Cases of informal cross-border traders using dangerous methods and routes to move their goods across the regional borders are many. As a result, those involved in informal cross-border trade, many of whom are women, live a risky life.
Despite the difficulties the informal cross-border traders go through, they barely make enough money as most of their proceeds end up being used in facilitating movements of their merchandises across the borders. And in many cases they fall prey to thugs and even unscrupulous border officials who intimidate and harass them before confiscating their produces on the flimsiest of reasons.
Dangers at hand
During the tour of Mirama Hills one stop border point (OSBP) last week, it emerged that some female cross-border traders while trying to use "illegal routes" end up drowning in Mirama stream, a stretch between Uganda and Rwandan border.
Several lose their goods while others endure sexual harassment are now a common tale.
"Most cross border traders, especially the women, do not use the official border points because they not only feel intimidated by the border procedures but most of them do not seem to understand issues of taxation," the acting executive director of Eastern African Sub-regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women, Ms Christine Nankubuge, said during the launch of the charter for cross border traders last week at Mirama Hills, adding: "Intimidation of women by some border officials has also resulted in them shunning the official border posts in favour of other dangerous routes, something we want to stop."
According to Trade Mark East Africa, women make nearly 75 per cent of informal traders at the border points.
To help them trade free of encumbrances, the minister of Trade, Ms Amelia Kyambadde, launched a charter for cross border traders, which she said will help get rid of non-tariff barriers the informal traders at the borders, particularly the women struggle with.
The charter aims at propelling the basic rights and obligations for traders and officials at the border as adopted in Moshi, Tanzania early last year.
Among other things, it states that all individuals shall be liable to cross the border without abuse, harassment and discrimination of any sort.
That traders documents will be processed at the border in an efficient manner and in accordance with the time set by the border post without discrimination.
And only officials of the approved agencies shall be present at the border and they will all be in uniform and bearing proper identification, women traders could be subjected to physical check but it must be done respectfully and with a female official.
All duties, fees and taxes and the basis of their calculations will be publicly announced and time granted for traders to prepare before their applications.
It further states that trades must be aware of their rights and obligations when crossing the border, the basic rights and obligations will be translated in local languages, there will be gender training for border officials and if any of the basic rights and obligation is infringed upon, there will be consequences.
It concludes by stating that improvement of OSBP will never stop and that government shall improve the quality of data on small traders, including the nature of goods being carried across the borders.
Construction started in August, 2013 and was completed in February, 2016 at a cost of Shs18.8 billion. It was funded by Department for International Development (DFID) through TradeMark East Africa, with government contributing the VAT component of the contract and land acquisition.