“Trading For Peace” is a research project funded by DFID in collaboration with COMESA and USAID over the last eighteen months to validate the thesis that as Congo and the Great Lakes region emerge from conflict, facilitating trade can and should contribute towards regional stabilisation and poverty reduction through growth. Click here to read the full report
The detailed research demonstrated that trade is robust and important for livelihoods in DRC but it is highly informal and largely fraudulent. There is systematic under declaration of exports, of all the commodities studied; overall, less than 25-30% of goods exported from the DRC are recorded in government statistics. There are a number of reasons for this: the DRC levies export tariffs, whereas neighbouring countries do not, so there is an incentive for exporters to get their goods across borders and declare them as exports from Zambia, Rwanda, Uganda or Burundi; but there is rent taking all along the value chains as well. Tax avoidance by traders is a logical response to this informal situation – trade in the DRC is far from chaotic.
A key consequence of this is that, while trade is robust, the trading and value chains are vulnerable to abuse by – for example – militarised elites. The potential benefits in poverty reduction are threatened. The reports concluded that, in order to improve trade and livelihoods, progress was needed on several fronts; peace security and stability; governance reform including regulatory frameworks, legal title and implementation of decentralisation plans; infrastructure – especially energy and transport – which is a huge constraint on trade and economic activities; and revitalisation of other areas of economic activity, notably agriculture, to reduce the vulnerability of groups on fragile or dangerous activities like artisanal mining. These are intertwined and overlap, but the four thematic areas can be highlighted – livelihoods, trade issues, economics and finance, and governance.
COMESA, with support from DFID and USAID, is running a series of cross-border trade fora between the DRC and its Great Lakes’ neighbours from February 2008 and January 2009.
The purpose of these fora is to promote and facilitate trade across the borders in order to help reduce conflict and to promote growth as mechanisms to reduce poverty. The aims of the meetings are to develop the capacity among traders and officials at a local cross-border level in the practicalities of trade, to help build communications and networks across borders, and to deepen understanding of specific aspects of trade within the context of the research report Trading for Peace.
Each trade forum has three components:
- dissemination of COMESA’s Simplified Trading Regime (STR) for traders of small and medium-sized enterprises
- a cross-border trade fair
- a thematic module to deepen understanding of a specific issue and identify activities around it.
The following trading corridors have been identified for the Fora with agreed or suggested dates, and themes for the modules:
- Kasumbalesa (DRC-Zambia), already taken place in February 2008, with a theme of developing a simple hand book on the COMESA’s STR.
- Uvira-Bujumbura (DRC-Burundi) in Bujumbura from June 10th – 13th 2008, with a theme of financial institutions and flows .
- Goma-Gisenyi (DRC-Rwanda) in Goma in June 2008, with a theme of trade and security with specific reference to agriculture.
- Kasindi-Mpondwe (DRC-Uganda) in Kasese, Uganda in September or November 2008, with a theme of forestry.
- Great Lakes regional, venue to be determined, in March 2009, with a theme of lessons learned and taking recommendations forward.
The strong positive role of women in trade is a major cross-cutting theme to be included in all the fora, which also should include the specific problems they face such as sexual violence.
COMESA has the responsibility for organising these fora, working with an identified local partner. The Steering Committee for Trading For Peace (DFID, USAID and COMESA) with input from Pole Institute (based in Goma) and International Alert (through its programmes in the region) will agree the content of the meetings and commission, if need be, research on specific themes to be used at the fora.
Cross Border Programme
The findings led to a growing understanding of the potential role of the private sector and traders in peace building, and that the more open trade regime which is supported by COMESA can contribute to peace and security and growth in the Great Lakes Region. Capacity building and networking for stakeholders related to trade in GL region and working through COMESA has been identified as important. The programme lead in the COMESA Secretariat by the Legal Division uses a collaborative approach in conjunction with other COMESA programmes linked to cross border trade such as Trade Division, RATES in charge of the implementation of the COMESA STR, Gender and Women in Business program, Investment Promotion Private Sector Development (IPPSD) program. This is the basis on which the above Trade Fora have been planned.
The Trade Information Desk in Kasumbalesa, DRC
On the 27th January 2009, COMESA in partnership with DFID and USAID launched the first ever Trade Information Desk (TID) at the border post of DRC and Zambia, in Kasumbalesa. The TID is located on the DRC side whose many purposes and functions are primarily targeted for small-scale cross border traders.
Trade Information Desk-Who is it for?
The TID offers services to small-scale traders related to trade and / or crossing the borders. The objective is to facilitate and support them with daily issues and the problems they are facing at the border.
What kind of information do you find at the TID?
- COMESA Certificate of Origin, Simplified customs Document
- Map of Kasumbalesa border post area with the main services
- Maps of DRC and Zambia
- Information on transport and accommodation around the border
- Information on SPS standards and Non Barrier Tariff (NBT), etc
- And many more
Where is the TID located?
The TID is located next to the office Congolais de Contrôle (OCC) in Kasumbalesa, DRC