Kenyan women should ignore tenderpreneur critics and apply for one

The Government has made efforts to avail tendering opportunities to previously disadvantaged groups; particularly women. But because the whole affair has been tainted, uptake has been low. If you get involved, prepare to be dubbed a tenderpreneur.

‘Tenderpreneur’ is word with negative connotation. To many Kenyans, these are people striking it rich through corrupt means. They have even been called, “highly connected hawkers.” A quick look at any corruption index will show that we are a corrupt country, we therefore must demonize wealth. But have you considered not listening to the “everything is wrong in this country” brigade and thought about opportunity instead.

A tender is awarded, by the Government and other institutions, to you so you can provide goods, services or do some works. It’s the closest thing to a get-rich-quick scheme you will come across as an entrepreneur. If you run a small business, then a tender is that life changing contract.

Naysayers see a tenderpreneur as another middleman who is going against our focus to industrialize. We are positive people. We see that they are good for the supply chain. In industrialized countries there are many different entrepreneurs involved in building parts of the whole. This is why small business works in Germany. This is how everyone gets a job. A tenderpreneur in Kenya can subcontract to another entrepreneur to raise her capacity.

How do I become one?

A 2012 report titled, ‘Accelerating Entrepreneurship in Africa’ showed that the concept of entrepreneurship is a little messed up in Kenya. It was revealed that we associate it with wealth acquisition and not wealth creation. It is exactly why tender applications frustrate many people who go on about this or that person’s connections.


If you apply for tender with a low entry barrier expect competition. Everyone will have seen that shortcut of getting a Government contract; or any other institution for that matter. You should therefore go for more technical stuff (yeah, stuff). Kenyan entrepreneurs have already been encouraged to merge in order to be awarded such tenders over foreign applicants.

Another thing for your consideration is due diligence. A tender will never be this simple. You need to be keen on what is required to find out whether you actually have the capacity to deliver.

This is why you are encouraged to merge or subcontract to build capacity. If small businesses in the Nairobi CBD can work together to overpay goodwill, I don’t see why you can’t be a team player. Focusing on pricing is not enough.