The government’s promise to continue engaging cross-border traders will come as a pleasant gesture to informal business operators, particularly women.
The recommitment comes at the time researchers have found out that Covid-19 restrictions, especially border closures in the East African region, have had widespread consequences on cross-border traders.
In the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, East African countries have been forced to close their borders as part of the efforts to control the virus spread.
While cargo truck drivers have continued to operate, the movement of informal cross-border traders, who use motorcycles, bicycles, and even foot to transport their goods was halted, thus affecting their businesses and livelihoods.
Researchers have now warned that the collapse of informal cross-border trade, if not revived, may have dire consequences for border communities, particularly the women who are heavily dependent on this trade.
They further warned that increases in transit times along the major corridors are also a major cause of concern. If not reversed, this could adversely affect consumer welfare, aside from rendering businesses and the trading environment uncompetitive
Rwanda and DR Congo encouraged cross-border traders to form cooperatives in order to reduce the number of people who cross the borders.
This has been helpful as it has, to a certain extent, sustained cross-border trade flow between the two nations
However, the move has its limitations. According to researchers, it excludes small-scale traders, mostly women, because of a requirement that goods traded must be worth between $300 and$ 1000.
Therefore, to address the plight of cross-border traders, especially women in the informal economy selling products such as vegetables, fruit, clothes and livestock products need a broader policy approach.
It will require a conversation of all actors—traders, private sector federation, trade ministry, ministry of health, and immigration among others.
But, most importantly, a Covid-19 recovery package specifically designed for these cross-border traders in the informal economy is critically needed.
Source: The New Times