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

Six: Emerging Procurement Laws and Women's Empowerment: Assessing the Costs and Benefits of the Privatization of the Telecommunications Sector in Kenya

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

Six: Emerging Procurement Laws and Women's Empowerment: Assessing the Costs and Benefits of the Privatization of the Telecommunications Sector in Kenya

Article excerpt

Introduction

The private sector's involvement in the delivery of a variety of public services has become significant in public administration in the modern world (Shafritz, 2005). Public procurement has emerged as a tool for preferential treatments to certain groups (Tangri, 1999; Barkan, 1991; Holmquist, 2002; Gichio, 2014) and for redressing previous cases of social injustices (Gichio, 2014; Akech, 2005). This political use of public procurement to reward social groups is vulnerable to capture by special interests in what is known as neo-patrimonialism (Erdman & Engel, 2007). The concept neo-patrimonialism (also construed variously as patron-client relationships ) has been widely used in studies seeking to expose the manner in which elites use public resources for personal gain leading to both economic and political stagnation (Erdman, 2006; Tangri, 1999; Barkan, 1991; Jackson & Rosberg, 1982; Ngunyi, 1995; Holmquist, 2002; Gichio, 2014, Berg-Schlosser, 1994; Kerrets-Makau, 2006).While neopatrimonialism has received attention in economic analyses in Africa, only a handful works focus specifically on the gendered dimension of the developmental governance in public procurement in Kenya (Ngunyi, 1993; Barkan, 1991; Holmquist, 2002; Gichio, 2014, 1982; Berg-Schlosser, 1994; Kerrets-Makau, 2006; Kirton, 2013; Muriithi, 2008; Munyua, 2009, White, 2012).

This contribution examines the impact that public procurement has had on women empowerment in Kenya with specific reference to the privatization of the telecommunications sector. I ask whether or not women have benefitted from this public procurement reform policy and in what capacities. I present the argument that neo-patrimonialism in Kenya's political system undermines the empowerment of women in public procurement, especially in the telecommunication sector. I operationalize empowerment as the effective inclusion of women in public procurement processes in three dimensions: business promotion, employment creation, community development. Query about the impact of privatization on business creation seeks to determine whether or not the privatization has resulted in reduction in the cost of doing business for women, whether or not it has led to expansion in business opportunities for women, whether or not it has increased accessibility of women to credit facilities through increased access to collaterals), whether or not it has contributed to capital formation for women and whether or not the resultant business opportunities opened for women have been for small and medium enterprises or large-scale enterprises. With regard to employment-creation, focus is on whether or not privatization results in high quality employment (occupations that are of higher grade and have the net effect on increasing women's economic independence). The community development criterion as to what extent newly created/ reformed firms doing business with government are bidding for projects aimed at raising the standards of living for Kenyans and more specifically, women. The framework of neopatrimonialism allows one to unpack barriers related to the existence (or the lack thereof) of political connection for women-led or owned firms bidding for government contracts.

Gender issues have emerged to global prominence in the last couple of decades (UNDP, 1995; UN Millennium Project, 2005). Yet, women in Kenya continue to suffer marginalization in terms of access to economic incentives. Efforts aimed at dealing with this marginalization as outlined in national procurement rules and procedures, continue to be undermined by short-term political expediencies. Quite often, public procurement is considered as part and parcel of privatization, given that the latter broadly refers to the transfer, shift or change of control, ownership or service provision from the public to the private sector through a variety of means, including divestiture, franchising, contracting-out, leasing and liberalization (deregulation) among others (Therkildsen & Semboja, 1995; Young, 1991). …

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