In the wake to promote cross border trade with her neighbours Rwanda has moved to accelerate the COMESA Simplified Trade regime (STR) by hosting a bilateral technical meeting, which aims to hatching a list of commontraded productsbetween DRC and Rwanda.
The high level meeting is expected to launch the STR at the Gisenyi/Goma border shared by DRC and Rwanda to enable small scale cross border traders enjoy the benefits of belonging to COMESA, reduce the cost of doing business and eliminate non-tariff barriers (NTBs).
Rwanda’s ongoing massive investment in roads, markets along DRC- Rwanda main borders is, thus, part of a comprehensive cross bordertrade strategy, Robert Opirah, the Director General in the ministry of Trade and Investment said in his opening remarks.
Opirah added that DRC and Rwanda as trading partners have a strong commitment to increase trade and cooperation through COMESA.
The STR pushes for free movement of goods that have been grown, raised or processed in a member state in order to decrease poverty levels in border communities.
Tasara Muzorori COMESA’s senior trade officer said though the informal sector plays a vital role in supporting a big population Africa, the regional economic communities sidelined small scale cross-border traders.
“Informalisation of African economies is taking place at a faster pace than anticipated with the informal sector playing an important role in providing incomes and livelihood to a sizeable section of the population in many African countries. Nevertheless, the small scale cross-border traders were not benefiting from the preferential trading arrangements created by regional communities.
He said that poor access, high transport costs, taxes and unregulated fees were among the challenges small scale cross border traders most of whom are women and youth. Other factors that made the cost of doing business at the border posts included use of informal channels to conduct trade and lack of facilities and systems to support such trade.
According to studies on cross border trade where women and youths have the largest stake indicates that simplifying and formalizing the trade will help empower the otherwise marginalized groups.
It is anticipated that their livelihoods will better as formalizing doing business will result in increased incomes.
STR, Muzorori says is a formidable tool through which COMESA can help the governments in the economic bloc empower women and youths.
“Studies and analysis have, also, shown that the majority of cross border traders are women and youths. Simplifying and formalizing cross-border trade will, therefore, help to empower these otherwise marginalized population groups and make it easier for them to conduct business, earn incomes and also improve their livelihoods and those of their families. We at COMESA view the STR as an instrument to help our governments empower women and the youth,” said Muzorori.
He called on border officials to treat small scale cross border traders fairly and with dignity while ensuring that the correct amount of duty due to the State is collected, adding that the traders at the border should familiarize themselves with their rights and obligations.
After concluding the formalities of STR, Rwanda will export wood products, agricultural produce, agro-based products, cement, animals, and poultry. Other exports will include manufactured goods like biscuits, bread, sausages, cheese and sosoma flour.