This year’s theme for International Women’s Day calls for the inclusion of women in technology and innovation and to ensure that technological progress promotes gender equality. In South Africa, UN Women is leveraging technology to connect buyers of good and services with women suppliers. “Buy from women! That is our appeal to those who hold the procurement purse in public and private institutions,” says Ayanda Mvimbi, Programmes Specialist at UN Women’s South Africa Multi-Country Office. Buy From Women is also the name of the online platform that, in its current phase, has reached over 6,000 women entrepreneurs in several industries across the nine South African provinces.
The platform is not just a database of women suppliers but also provides a learning portal that is constantly developing, covering topics including branding, marketing, preparing for a tender bid, creating a business continuity plan, creating a business plan, understanding and handling finances, legal aspects, and audit.
Globally, the World Bank reports that of the $11 trillion spent annually on public procurement, only 1 per cent is awarded to women-owned businesses in South Africa, where the government spends close to $94 billion a year on goods, services, and construction. Only up to 6 per cent of this amount goes to women-owned businesses. Women in the country own up to a third of businesses.
The African Union Agenda 2063 calls for this allocation to be at least 25 per cent. Through the Generation Equality Forum, South Africa not only advocated for preferential procurement for women but went on to commit to implementing a 40per cent public procurement policy for women-owned businesses. In his February 2023 State of the Nation Address, President Ramaphosa reiterated this commitment.
With the ongoing advocacy and the policy now in place, Buy From Women answers the question procurement often asks: where are the women-owned businesses? How do we find them? The theme for International Women’s Day 2023 and the 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women calls for innovation and technology to promote gender equality. Buy from Women puts that in action to ensure that women-owned businesses have a place where potential buyers can find them and where they can empower themselves with the necessary education and information to ensure they are well-prepared for those opportunities when they come,” adds Mvimbi.
UN Women’s South Africa Multi-Country Office has big plans for the platform. “Firstly, we are working on expanding the selection of online courses offered on the website so that our entrepreneurs are empowered with adequate skills to expand their businesses. Secondly, we’d like to maximise on the opportunity presented by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to promote intra-trade access to women-owned enterprises. ACFTA is the largest free trade area with the potential of creating a market of about 1,3 billion people with a combined GDP of USD 3,4 trillion.
UN Women seeks to leverage this opportunity by creating a user-friendly e-commerce functionality where women-owned enterprises and other businesses from across the continent can exchange critical information about essential business services to aid market access by promoting goods and services that are offered by our women entrepreneurs. Thirdly, we’d like to expand the database beyond the borders of South Africa into the rest of SADC and add functionality to the platform that would promote inter-continental trade and enable peer-to-peer learning and knowledge exchange among women entrepreneurs,” concludes Mvimbi.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of UN Women – Africa.