The United Kingdom will provide £1 million (about K1 billion) funding to implement a programme with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to support informal traders in southern Africa and ensure safe trade during Covid-19.
Through the partnership, the UK and the United Nations IOM will provide advice and training to traders, governments and border agencies, so that key border posts in Zambia, South Africa, Malawi, and the wider region can be open and safe spaces for traders to resume their business legally and safely.
According to a statement issued yesterday by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, UK Minister for Africa James Duddridge MP made the announcement during his visit to Malawi and Zambia last week.
Said the minister: “From farmers selling their crops at regional markets, to growing African businesses exporting to global markets, traders across southern Africa are an important and growing driver of regional business, investment and prosperity.
“UK support to help both formal and informal traders to move their goods quickly and safely will help southern African trade to not just survive the economic consequences of Covid-19, but thrive in the future.”
During his visit to the two countries, Duddridge also heard about the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on livelihoods of informal traders across the region and announced further UK support to help cross-border businesses trade safely during the pandemic.
Informal cross-border trade accounts for up to 30-40 percent of regional trade across Southern Africa, making it a vital source of income and food security for communities across the region. But with many borders closed to help fight Covid-19, traders–up to 70 percent of whom are women–are missing out on crucial earnings their families rely on.
Commenting on the development, a small-scale border trader at Common Market for East and Southern Africa (Comesa) Market in Lusaka, Zambia Womba Mumbuluma said: “Our livelihood depends on us being able to cross borders frequently, in order to buy and sell goods. With the spread of Covid-19, it became difficult to trade across borders as most borders were closed. Although there are alternatives, like online shopping, our businesses have suffered great losses.”
During his visit to Lusaka, Duddridge also met with Comesa Secretary-General Chileshe Kapepwe where they discussed the UK’s commitment to supporting economic growth across Africa through increased regional and global trade.
During the meeting, it was announced that the UK’s High Commissioner in Lusaka, Nicholas Woolley, will shortly be accredited as the UK’s Special Representative to Comesa, leading on the UK’s partnership with the regional body. With 21 member States stretching from Tunisia to Eswatini and the Seychelles, Comesa represents a market of approximately 560 million people.