Trade advocates are calling on East Africa heads of states to re-open borders to facilitate cross border trade between regional citizens.
The Civil society bodies including The East African Sub Saharan Initiative for advancement of women (EASSI) SEATIN, Urgent Action fund Africa among others note that the closure of borders in a bid to control the spread of COVID19 literally killed businesses of small –scale traders who could not afford transporting their goods in trucks across the borders in the region.
Speaking at the closure of a two day dialogue on assessing the impact of Covid-19 on trade in the EAC, the Executive Director EASSI Shiela kawamara says, whereas the impact of the pandemic varies from one country to the other, its effect on the socio-economic lives and well being of women is appalling with a definite increase in the levels of poverty and inequalities.
She explains that, “the effect of the lock down saw women in border districts sneak through bushes with their goods and this way, they were raped, assaulted and their goods stolen in the process by the security officials patrolling the borders.”
Hence, Kawamara notes that the opening of borders will facilitate smooth and safe running of trade for women in the informal sector who constitute more than 75% of traders.
For her part, the executive Director SEATIN Jane Nalunga urges the EAC heads of states to put aside their political differences and work towards fighting Covid-19 out of the region as this is the only way to facilitate and boost trade in the region.
“Its so sad to see that heads of state in the region continue to disguise that they are fighting COVID19 by closing the borders yet communities along the border cross freely without following the SOPs.”
Speaking to Tafumba Susan a simple woman plying business in Nakawa market, she explains that they have used their capital to feed their families during the three months lock down leaving them with no money to run their businesses.
The women trader also decry the poor working conditions in markets ranging from poor hygiene, poor security which has seen them loss their goods and the sell off their stores by the market heads.
It upon this that market vendors who now have registered a drastic fall in their client base, call on government to extend soft loans to them to help them re-capitalize their businesses.