East African member states have been urged to come up with COVID-19 Business Recovery Programs targeting most traders in the informal sector particularly Women engaged in cross border trade.
Women and Business Activists in the region say COVID -19 has greatly affected Women Business Communities especially those who are engaging in cross border trade. This came as a result of the closing of regional Borders.
“The closing of the borders negatively impacted on the lives of cross-border traders especially women.
“All their capital was consumed thus the need for the EAC to come up with the recovery programme that will support Women in Business to access cheap loans to finance and restart their businesses,” noted Jane Nalunga the Executive Director Southern and Eastern Africa Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI) Uganda while addressing a joint press conference organized by SEATINI and Eastern Africa Sub – Regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women (EASSI)
Nalunga said although some EAC member states have set up loan facilities in state-owned development banks, such loan facilities cannot be accessed by business community particularly those operating in the informal sector like Women.
“For instance, Uganda capitalized Uganda Development Bank with a capital of about UGX1.3 Trillion to enable the business communities to access to cheap loans, however, such loans cannot be accessed by women in the informal sector yet, they have been greatly affected by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic hence government should come up with new financing modalities for the business communities operating in the informal sector,” stressed Nalunga.
Speaking at the same event Sheila Kawamara-Mishambi, the Executive Director of EASSI called on the EAC member states to fully open up their borders to allow the small-scale traders to transact businesses safely across.
Kawamara noted that the closing of borders within the EAC exposed many Women traders to poverty.
“EASSI and its partners have observed that while the impact of the pandemic varies from country to country, its effect on the social-economic lives and wellbeing of women especially those engaging in cross border trade is appalling with a definite increase in levels of poverty and income inequalities.
“This has exposed many women traders to engaging in illegal entry some have resorted to entering countries in a harmful way such as swimming across River Onyama at Uganda – Sudan Border and River Malaba along the Uganda -Kenya Border hence to protect such communities, the EAC Governments should open up borders to enable cross border trade,” reasoned Kawamara.
As a means to control the spread of COVID-19, EAC Member states initiated many measures to control the cross border spread by closing borders, which has negatively affected women, traders, according to Kawamara.
Why opening the borders is vital?
Trade and markets form the largest part of livelihood amongst people living along the interstate borders and women cross border traders purposely move across for business.
BY SAMUEL NABWIISO