What Challenges do Traders Face when Crossing Borders?

Meet Wilkister, she is a cross-border trader in the town of Busia. A single mother of two children, Wilkister travels by foot across to Kenya to bring back potatoes and mangoes, which she sells at a local market on the Ugandan side. In her daily trading Wilkister faces a myriad of uncertainties. On good days she will pass through the official border post in 30 minutes, and pay only a small amount of VAT and local municipality taxes, as her Simplified Certificate of Origin (SCOO) will exempt her from tariffs on goods produced in the EAC.

On a bad day, she might face long delays, bribe extortion, sexual harassment, impounding of goods or event imprisonment, all because a corrupt border official claims she is lacking certain documentation or the tariff and tax on a specific product has been increased. In these situations Wilkister often has no choice but to give in – she is a woman, with only primary education, and doesn’t have the voice, influence and sometimes the necessary information to stand up to corrupt border officials. Sometimes, because of border delays or uncertainty about the tariffs and taxes applicable to her consignment, she will choose to travel through a panya (smuggling) route, where she is exposed to even more risk in the forms of gender-based violence.

Across the EAC there are thousands of women like Wilkister – they make up 70-80% of cross-border traders.

Sauti’s Informal Cross-border Trade Database offers an expansive array of data points on information gathered from over 1700 cross-border traders at Busia and Malaba on the Kenya/Ugandan border. This database provides an in-depth exploration of the issues faced by cross-border traders and is designed for policy advocates seeking to characterize the cross-border trade space.

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