WASHINGTON, September 25, 2015—About 80,000 traders and their families in Africa’s Great Lakes Region whose livelihoods depend on cross-border trade will benefit from greater food security, more jobs, and an overall increase in welfare as a result of the US$79 million International Development (IDA)* grant and credit approved today by the World Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors.
Today’s financing will support the Great Lakes Trade Facilitation Project which is designed to reduce the costs faced by traders, the majority of whom are small-scale and women traders, in the surrounding borders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Uganda. It will help to develop regional markets near border crossings and facilities to handle an increased flow of goods, services, and people, as well as provide resources to strengthen government agencies at the border to deliver high quality and efficient services.
“Regional approaches to trade facilitation are critical to leverage national efforts,” said Makhtar Diop, World Bank Group Vice President for the Africa Region. “The three Great Lakes countries included in this project share similar challenges that must be tackled through collective action, and borders are the solution provided they are safe and enable traders to do business in a conducive environment.”
For many communities in the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda, key markets are situated across the border and informal cross-border trade plays a major role in linking small producers to markets. Border crossing points, such as Petite Barrière in Goma, DRC which averages 20,000 to 30,000 crossings a day, can become major bottlenecks for traders trying to reach potential buyers.
“We are pleased that our two countries have been trading with one another for a long time, which can help forge peace, stability, and security in the Great Lakes Region,” said Madame Nefertiti NGUDIANZA BAYOKISA KISULA, the Minister of Trade for the DRC and Monsieur Francois KANIMBA, the Minister of Trade for Rwanda in a joint communique. “We welcome the prospect of our countries becoming a part of the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) COMESA-EAC-SADC and the development of the Great Lakes Trade Facilitation Project.”
The funds approved today will go toward improving core trade infrastructure and facilities to provide efficient and secure traffic flows of pedestrians, passengers, and commercial vehicles at border crossing points. It will also improve security of small-scale traders, through separate lanes for pedestrians, lighting and cameras, as well as provide warehouses so traders can safely store their goods. These improvements will help reduce the time it takes to move across borders and conduct business activities allowing traders to take multiple trips a day and increase their incomes.
“Today’s project will help support regional stability by improving livelihoods in border areas, facilitating cross-border trade and strengthening economic interdependence through connective infrastructure, policies and procedures,” said Anabel Gonzalez, Senior Director for Trade & Competitiveness at the World Bank Group.
Infrastructure improvements at the border will be accompanied by better border management and governance and better trained officials. This is particularly important to small-scale traders, and especially women, who are often victims of harassment and physical violence and are forced to pay bribes.
Women are key to boosting trade and prosperity, and their ability to do so safely is paramount. Therefore, the project will promote functioning mechanisms for addressing complaints and resolving disputes, increase safety and reduce the scope for harassment at the border.
The Great Lakes Trade Facilitation Project follows a promise made in 2013 by World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim during a visit to DRC, Rwanda and Uganda with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to support peace, security and economic development in the Great Lakes. During the visit, Kim pledged US$1 billion in additional funds to improve health, education, nutrition, job training and other essential services in DRC and the wider Great Lakes region.