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The implementation of Great Lakes Trade Facilitation Project (GLTFP) has begun with earnest with the launching of recruitment for Trade Information Officers to be based at selected locations in the eastern borderlands of the Democratic Republic Congo and the neighboring countries of Rwanda and Uganda.

The GLTFP is financed by the World Bank and implemented by COMESA. Its objective is to facilitate cross-border trade by increasing the capacity for commerce and reducing the costs faced by small-scale traders, majority of who are women.

The project will build on existing Trade Information Desks (TIDs) established by COMESA in the selected border region including Goma in DRC and Rubavu in Rwanda, Kasindi (DRC) and Mpondwe (Uganda), Bunagana (DRC) and Bunagana (Uganda).

A total of 20 additional TID Officers will be recruited to complement the existing capacity as well as for the new desks that will be identified through the on-going assessment mission mounted by the COMESA Secretariat in the Great Lakes region. Additional Officers (TIDO) will be added to the posts where there is one.

In meeting with the COMESA team, the regional government authorities in Rusizi and Rubavu (Rwanda) and their counterparts in Bukavu and Goma in DR Congo have welcomed the initiative and pledged to support it to ensure the largely informal trade is gradually formalized.

The new desks are expected to be at Mahagi in DRC and Goli in Uganda and Bukavu (DRC) and Rusizi (Rwanda) border regions. The new Trade Information Desk Officers will help traders apply the COMESA Simplified Trade Regime (STR) whose objective is to facilitate cross border traders by providing general information about applicable duty and documentary requirements, taking complaints and reports of incidents, and assisting with conflict resolution.

Besides working with traders, the desk officers will work with various border agencies such as immigration, Customs and security officials, local cross-border traders associations, as well as with local government authorities.