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Giving a voice to East African cross-border traders

Published on October 17, 2017

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More than seventy participants took part in the establishment of the constitution for the new East Africa Cross Border Traders Association (EACBTA) in Kampala, Uganda last week. The making of the constitution was part of a larger Regional Cross-Border Traders Association Convention hosted by Agricultural Markets Development Trust (AGMARK) through a grant from the Hub. The convention provided a forum for cross-border trader association representatives to discuss and validate EACBTA’s agenda and leadership structure, including election of the regional office bearers. Miria Akankwasa, a cross-border trader at the Uganda/Rwanda border of Katuna was elected chairperson of the association.

“Cross-border traders are the engine of trade in East Africa and will help achieve food security goals through establishment of formal trading structures,” said Yohannes Assefa, Director, Agriculture and Agribusiness at the Hub.

Formation of EACBTA is the highlight of the activities under Hub’s grant to AGMARK. Since April 2017, the Hub has supported AGMARK to build the capacity of cross-border traders on enterprise management, structured marketing systems and efficient staple foods cross-border trade. In the process leading up to the formation of the EACBTA, AGMARK convened sensitization meetings to build consensus on the objectives, agenda, constitution and leadership structure of the regional association. These meetings took place in various border towns across the region, such as Busia, Isebania, Namanga, Gatuna and Mutukula.

There are about forty cross-border trade associations in East Africa but these organizations are highly fragmented and face challenges such as barriers to formal trade, poor enabling environment and restrictive trade policies and practices. The Hub's interventions in capacity building and the formation of the EACBTA are aimed at addressing these challenges. The regional cross-border traders association will provide cross-border traders with a stronger voice in the East African Community (EAC) and a stronger role in the formulation of trade policies. As an association, they will be invited to sit in influential trade committees in the EAC and they can directly conduct activities on behalf of their membership, e.g. information sharing, policy advocacy, etc. The regional association will also be crucial for the enforcement of EAC trade documents, such as harmonized EAC grades and standards, and use of the Simplified Trade Regime (STR).

“I strongly support the formation of the association. It will become a huge platform for grain trade,” said Aaron Arone, representative of Century Traders in South-Sudan.

More broadly, the Hub and AGMARK's Regional Traders Association Development Project supports the increased access, availability, and use of African-grown staples food through regionally integrated markets, which contributes to food security. To learn more about AGMARK, read our previous blog here.