Simplified trade regime is an important instrument in enabling women and youth trade at a wider continental market. John Bosco Kalisa, CEO of East African Business Council (EABC), made the remarks during a capacity building workshop for East African women, youth and other traders in cross-border trade on Simplified Trade Regime (STR) that was held from August 30-31. The two-day workshop aimed at raising awareness among women and youth in terms of using a simplified trade regime, a trade facilitation tool that equips women and youth cross-border traders with minimum procedures and conditions. He said this tool is very important in regards to embracing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). “EAC being number one in trade integrations, we need to ensure that our women are on board, in terms of using these trade facilitation instruments,” Kalisa said. Patience Mutesi, Rwanda Country Director TradeMark East Africa, said Rwanda as a country has a plan to increase exports by 17% annually, “and you can’t do that by just looking at large scale exports. Over 70% of trade that actually happens informally is carried out by women, since they are usually excluded from the usual trade.” “We believe that sensitising women on their rights, obligations and responsibilities will help them get that courage and confidence to trade more legally across borders,” Mutesi said. The president of Gatuna trace border trading cooperative, Jeanne Bayera said, this will ease trade, raise awareness and reduce informal cross border trade. Among challenges traders face include, price discrepancies where each agent sets his or her own rate and also delays in clearances at the border which Bayera said highly affects business operation. Some of the other challenges affecting STR include; misunderstandings between countries, lack of standardised authentication measures for non-complying certificates, limited awareness on STR Benefits, delays in cargo clearances, products not listed on the common list of eligible products, interception of goods, among others. EABC and partners are seeking strategies through which they can address this as well as tap into opportunities offered under the AfCFTA. One of such strategies is ‘One Trade Africa Program,’ an initiative implemented by TradeMark East Africa. It is targeting 150,000 women involved in cross border trade across the region. Locally, it is being implemented in partnership with Pro-Femme Twese Hamwe. Program manager at Pro-femme Twese Hamwe, Ernest Bucyayungura, said the program especially targets women doing trade informally especially those in cooperatives. These women are supported through capacity building, financial literacy, and business formalisation. They are also taught about STR, along with other frameworks of EAC, Bucyayungura said.