The UN is using technology to connect buyers of goods and services with female suppliers in South Africa as it seeks to leverage the power of procurement to help businesswomen in the continent.
The “Buy from Women” online platform connects over 6,000 female suppliers entrepreneurs in several industries across South Africa to potential buyers.
The open-sourced, cloud-based e-commerce platform is also beginning to connect female entrepreneurs to buyers in other parts of Africa.
The UN Women website currently lists it as “live” in South Africa, where it connects suppliers and buyers in sectors such as agriculture, energy and transport; and in Mali, where it operates for female farmers producing shea nuts, shallots, onions and potatoes.
The platform is due to expand operations to Rwanda, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal soon – mainly connecting female farmers with crop buyers in its initial stages.
UN Women Africa said South Africa was looking to considerably increase public procurement spend with female-owned suppliers.
The South African government spends around $94bn a year on goods, services and construction, but currently only around 6% of this goes to businesses owned by women – even though up to a third of businesses in the country fall into this category.
In February, President Cyril Ramaphosa reiterated the government’s commitment to spending 40% of public procurement on businesses in female ownership.
The African Union Agenda 2063 has urged governments across the continent to allocate at least 25% of public procurement spend on female-owned firms.
But according to the team behind Buy from Women, procurement often asks: “Where are the women-owned businesses? How do we find them?” The platform aims to help answer that question, it added.
The platform can also provide information for suppliers on subjects such as auditing, preparing for a tender bid, creating a business plan and drawing up a business continuity plan.
“Buy from Women puts that in action to ensure that women-owned businesses have a place where potential buyers can find them,” said Ayanda Mvimbi, programmes specialist at UN Women’s South Africa multi-country Office.
She added that the platform could help women “empower themselves with the necessary education and information to ensure they are well-prepared for those opportunities when they come.”
And the team behind it is looking to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to connect female suppliers and buyers across the world’s largest free trade area.
This would create a potential market of about 1,3bn people with a combined GDP of $3.4tn.