The East African Business Council (EABC), the regional body for private sector associations has called for more efforts and enforcement in easing cross-border trade for women, especially those in the informal sector. The request was made on Monday June 27, during a public-private dialogue that convened representatives from trade facilitation agencies, importers, exporters, transporters, East African Grain Council members, Private Sector Foundation Uganda and women cross-border traders to chart out solutions to ease the free movement of persons and cargo at Gatuna One Stop Border Post (OSBP). The border links Rwanda to Uganda, but officials said that many of the challenges here are shared across other common borders connecting member states. The meeting was aimed analyzing the efficiency and implementation of the EAC Simplified Trade Regime (STR) at the border posts, the efficiency and implementation of the Regional Electronic Cargo, Trucks and Drivers System (RECTDS) tracking system and the EAC Single Customs Territory (SCT) framework among other initiatives. Miria Akaukwasa, the Chairperson of Katuna Women Cross Border Traders appreciated that a trade information desk had been set up at the border to ease trade for informal traders. However, she stated that women need to be sensitized about the EAC Simplified Trade Regime and small cross border traders should be allowed to do business at the Gatuna OSBP. Under the EAC Customs Union, the STR is a special facilitation for small scale traders who regularly transact in low value consignments. An approved simplified certificate of origin (SCOO) exempts consignments of goods that originate in the EAC and are valued at under $2,000 from payment of import duty in the EAC destination country. However, according to trade experts, most traders lack sufficient knowledge about the rights provided for under the protocols and how these provisions are applied, the obligatory customs procedures and documentation. Lack of such information, they say, makes small traders vulnerable to harassment and corruption, including excessive charges, bribe extortion, impounding of goods and difficulties in obtaining passports and visas. Faced with uncertainty about tariffs and taxes applicable to consignments, many traders will choose to use porous border crossing to smuggle goods across countries. To address these barriers, encouraging formalization and increased compliance, while helping them grow their revenues and profits from their trading activities have been recommended. “They decry lack of information about goods that pay taxes and those that are exempt from taxes. They end up paying taxes they should not be paying,” said John Bosco Kalisa, the CEO of EABC. Other challenges, according to Kalisa, include lack of access to capital. “We are negotiating with different banks in the region to collaborate so that they come up with products for such small cross-border traders in need of loans,” he said. Traffic returns at Gatuna border Meanwhile, Kalisa said that over 150 transit trucks are crossing over the Gatuna One Stop Border Post daily following the reopening of the border. He applauded the political leaders of both countries of moving to restore ties which has led to resumption of movement across borders since the beginning of this year. Peter Gikwiyakave, Regional Manager, Uganda Revenue Authority added that, 800 ordinary people are crossing the Gatuna border every day, a figure many said was still low compared to how things were before. The low traffic was attributed to both Covid-19 protocols which are still in place and the ongoing construction works at Gatuna OSBP, mainly on the Ugandan side. The construction works are expected to be concluded soon and by August, the border will be fully operational, according to Ugandan officials. The Gatuna OSBP currently mainly facilitates movement of transit cargo.