Musanze (Rwanda), Wednesday, September 27, 2017: The regional dialogue on the Simplified Trade Regime (STR) takes place from 27th to 29th September 2017. This is part of the on-going implementation of the COMESA STR: a key instrument for facilitating small scale cross border trade among COMESA member States. DR Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda which are implementing the Great Lakes Trade Facilitation Project are part of the STR.

The dialogue is a platform for sharing experiences by various stakeholders in the implementation of the STR. It also aims at examining the STR Regime and proposing changes that are necessary to improve the functioning of the STR as a tool for facilitating small scale cross-border trade. It will serve as forum for awareness creation on the STR as well as the Regulations on the Minimum Standards for the Treatment of Small Scale Cross Border Traders.

Delegates at the event are drawn from the three project countries (Rwanda, DRC, and Uganda). Others are COMESA officials and representatives from World Bank and Trade Mark East Africa, Trade Information Desk Officers, border officials, STR/trade experts, Cross Border Trades Association, small scale cross border traders, and private sector such as National Chambers of Commerce/ cooperatives or producer associations.

The Governor of the Northern Province, Rwanda, Mr Jean-Marie Vianney GATABAZI opened the dialogue. He thanked the COMESA Secretariat and the World Bank for facilitating the dialogue that will enable experience-sharing in the implementation of STR in the project countries

“The DRC, Uganda and Rwanda are good trading partners and are very willing to increase trade and cooperation through COMESA,” he said.

Mr Gatabazi encouraged the experts from each country and the political leaders involved in the dialogue to work towards creating an enabling environment for cross-border trade by “banishing borders because trade between neighbouring countries should not have borders.”

Addressing the participants, the Provincial Minister of Finance and Trade for North Kivu in D R Congo, Honourable Pierre Kabanda said the meeting would assist to deepen the relations between the participating countries and integrate the activities of the peoples of the region. He thanked COMESA for spearheading the activities meant to facilitate small scale trade.

In her remarks, the World Bank representative, Ms. Nyembezi Mvunga, observed that trade plays a key role in alleviation of poverty and reducing the gender gap within the economies of the Great Lakes Region.

“The elimination of constraints facing small scale traders through implementing trade reforms would enable trade to serve as a powerful instrument in stimulating growth and eliminating poverty for small scale traders, majority being women,” she said.

She said the World Bank was in the process of expanding the Great Lakes Trade Facilitation Project to include Zambia, Tanzania and Burundi. Through financing border infrastructure, the World Bank is supporting policy and procedural reforms in border and trade operations, as well as improving the capacity of customs, trade would contribute to shared prosperity and poverty alleviation in the region.