Cross-border traders should be motivated

01Apr 2016
The Guardian
Cross-border traders should be motivated

We are shocked hearing that some male government officials demand money and at times sex from the struggling women engaged in small trade along our borders so that those women can do their business smoothly.

The women have testified that some police, immigration and Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) officers are forcing women to bribe them by asking for money or even sex from them.

These businesswomen were airing their experiences in the cross-border business at a training course for women across the borders organized by the Small Industries Development Organisation (SIDO) and the Tanzania Women Chamber of Commerce (TWCC) with support from UN Women.

A recent study has revealed that, women involved in cross border trade are mostly single (widow or unmarried). The retail appears to be the most preferred trade as it is easy to travel with small quantities of goods.

These women struggle to start their businesses due to perceived good profits in the neighbouring countries and therefore establish themselves along the borders.

However confiscations of goods and sexual harassment for them seem to be major challenge for them.

The only way used to recover their confiscated goods is to pay bribes to responsible authorities.

Therefore the training was to encourage them to do formalisation and deal with factors that challenge the growth of their business.

It is estimated that over 30 percent the gross domestic product of 37 African economies comes from the informal economy. In Tanzania, this informal economy constitutes about 40 percent of GDP.

Statistics show that Tanzania is on top of Kenya (36 percent) and Burundi (39 percent) in such business while it lags behind of Rwanda and Uganda by 41percent and 45 percent respectively.

These businesses have now become the main source of employment and income for the majority of people in Tanzania.

Most of these women own informal businesses such as informal food vendors (mama-lishe), small restaurants, fruit and vegetable stalls.

It is true that most of these shops do not have licenses and are not registered with Business
Registrations and Licensing Agency (BRELA).

They normally carry goods in small quantities to their neighboring countries in buses and through other means of transport or sell as wholesale to foreigners who also in turn sell them through the informal sector to their home countries.

True, in most cases those from informal businesses escape trade related regulations and duties by avoiding official border crossing posts and passing their commodities through unofficial routes called ‘panya’ routes.

Economists believe that women are very instrumental in social economic development and hence have a crucial role in poverty alleviation.

This kind of trade is not only a source of income for people to meet their daily household commitments and other basic needs but also as a source of employment and poverty alleviation.

It is for this reason that we hail those who made efforts in training women on how best to conduct their cross-border trade.

We therefore ask officials at the borders to treat women doing business as agents of change in our economy and must do their best to help conduct their business smoothly.

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