The Lagos State Government and the United Nations (UN) Women have called for increase in women participation in public procurement process in the state.
Speaking during a three-day training for women-owned businesses, Mr Fatai Onafowote, Director-General, Lagos State Public Procurement Agency (PPA), said that the participation of women in bidding for contract was about 20 per cent.
Onafowote said that this was against the male folk’s participation of 80 per cent, a trend which should be looked into.
”The baseline has been to establish that the ratio is 1 to 4. That is, one of women-owned businesses to four of men led businesses, which you can also talk about as 20 per cent to 80 per cent.
”So, what is our wish is that we move beyond that level. Our wish is that if we cannot achieve 50/50, at least let us move away from the 20/80 ratio to say 40/60. So, that way, we see ourselves making the necessary impact,” he said.
According to him, some of the issues, challenges militating against women’s participation in procurement process include access to credit, the issue of collateral, culture, harassment, among others.
He said that in a bid to facilitate women participation, hence, ensuring economic empowerment, the PPA collaborated with the UN Women to train Women-owned businesses, to enable them to benefit from public procurement opportunities in Lagos State.
Onafowote said that although women constitute a large per cent of the population, statistics indicated that most of them were economically disadvantaged, particularly in public procurement opportunities.
He described such situation as ”unhealthy for societal stability’’, hence, the policy of the State Government to encourage and support women and youth to acquire skills and vocations, which would allow them to compete favourably for access to business opportunities in the state.
The Director-General said that the agency had continued to organise series of advocacy and sensitisation programmes to support affirmative procurement in the state.
He said that in collaboration with the UN Women, the agency had organised such programmes for Accounting Officers of Ministries, Departments and Agencies, procurement specialists and women-owned businesses.
”This is with a view at ensuring the economic empowerment of women-owned businesses through opportunities in public procurement in the state,” he said.
He said that the state government recognised that Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) contributed lion share of the economy of the state.
According to him, since the sector is dominated by women, the state government is already focusing attention on areas of support for women-owned businesses in the state.
Also speaking, the UN Women Deputy Country Representative, Mr Lansana Wonneh, commended the Lagos State Government for its support in driving the affirmative procurement initiatives in the state.
Wonneh said that enhanced access to participate in and benefit from public procurement provided an economically viable option for advancing economic opportunities and strengthening the resilience of women-owned and women-led businesses.
He said that the programme – Women Economic Empowerment through Affirmative Procurement – was an African Development Bank and UN Women collaboration that was funded by WeFi initiative.
Wonneh said that through the programme, UN Women was committed to supporting policy and legal reform on procurement, while strengthening the capacity of both public officials and women-owned businesses in Nigeria.
In her address, the Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation (WAPA), Mrs Oluyemi Kalesanwo, said that the state government was working hard to create an enabling environment that would foster gender equality and inclusive economic empowerment.
Kalesanwo said that collaborations and partnerships could help identify gaps, share best practices and develop strategies to promote the inclusion of women entrepreneurs in public procurement.
During the training programme, held at Ikeja, Lagos participants were trained on a wide range of topics, including eligibility and requirements for registration; tendering and documentation process.
They were also trained on contract management and evaluation; compliance and ethics; as well as accessing business support and financing opportunities, among others.