The Eastern African Sub-Regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women (EASSI) with support from GIZ-IIDEA will be implementing a six-month project on, “Positioning Women Cross Border Traders to Seize Opportunities in The East African Community and African Continental Free Trade Area.” The project’s main objectives are (i) To enhance participation of women cross border traders in the AfCFTA, and (ii) To advocate for gender-sensitive policies and processes in the implementation of the AfCFTA.
This project was inspired by EASSI’s research which showed that women cross border traders face gender-specific challenges including information gaps on cross border regulations and procedures, lack of information on markets, competition from big companies, high taxes, exploitation, delays at borders, and sexual harassment. They also face barriers in accessing capital, credit, and trading networks and trade in low incentive items such as produce and consumables. If these challenges are not addressed, trade opportunities such as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) are likely to widen gender disparities instead of realizing the women’s economic empowerment they envisage. This situation has worsened with COVID-19 pandemic response measures including border closures, lockdowns, curfews, and border entry costs of COVID-19 testing. The measures manifest as new Non-Tariff Barriers which affect small scale informal traders more adversely than their large-scale formal counterparts who quickly adapted to digital business.
The project is timely in its bid to enhance awareness about AfCFTA opportunities, and in supporting, women cross border traders to engage in digital trade to explore wider markets beyond their borders without their physical presence. It will also promote a favorable environment for women cross border traders within the AfCFTA through engaging policymakers and duty bearers on addressing gender-specific barriers to women’s participation in cross border and regional trade.
Specifically, EASSI plans to undertake capacity building for One Hundred (100) government officials from within the East African Community Partner States of Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya to strengthen their ability to identify gender disparities that hinder women’s participation in trade and cause policy reform for gender-sensitive implementation of the AfCFTA. The project will also profile and market Thirty (30) women cross border traders’ businesses in Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and South Sudan on an international trade digital platform. There will also be sensitization of Eighty (80) women cross border traders at Eight (8) East African Community borders of Isebania, Sirari, Malaba Uganda and Kenya, Busia Uganda and Kenya, and Mutukula Uganda and Tanzania on the AfCFTA and their strategic positioning to explore its opportunities. The project will additionally facilitate regional policy discourse amongst stakeholders in the East African Community on addressing issues that hinder women in cross border trade, and in turn, inform AfCFTA’s implementation. This will address concerns such as that of Mariam, a woman cross border trader in Busia who noted, “Women cross border traders feel the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of regional trade policies first hand and should be at the negotiation table if they are to really gain from trade!”