Addressing Bottlenecks Affecting Simplified Trade Regime in the Great Lakes

Issues affecting the operations of the Simplified Trade Regime (STR) along the borderlands of DR Congo, Uganda and Rwanda formed the agenda of recent two-day tripartite meeting.

The virtual meeting was organized by the COMESA Secretariat under the Great Lakes Trade Facilitation Project (GLTFP) to share experiences on the STR and other key issues impacting Cross Border Trade in the three project countries.

Delegates shared experiences on trading under COVID-19 restrictions and the initiatives they have put in place to safeguard cross-border traders. One of the best practices cited was the bulking of small consignment of goods and ferrying them as one thus limiting the number of traders crossing the borders to supply or buy products.

This was first meeting held since COVID-19 shut borders in most Member States early in the year.

At the meeting, participants examined findings a sustainability study of Trade Information Desk (TIDs) which proposed that the desks should be operated by the private sector as Cross Border Traders Associations (CBTA) or cooperatives. Currently, the Trade Information Officers are supported by the GLTFP which is coming to an end. The meeting also reviewed the roadmap for operationalization of joint border committees which are critical for trade.

The GLTFP) is funded by the World Bank to facilitate cross-border trade between the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda and increase the capacity for commerce and reduce the costs, time and harassment faced by traders, especially small-scale and women traders.

Project beneficiaries are primarily vulnerable families in borderland areas, cross border traders, especially women, and air travelers. The project also benefits youth by creating new opportunities for employment. The project addresses both formal and informal small-scale trade with a strong focus on gender.

The following led their respective country delegations to the meeting: Mr. Millan Bondenga, Ministry of Commerce in DR Congo; Mr Antoine Kajangwe, Director General of Trade and Investments, Rwanda, and Mr David Kiiza, Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, Uganda.

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