Women involved in informal cross-border trade on the Rwanda-Uganda border at Gatuna have called for more sensitisation on tax policies and the opportunities presented by the regional market.
Aline Muhawenimana, a trader at Gatuna border, said; “Informal cross-border traders still need assistance on the existing tax and trade regulations to be able to formalise their operations.”
Muhawenimana said many cross-border women traders do not understand these policies, which affects their businesses.
She added that though there are incentives they can benefit from, cross-border women traders do not know how to access or are not aware of such benefits or projects.
“Some of us who are in the process of formalising our operations and we are beginning to benefit. For instance, we are no longer harassed and the security and safety of our goods is assured, which has enhanced our profits,” said Muhawenimana in an interview with The New Times on Wednesday.
She said free movement of people, goods and services under the single customs territory along the Northern Corridor has improved trade among border communities and hence boosted household earnings.
“We are happy that we have sustainable sources of income that has improved our livelihoods,” she said.
According to Jane Bayera, the chairperson of the Gatuna Crossborder Co-operative, more needs to be done to educate cross-border women traders about trade policies.
Meanwhile, Bayera said women traders participate in initiatives aimed at improving the business environment along the Northern Corridor, including identification of non-tariff barriers at customs posts, which affect their operations.
“This has helped reduce the cost of operations and enhanced traded between border communities in Rwanda and Uganda.”
She, however, said the majority of cross-border women traders still face many challenges, like lack of capital, language barriers and poor business management skills.
Vestine Mukarugomwa, another cross-border trader at Gatuna, said before the implementation of the single customs territory in 2014, women traders were harassed and goods confiscated, but that has since stopped.
We can now pass through the border without any challenges, which has improved our businesses, she said.
Rwanda’s informal cross-border trade rose to $51.4 million in the first half of the year, up from $41 million in the same period in 2015, the monetary policy and financial stability statement released by the National Bank of Rwanda yesterday indicates.
Rwanda’s main trading partners are Uganda, DR Congo and Burundi.