not know where and how to access finances so that I could apply for tenders. I found it hard to always ask my husband for collateral in form of log book or title deed so that I could borrow from the banks. I feel so empowered now. I know which office to go to register my business and where to find information about government tenders and even where to lodge a complaint if need arises,” Ms. Nancy Kiptanui.