WASHINGTON, September 25, 2015—Consider the fate of a small-scale trader in the Great Lakes region of Africa.
She—for it is likely to be
Officials from a dozen or more local, regional, and national government agencies on both sides of the border will insist on inspecting her goods and, in some instances, inspecting her. Either overtly or by strong implication, she will understand that she must bribe one or more of these officers if she wants to get her goods to market.
A bribe might only consist of a few eggs or a bunch of bananas. (A few eggs from every trader who crosses the border adds up to a lot.) But if she resists in any way, or perhaps even if she doesn’t, she may be subject to verbal or physical harassment, including humiliating body searches conducted by men.
Those lucky enough to have only short distances to cover can cross and re-cross borders multiple times in a day, but in each crossing, they must navigate the financial and physical hazards that are part of life for traders in the region.
New project to streamline cross-border trading
Addressing these daily hazards and at the same time boosting a vital part of the region’s growing economy
The project will unfold in two phases, beginning with grants and credits totaling $79 million for the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda, and a second phase totaling $61 million for the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Tanzania, and Zambia.
“The economic impact, particularly from the 20,000 to 30,000 small-scale traders that cross the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda each day, is crucial for the Great Lakes region,” said Paul Brenton, one of the World Bank’s Task Team Leaders for the project.
“Trade generates solidarity between communities and improves livelihoods, which in turn reduces the likelihood of conflict” added Shiho Nagaki, a fellow Team Leader.
The project will fuse both physical and logistical improvements in customs and border facilities with policy and procedural reforms and capacity building. For example, the project will fund construction of shelters for traders waiting at the border; automated turnstiles to facilitate more speedy passage through the border and less physical contact with, and therefore potential harassment from, border officials; gender sensitivity training for border officials; and the enshrinement of policies such as a requirement that inspections of female traders be conducted by female officials.
The goal is to improve the efficiency, capacity, and security of border operations at a number of key border crossings connecting the economies of these countries, thus improving the economic health of the region.