The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) has advised that government policy interventions should create an enabling business environment for informal traders, particularly women.
Unctad says trade requirements should be relaxed for informal cross-border traders.
The report formulated under Unctad’s Trade, Gender and Development Programme, which examined cross-border trade in Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia with focus on women traders, said supporting the growth of informal cross-border traders capacity and their gradual integration into formal trade would help boost trade and contribute to overall development goals.
“Cross-border traders should be supported through initiatives such as the National Cross-Border Trade Strategy of Rwanda, which proposes removing the requirement for informal cross-border traders to be formally registered as a business and setting up facilities at the border where informal traders can register and obtain an identification number to be used for tracking purposes, not for collecting taxes,” said the report.
The Unctad also recommends that one-stop border posts should be tailored further to meet the needs of cross-border traders and that national policies should be introduced to oversee all initiatives carried out on cross-border trade.
According to UN Women (2010), women constitute about 70 per cent of the informal cross-border traders in the Sadc region.
The female predominance in informal cross-border trade is often attributed to women’s time and mobility constraints, as well as to their limited access to productive resources and support systems, making such trade one of the few options available to them to earn a living.
Cross-Border Traders Association president Esther Chukambiri said in an interview that women traders benefit only marginally from their trading activity due to a number of factors, including policy, institutional, cultural, economic and regulatory issues.
“Apart from problems relating to cross-border trade like lack of finance for trade, market infrastructures and verbal harassments, we suffer from policy issues despite the fact that we economically transform the economy,” she said.