How use of identity cards has eased trade for border communities

The use of identity cards among the Northern Corridor states has improved business opportunities for border communities, traders at Gatuna in Gicumbi District have said.

According to Jane Bayera, the chairperson of Gatuna Crossborder Co-operative, border communities can now trade with their neighbours on the Uganda side without hindrance, which was not the same three years ago.

The initiative by Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya, as well as new entrants South Sudan which came into force on January 1, 2014, is part of the Northern Corridor states integration projects that seek to fast-track the process.

Figures from National Bank of Rwanda show that Rwanda’s informal cross-border exports with neighbouring countries, which accounted for 20.4 per cent of formal exports last year, increased by 21.4 per cent to $121.93 million up from $100.5 million in 2015. This was driven by cattle and telephonic apparatus exports to Uganda. Exports to the DR Congo represented a bigger share at 74.6 per cent of the total informal cross-border exports followed by Uganda with 19.1 per cent, while exports to Burundi and Tanzania accounted for 6.24 per cent and 0.02 per cent, respectively.

Informal imports increased by 41.2 per cent from $21.62 million in 2015 to $30.52 million last year.

However, this increase was offset by the bigger increase in informal export, leading to an improvement of 16.0 per cent in Rwanda’s informal trade balance with neighbouring countries, from $78.83 million in 2015 to $91.41 million in 2016.

Bayera added that customs and immigration procedures and bureaucracy have reduced, saving time and operation costs. She added that the free movement of people and goods is essential to drive growth among the regional economies.

Alexandre Habimana, a trader in Gatuna, Gicumbi District, told The New Times in an interview that use of identity cards has further strengthened trade between Rwanda and Uganda border communities. Habimana said traders who were previously not able to carry out trade with the border community in Uganda can now move freely. This has improved trade relations among them and contributed to national development.

“Free movement of goods, people and services has helped to improve trade among border communities and helped increase household incomes as well as people’s living standards,” Habimana said.

He added that the One Area Network has further facilitated trade between border communities and settling of business transactions, thanks to reduction and harmonisation of rates by telecoms operating in the Northern Corridor states.

Emile Ngabonza, a trader at Gatuna border, was optimistic that the proposed cross-border market will help improve competitiveness of Rwandan goods in neighbouring markets, strengthen linkages between players in the informal and formal market segments.