Academic journal article Wagadu: a Journal of Transnational Women's and Gender Studies

Two (Out)bidding Women: Public Procurement Reform Diffusion and Gender Equality in Africa

Academic journal article Wagadu: a Journal of Transnational Women's and Gender Studies

Two (Out)bidding Women: Public Procurement Reform Diffusion and Gender Equality in Africa

Article excerpt

"We will increase transparency and equal participation in the budgeting process, and promote gender responsive budgeting and tracking. We will establish transparent public procurement frameworks as a strategic tool to reinforce sustainable development."

2015 Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development

"Concerning gender inequality, which is the most important component of social inequality in African states, the international institutions are the most conservative par excellence."

Tukumbi Lumumba-Kasongo

"As the site of actions shifts, so equality agendas must be renegotiated."

Janet Newman


Are African states bidding for or against gender equality in government outsourcing schemes for the procurement of public works, goods and services? What in the governance of public services provision could be accounted for as continuity of progressive change or setback for gender equality when government outsources its function? Recent scholarship in political science shows the status of women has become a global norm and an indicator of development that speaks to the homogenization of an international society. It is widely recognized that economic arrangements that exclude women's participation are detrimental to the overall economic growth of nation-states. Scholars have interpreted the spectacular transformation of women-states relations (women's suffrage, sex quota laws, and women's representation in national policy bureaus) as implying the victory of individualization and of the state as the chief mode of political organization (Towns, 2010). Since 2010, the proportion of seats in a single or lower chamber held by women in national parliaments in Africa, South of the Sahara (all income combined), has been either higher than or equal to global average (World Bank, 2015). As of August 2015, women in national parliaments (both houses combined) represented about 23 percent of World average. Yet, sixteen African states located South of the Sahara make up the top 50 list of countries whose women's representation is higher than 24 percent in national parliaments (IPU, 2015). Not only has universal suffrage been adopted everywhere on the continent, but Liberia, Burundi, Gabon, Malawi, Mauritius, the Central African Republic, and Zambia have joined a small circle of states headed by women albeit with different mandates. Cultural attitudes toward women and structural barriers against their inclusion in public leadership positions are changing thanks to women's organizing and international efforts to bring about gender equality worldwide (Rupp, 1997; True, 2001; Inglehart & Norris, 2003).

Change in the core functions of the state through outsourcing schemes, however, forces us to query the resilience of gender equality as a key normative variable for policy diffusion within the international society. This essay is concerned with the challenges and opportunities at the intersection of global pressure for policy reform in public procurement1 and national priorities for gender equality. Public procurement is one way in which governments purchase from the profit and nonprofit private sectors, the goods and services they need to fulfill their public mission.2 How African states have reacted to international pressure to reform public procurement will be made obvious in this contribution. Focus, however, is on the trajectories that gender equality has taken within the context of government outsourcing in Africa. Far from gender norm emulation, global liberal public procurement reform has mainly been diffused in Africa through pressure from international institutions and stronger states. This pattern of policy diffusion, however, works paradoxically with regard to women and gender equality. While it effectively footnotes the gender concerns of women as users of public works, goods, and services, it simultaneously, but selectively hails entrepreneurial categories of gender performance and production by women. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.