Border communities in Eastern African counties may soon have a new lease of life following a policy to regulate their movement and trade.
The plan is also expected to minimise conflicts and unlock cross border business potential particularly following the ongoing development of infrastructure and discoveries of oil and other natural resources.
Trade ministers from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) region on Thursday endorsed the policy on Informal Cross-Border Trade and Cross-Border Security Governance (CBSG) at the Serena Beach resort in Mombasa which is hoped to promote businesses in the region.
Cabinet secretary for Industry, Trade and Co-operatives Mr Adan Mohamed, Djibouti Trade minister Mr Hassan Ibrahim, Ms Amelia Kyambadde (Uganda), Dr Moses Tiel (South Sudan), Mr Hatim Sikaingo (Sudan), Mr Mohamed Hayir (Somalia) and Mr Melaku Alebel of Ethiopia approved the new framework.
The policy has been drafted by experts from IGAD secretariat as well as member states security and customs agencies.
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Mr Mohamed said the move would boost small scale traders on borderlands who mainly include women and youths and hence address food security challenges.
“The policy framework will support small scale traders who are mostly women and youths. We also understand the linkages of the cross border trade and security. We therefore hope issues of security will be improved and enhanced along our borders,” said the CS.
He said since it was common for conflicts to flow over across the borders, there would be an awareness campaign to ensure communities adopt the new policy for sustainable peace and security.
According to the CS, the policy supports the realization of African Union Commission’s African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and ensure African countries trade more among themselves following the ongoing trade wars between major trading countries like China and the United States.
Ms Kyambadde said borderland trade constitutes about 15 percent of total trade and hence the need to regulate it and minimize conflicts among communities.
“We have endorsed the policy because we feel it will regulate cross border trade and address conflicts among communities,” she said.
Dr Tiel said communities in South Sudan conduct cross border trade with Kenya, Uganda, Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo and hoped the new policy would be impact positively on its neighbours and ensure smooth businesses.
“We hope informal trade will be more organized and security improve among border communities. We also hope the peace initiate going on in Addis Ababa Ethiopia for South Sudan will bring peace in our country,” he said.
IGAD director for Agriculture Mohamed Musa said communities that inhabit cross border areas face common challenges such as natural resource sharing, livestock movement and trade which have security dimensions.
He said the communities were held together by trade which however was hugely underestimated.
“What is also known is that this trade is neither free nor controlled since a lot of it is unfairly regarded as illegal trade. And yet the livelihood of cross border communities is inextricably linked to the inter and intra-state interaction, especially trade,” he noted.
He said because of the informal trade dynamics, borderlands have the potential to transform into centres of high economic activity particularly because of the ongoing infrastructure development and discoveries of oil and other natural resources.
“We look forward to the opportunities for important improvements in the lives and livelihood of beneficiary communities in our region that will be created by the policy framework,” Mr Musa added.