24 June 2018

East Africa: Cross-Border Small Traders to Gain From Deal

Seven Horn of Africa countries have signed an agreement to allow informal traders to operate freely across their borders.

The Informal Cross-Border Trade (ICBT) and Cross-Border Security Governance (CBSG) will allow traders in the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development region to operate without being harassed by security personnel.

Ministers from the Igad countries inked the deal at Serena Hotel in Mombasa on Thursday. They were Hassan Houmed Ibrahim (Djibouti), Moses Hassan Ayat (South Sudan), Hatim Elsir Sikaingo (Sudan), Amelia Kyambadde (Uganda), Mohamed Abdi Hayir (Somalia) and Adan Mohamed (Kenya).

Ethiopia's Trade Minister Melaku Alebel was represented by the country's ambassador to Kenya Dina Mufti.

Kenya's Mohamed said the initiative is expected to bring more focus on cross-border trade among member states.

"All the trade ministers who were here deliberated on the work that was produced by the committee of experts on what we need to do to deal with the cross-border trade. The focus of this activity has been the informal sector. A lot of our communities around our borders, whether you are talking between Ethiopia and Kenya, Somalia and Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti, Ethiopia and Somalia or Uganda, are all very relevant communities that live in each of these countries," he said.

Small-scale traders, especially those in the informal sector, are to be supported and shilded from harassment.

"The (top) beneficiaries in this informal trade are likely to be women and youth and that group is significant to all member states of Igad and we are happy that we are today doing a framework programme which will recognise the socio-economic contribution of informal cross-border trade within member states," Mr Mohamed said.

He added: "It will also help in understanding the linkages between cross-border informal trade and cross-border security issues."

"In many cross-border matters, communities living in that region tend to be the same and if a problem erupts on one side, then you cannot avoid it in the other side. So if people are empowered and supported through cross-border trade, then we hope issues of security will be enhanced and that has largely been our deliberation," he said.

The document, he said, will be presented to the Igad heads of state for onward transmission to the African Union (AU).

"Improving cross-border trade amongst Igad countries is just one step towards fulfilling the dreams of the continent's free trade area that the heads of state signed in Kigali three months back," said Mr Mohamed.


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