Dar es Salaam. Government entities have been reminded of their duty to ensure that 30 per cent of their procurement budgets goes to buy goods and services from businesses led by women, youth, and persons with disabilities to empower the groups economically.
The call was made on April 17, 2023, during a meeting organised by The Chanzo that brought together women- and youth-led organisations to reflect on the 30 percent preferential scheme to special groups, examining its successes and challenges since it was introduced in 2016 through an amendment into the Public Procurement Act, 2011.
The meeting is part of activities that The Chanzo, in partnership with Tanzania Youth Vision Association (TYVA) and Mwanamke na Uongozi, plans to do in the coming few days to raise public awareness of the scheme but also lobby policy-makers on how better it can be improved.
Both based in Dar es Salaam, TYVA is a youth-led organisation focusing on youth awareness raising and empowerment, while Mwanamke na Uongozi seeks to promote women’s participation in leadership roles at all levels.
During the meeting, TYVA Executive Director Yusuph Bwango said that a lot needs to be done until the scheme can finally serve its intended objectives. This will include doing away with some requirements that many youths and women find inconvenient.
“The law requires women, youth, and persons with disabilities to access opportunities offered by the scheme only as groups,” Bwango pointed out. “This requirement should be removed to allow other forms of businesses such as sole proprietorship, limited companies, and the group to participate.”
Tanzania moved to amend its public procurement laws as part of deliberate national efforts to ensure these groups participate in providing goods and services to the government as one of the ways to empower themselves economically.
The amendment to the law meant that if a procuring entity plans to procure goods and services worth Sh1 billion, businesses run by women, youth and person with disability should supply at least Sh300 million of goods and services needed.
However, a recent regional study shows the scheme, introduced seven years ago, has yet to be implemented successfully, raising questions about the success of its intended objectives.
Commissioned by the Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC), a continental organisation working around transparency and accountability issues in Africa, the study outlines several reasons for arriving at such a conclusion.
The study, which The Chanzo was part of conducting, reveals that between 2016 when the scheme was introduced, and 2021, only 144 registered groups benefited from it, with contracts worth only Sh648.19 million issued.
The study also compares Tanzania’s 30 per cent scheme with its Kenyan equivalent, Access to Government Procurement Opportunities (AGPO), introduced in 2013 and become operational in 2015.
AFIC found that by 2019, 40,597 groups had been registered under the AGPO scheme, which set aside US$1.7 billion. In addition, a total of US$911 million was awarded to particular groups, which include women, youth, and persons with disabilities.
Lilian Boniphace, a program manager of the Vijana Makini program at the TYVA, thinks it needs to be less tedious for the scheme to work.
“I was providing consultancy services around HIV/AIDS in road constructions,” Boniphace, who also works as a social and environmental expert, participating in various construction projects, said during the meeting. “Terms were difficult, and they change every day.”
She also decried the culture of corruption surrounding the issuing of ten per cent to government officials, pointing out that the culture discourages many from applying for the opportunity.
Bwango also suggested the importance of having accessible means of registering groups, primarily through online platforms, noting that the groups have to visit local council offices to register physically.
“Registration process needs to be friendly and accessible,” he said. “There has to be a simple online platform for the scheme.”
On her hand, Mwanamke na Uongozi Executive Director Shamira Mshangama thinks the challenges notwithstanding, awareness needs to be raised if the targetted groups are to benefit from the scheme.
“If people, the targeted groups, are not aware of the scheme, how will they benefit from it?” she noted during the meeting. “We have to invest our efforts in ensuring that more people are aware of it.”
In the coming few days, The Chanzo, TYVA, and Mwanamke Uongozi will work together in raising awareness in a joint initiative dubbed Hatua 30, which focuses on raising awareness about the scheme. Hatua means steps in Kiswahili.
Tony Alfred, The Chanzo’s Managing Editor, said that the three organisations will also hold engagement sessions with decision-makers and policy-makers, which include officials from the Ministry of Finance and the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) to share study findings and beneficiaries’ experience with them.
“The joint initiative will involve physical workshops and online and media engagement,” he said. “We will seek avenues to assist women and youth businesses in formalizing and directly starting to access procurement opportunities.”
Mr Alfred said that as organisers they welcome support from companies and organisations interested in supporting the initiative.
“Any interested company or organisation can reach out to us via firstname.lastname@example.org,” Mr Alfred said. “If the scheme is implemented effectively, there is a possibility of more than two trillion of public procurement monies to go to women and youth businesses annually.”