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Monday, 09 August 2010 13:10

Women Run Risks of Cross Border Trade

By Irene !hoaës

WINDHOEK, Namibia, August 9, 2010 (New Era) — Informal cross-border trade (ICBT) is estimated to make up about 30 to 40 percent of intra-Southern African Development Community (SADC) trade.


However, it does not appear in official trade statistics and most national and regional policy-makers continue to ignore this kind of trade, regarded by experts as a source of vital income for the region.


The Economic Justice Network (EJN) of Fellowship of Christian Councils in Southern Africa says ignoring informal traders member states could be overlooking a significant proportion of their trade.


In addition, informal trade is not formally regulated in SADC.

It has been found that over 70 percent of informal cross-border traders are women who are either widowed, divorced or simply undertake this kind of business to supplement their husbands' income.


"It is therefore vital to expose the verbal and physical abuse which these women are faced with on a day-to-day basis. It is only through the acknowledgement that informal trade is not illegal and supports lives that these women can begin to be relinquished from harassment," the network stated in a media release.


EJN has come up with a set of tools and activities to support cross-border traders in their advocacy efforts and "give voice to their concerns and challenges".

Six women and two men who are active members of cross-border traders' associations in Mozambique and Malawi, and who had never before worked with cameras, were commissioned to document their travels and work over three months.


At the end of seven to eight weeks their pictures and stories were collected and a unique photographic exhibition, 'Across SADC Borders', has been created.

The exhibition features stories about the lives of the participants, their families, their worries, happy moments, work, spare time and bureaucracy.

It is an exhibition about cross-border traders, by cross-border traders, for cross-border traders, as well as for anybody else with an interest in human stories.

There are several informal trade associations in existence in the region.


The current main organization in this regard is the recently-launched slotmachines Southern Africa Informal Cross-Border Trade Association (SAICBTA).

The body, launched in 2009, was created with the intention to address informal traders' needs and assist them to run their businesses smoothly.


In southern Africa, there are two main regional policy instruments that are relevant for SADC cross-border trade.


In the SADC Protocol on Trade, which was adopted by SADC member states in 1996, it was agreed to adopt policies and implement measures within the community to promote an open cross-border investment regime, thereby enhancing economic development, diversification and industrialisation.


The protocol further commits SADC member states to raise awareness amongst their citizenry regarding the importance of trade to economic development.

"While the provisions of the protocol are relevant and important for informal traders, they do not seem to adequately take cognizance of the sector and thus respond to its needs effectively," the EJN said.


According to the network, it is unclear how informal traders or their associations can access the protocol in terms of being within the scope of its provisions, or whether they are considered as relevant actors in regional trade.


The second regional instrument is the Southern African Development Community Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP), which states that the question of the informal sector, both in terms of trade liberalization and actual production, should be taken on board in developing policies for industrial and mining development.




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