Risks and vulnerabilities faced by Northern Ugandan women cross-border traders

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Risks and vulnerabilities faced by

NORTHERN UGANDAN WOMEN CROSS-BORDER TRADERS

at the South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo borders

Research Report June 2020

SIHA Network

Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa Page 1


Cover photograph: Patrick Otim Design & Print by: Marce Digital

Published October 2020 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical or other means now known or hereafter invented including copying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers.

Strategic Initiative for women in the Horn of Africa P.O. Box 2793 Kampala – Uganda www.sihanet.org ©SIHA Network 2020

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Table of Contents................................................................................................................................................................3 List 0f Acronyms.................................................................................................................................................................4 Acknowledgements..............................................................................................................................................................5 About SIHA..........................................................................................................................................................................6 Executive Summary.............................................................................................................................................................7 Background and Context....................................................................................................................................................9 Scope of the Study............................................................................................................................................................10 Methodology.......................................................................................................................................................................11 The Legal and Policy Framework....................................................................................................................................12 The Legal Framework.......................................................................................................................................................12 The Policy Framework......................................................................................................................................................12 Key Findings.......................................................................................................................................................................14 Reasons for Engaging in ICBT........................................................................................................................................14 The Risks, Challenges and Experiences of Women Traders Compared to their Male Counterparts..................15 Conclusion..........................................................................................................................................................................18 Recommendations.............................................................................................................................................................19 References...........................................................................................................................................................................20

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LIST OF ACRONYMS AIDS COMESA DRC EASSI EAC GBV HIV ICBT ICBTs ICTs IDPs FGDs KII MFI OECD SIHA WICBTs SACCOs STR TID USD

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Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome Common Market for East and Southern Africa Democratic Republic of Congo Eastern African Sub-regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women East African Community Gender-Based Violence Human Immunodeficiency Virus Informal Cross-border Trade Informal Cross-border Traders Information and Communications Technology Internally Displaced Persons Focus Group Discussions Key Informant Interview Microfinance Institution Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa Women Informal Cross-border Traders Savings and Credit Cooperative Societies Simplified Trade Regime Trade Information Desk United States Dollars

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This study could not have been undertaken without the willing cooperation of many people, including the men and women who agreed to participate in the focus group discussions, customs officials, government agents and the women cross-border traders who all gave up their time to talk to us. We are grateful to Oxfam for supporting this work and to SIHA staff members for the technical support offered during the course of the study.

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ABOUT SIHA The Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) is a civil society coalition that was established in 1995 with the aim of strengthening the capacities of women’s rights organizations and addressing women’s subording of women and girls. SIHA envisions women and girls in the Horn of Africa with the right to live in a peaceful, just environment and the ability to exercise their equal rights as human beings. As a sub-regional network of women’s human rights and gender equality activists, SIHA is in a unique position to move this vision forward as one of very few indigenous coalitions born and nurtured inside the Horn. Strong ties and connections with women and their communities drive SIHA’s work across the region. After more than 20 years of working in conflict and post conflict settings to advance women’s human rights in highly patriarchal contexts frequently characterized by insecurity, SIHA’s expertise is rooted in its familiarity with the sociopolitical situations around the Horn and the grassroots work of its members. SIHA has developed deep and unique expertise in supporting women in the informal economy across the Greater Horn of Africa, to know and claim their economic, social and cultural rights. SIHA utilizes its position as a global actor to advocate for the safety and protection of women working in the informal economy – not limited to women informal cross border traders, street vendors, petty traders, domestic workers. SIHA also focuses its programming and advocacy in favor of women IDPs coming from rural areas, refugees, minority groups and others on the margins of society particularly vulnerable to economic exploitation. SIHA targets the economic empowerment of women informal laborers to bring them out of the margins of employment through skills-building specifically around literacy skills and marketable skills beyond the informal economy. Beyond this, SIHA supports these women to break gender stereotypes in employment options that are typically and primarily available to men. In order to support advocacy and influencing women’s economic empowerment in the Greater Horn, SIHA uses research to emphasize the contribution of women in the informal economy to overall national economies.

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA), in partnership with Oxfam , commissioned this study in order to gain insight into the risks faced by Northern Ugandan women crossborder traders who work at the South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo borders. The study sought to examine the reasons why women engage in ICBT and the risks, challenges and experiences of women ICBTs compared to their male counterparts. The study was qualitative and used a rapid appraisal approach that involved a review of available literature and an analysis of both primary and secondary data concerning informal cross-border trade. The researcher conducted interviews with key informants, including officials from both border posts, the District Commercial Officers of both Districts, the Chair Persons of the Informal Cross-Border Trade Associations and individuals from Women and Girls Foundation for Justice. In total, the researcher interviewed 70 informal cross-border traders and conducted 7 focus group discussions (FGDs). Ugandan women mainly engage in informal cross-border trade (ICBT) due to the scarcity of food in the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan that result in a readily available and lucrative market, higher profit margins realized, a lack of alternative job opportunities and the prevalence of bureaucracy, harassment and bribery. In examining the risks and challenges affecting women ICBTs, respondents reported long delays, the burden of unpaid care work, bribes, physical and sexual harassment. Respondents also reported information gaps about cross border trade policies, high transport costs, limited financial access and limited infrastructure at the border points. Comparing the processes and experiences of women traders to those of men, respondents noted that the prevalence of harassment, delays and other obstacles are higher for women ICBTs than men. The following recommendations are made;

TO THE GOVERNMENT i.

Improve access to information on border-related processes and procedures. Many women ICBTs were exposed to exploitation because they were unaware of the East African Community and COMESA tariff exemption for goods under $2,000 USD. The government should consider setting up functional Trade Information Desks (TIDs) where traders can access real-time information with regard to markets, prices and document processing at border posts. TIDs could ease and lower the cost of doing business. The Government should also publicize official fees, duties and taxes that apply to informal cross-border traders.

ii. Provide emergency relief packages to women ICBTs affected by border closures occasioned by the Covid 19 pandemic. These could be in the form of living allowances and food. iii. Translate trade policies and border procedures into local languages and disseminate them through posters, brochures and flyers at border points. iv. Strengthen formal grievance procedures by establishing more accessible mechanisms through which women ICBTs can appeal customs decisions and report cases of bribery and harassment. The established mechanisms SIHA Network

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will not only improve the level of interactions between border officials and women traders but also promote trust in the business environment. v. Strengthen the link between policy and practice by enforcing existing policies that address gender-based violence and corruption. Officials who violate policies need to be held accountable. Furthermore, policies should be informed by empirical data. The government should strengthen mechanisms for collecting gender disaggregated data on informal cross-border trade so that the interests and concerns of women traders are taken into consideration. vi. Incorporate information and communication technologies (ICT) into border operations and ICBT. Automated customs and immigration forms as well as cell phone messaging with up-to-date information on regulations, prices, and other data, may be helpful in facilitating trade. vii. Improve border infrastructure and access to basic facilities including storage, sanitation and transport.

TO CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS i.

Conduct evidence based advocacy on the issues affecting women ICBTs especially violence, exploitation and harassment.

ii. Raise awareness of the burden of unpaid care work, and advocate for policies that favour burden sharing, provision of childcare services, and changes in cultural norms that traditionally only assign domestic work to women. This will free up women’s time to fully engage in paid employment. iii. Creation and strengthening of women ICBT associations as a means for traders to access more information, finance, training opportunities, better manage their businesses and strengthen their bargaining power. iv. Conduct research on women ICBTs at all border points to document the experiences of women traders so as to inform policy makers about their experiences, challenges and risks.

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BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT ICBT refers to imports and exports of legitimately produced goods and services. The traded goods or services do not pass formally through custom controls and therefore escape the regulatory framework for taxation and other procedures set by the government. In Uganda, through the Informal Cross Border Trade Survey, it has been revealed that informal cross-border trade was a significant component of merchandise trade between Uganda and her neighboring countries. Since its inception, the ICBT survey has provided useful information to bridge the gap in external trade statistics for the country. Informal export trade continues to contribute significantly to Uganda’s merchandise trade with her neighbours. Over the last five (5) years, informal trade has on average accounted for about 14.0 percent of total export earnings. Overall, Uganda remains a net exporter under informal trade.1 In 2018 informal exports from Uganda to its neighbours were estimated at $538 million.2 Women are at the forefront of informal cross border trade as a source of income and employment and it is estimated that upto 70% of informal cross border traders in Africa are women3. For many women in rural areas near borders, ICBT is often the only source of income.4 This is because of restrictive regulatory and legal environments, coupled with an absence of skills that pushes women and other vulnerable groups into self-employment in the informal sector.5 The insurgency in Northern Uganda that was perpetrated by the Lord’s Resistance Army spanned almost two decades (1987-2006) and produced great suffering, especially for women and children. It hindered the development of the region and produced millions of internally displaced persons. The conflict produced a huge imbalance in development with Northern Uganda lagging behind in terms of industrialization, road networks, agricultural development, educational institutions and hospitals. Therefore since the end of the conflict, many Northern Ugandan women living near border communities have been engaging in informal cross border trade because they have limited economic alternatives. Many are not able to enter the formal sector due to difficulties in obtaining trading licences, lack of knowledge of official trade procedures, overcharging by customs officials and long waiting times at the borders among other reasons. SIHA, in partnership with Oxfam, commissioned this study in order to gain insight into the risks faced by Northern Ugandan women cross-border traders who transit through the Oraba border point between Uganda and South Sudan and the Vuura border point between Uganda and DRC. It is SIHA’s firm conviction that this study will strengthen the evidence base for a better understanding of the journeys, vulnerabilities and risks to Northern Ugandan women cross-border traders. This study will also guide the organization’s national and regional program strategies. https://www.imf.org/en/Data/Statistics/informal-economy-data/Reports/uganda-the-informal-cross-border-trade-survey

1

Siu J, Trade Costs , Trade facilitation and Formalization of Trade : Evidence from One-stop Border Posts in Uganda, Working Paper.

2

London: International Growth Centre, April 2019. Koroma S et al., Formalisation of Informal Trade in Africa: Trends, Experiences and Socio-Economic Impacts. Accra: FAO (Food and

3

Agriculture Organization) Regional Office for Africa & CUTS International, 2017 Brenton P & C Soprano, ‘Small-scale cross-border trade in Africa: Why it matters and how it should be supported’, Bridges Africa, 7, 4,

4

2018. Spevacek AM, Constraints to Female Entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africa, USAID Knowledge Services Centre. Washington DC:

5

USAID, 2010. SIHA Network

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SCOPE OF THE STUDY This study was conducted from February to March 2020 in Arua at the Vurra, Uganda-DRC border point and in Koboko at the Oraba, Uganda-South Sudan border point. The two borders were selected because of their importance to the women informal cross-border traders in Northern Uganda.

FIGURE 1: MAP OF UGANDA SHOWING ORABA AND VUURA BORDER POINT

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METHODOLOGY The study was qualitative and used a rapid appraisal that involved a review of available literature and analyzed both primary and secondary data on informal cross-border trade. The researcher interviewed 70 ICBTs in both Arua and Koboko districts. In Arua, the researcher interviewed 23 women and 5 men whereas in Koboko, the researcher interviewed 39 women and 3 men. The researcher selected the respondents randomly from lists of ICBTs. The respondents were aged between 26-53 with primary and secondary education levels. In Addition, the researcher conducted 7 FGDs targeting the ICBTs. Of them, 3 FGDs were conducted in Arua and 4 FGDs were conducted in Koboko. In Arua, the FGDs were conducted in Odramacaku market, Kampala market and in Arua town while in Koboko, the Oraba cross border trade association chairperson facilitated 3 FGDs and the Women and Girls foundation for Justice facilitated 1 FGD. The researcher also interviewed 18 key informants who included immigration officials, district commercial officers, the Chairpersons of the informal cross border trade associations and representatives from Women and Girls Foundation for Justice. The key informants were selected using purposive sampling based on their knowledge about informal cross border trade and their daily interactions with the women informal cross border traders.

STUDY LIMITATION The outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic triggered a series of border restrictions by the Ugandan Government to contain the spread of the virus. Although the research team had collected data prior to the outbreak of the virus, the team was not able to conduct follow up research because the Ugandan borders with both DRC and South Sudan had been closed. However, anecdotal reports indicate that the border closures have had a heavy toll on women ICBTs who earn a living by making cross border trips.

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THE LEGAL AND POLICY FRAMEWORK THE LEGAL FRAMEWORK Although the Government of Uganda has made a number of commitments related to trade, employment and the empowerment of women, informal cross border trade largely takes place outside the legal framework. Many laws and policies do not specifically address informal cross border traders. For instance employment and trade laws including the Employment Act No. 6 of 20066, the Labour Unions Act No. 7 of 2006, the Labour Disputes Act No. 8 of 2006, the Occupational Safety and Health Act No. 9 of 2006, the National Social Security Act cap. 220, the Statutory Instrument Act No. 62, Employment Regulations (2005), the Customs and Excise Act cap 335, the Customs and Excise (dumping and subsidies) Act cap 336 and the Customs, Tariff Act cap 337 do not take into consideration the needs of women ICBTs. This has exacerbated the invisibility of women ICBTs despite their enormous contribution to the economy. Uganda has also signed regional and international treaties including the East African Community Treaty (2000) which provides for an integrated approach to employment strategies, the East African common market protocol and the free movement of persons regulations, the Ouagadougou Declarations and Plan of Action on Employment and Poverty alleviation in Africa (2004), ILO Convention No 122 on Employment policy (1964), the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998), the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Beijing Platform for Action and the Sustainable Development Goals especially Goals 5 and 8 which espouse gender equality and decent work and economic growth respectively. Despite these commitments, implementation of the treaties is still deficient. For instance, although the East African Community Customs Union and COMESA guarantee the elimination of non tariff barriers in form of road blocks and delays in clearing goods among member states, those challenges still exist. Moreover, many of the treaties that have been signed do not address the needs of informal cross border traders but rather medium and large scale formal cross border traders.

THE POLICY FRAMEWORK Uganda’s cross border trade strategy lays out interventions that could eliminate some of the challenges faced by cross border traders including the incorporation of cross-border market channels, the construction of crossborder markets, the provision of mini labs at borders for standards testing and quality upgrading, as well as trade information desks although it falls short of identifying informal cross border traders. The Government also established the charter for cross-border traders, in which it stipulates basic rights and obligations of traders and border officials for all East African Community countries (Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan). The charter guarantees the rights of all traders to cross the border without impediments whether in the form of tariffs or non-tariff type obstacles provided that they operate within the confines of the law. It is important to note that the charter does not distinguish between formal and informal cross border traders and assumes that all cross border traders are the same. This policy gap affects the needs of women ICBTs because the issues that affect them may not be the same as large scale cross border traders.

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In 2015, the Government, through the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, developed the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Policy. Through legal and institutional coordination frameworks, this policy seeks to enhance gender equity, to promote inclusiveness and environmentally friendly businesses for sustainable development, to support access to markets and business information services and to provide an enabling environment for small and medium traders including women in the informal cross-border trade for instance by providing free access to information for cross border traders. Under the East African Community Customs Union Rules of Origin 2015, certificates of trading are issued free of charge to traders at all border posts for goods originating within member states that are valued at 2,000 USD and below. This is the same arrangement within COMESA countries. This is an opportunity for women ICBTs because it lessens their financial burden given that many of them are small-scale cross-border traders with limited capital. However with regards to women cross border traders with goods that are valued above 2000 USD, taxes are applicable on the goods irrespective of whether the trader is a member of the EAC or COMESA. In order to build the capacity of women in trade and simplify customs clearance processes and procedures, the Government, through the Uganda Revenue Authority is implementing the women traders’ trade facilitation framework. Under the framework, Uganda Revenue Authority seeks to improve women traders’ access to trade information and to build platforms that enhance the communication between the revenue authority and women traders.

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KEY FINDINGS REASONS FOR ENGAGING IN ICBT Food Insecurity and Readily Available Market in DRC and South Sudan The scarcity of food supplies across the DRC and South Sudan borders has encouraged Ugandan women in border areas to participate in ICBT. It should be noted that both South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo face food shortages that threaten the lives of many families. As one FGD participant observed; “Our neighbouring countries do not have adequate food supplies because they lack conducive climate and fertile soils that can support growth of food.” According to the Global report on food crises 2020, in the DRC, an estimated 15.6 million people faced acute food insecurity in 2019 especially in the eastern areas where violence intensified and forced huge numbers to abandon their homes, exacerbated by the Ebola outbreak in North Kivu. It is projected that acute food insecurity will remain extremely concerning in 2020. In South Sudan, between May - July 2019, almost 7 million people representing 61% of the population were facing acute food insecurity. In 2020, food insecurity levels are forecast to improve but conflict, poorly functioning markets, limited crop production, severe floods in certain areas and potential impact of desert locust infestation are expected to continue driving high levels of acute food insecurity. . Therefore, Northern Ugandan women informal cross-border traders are encouraged to engage in informal crossborder trade due to the readily available and lucrative market for agricultural products.

Higher Profit Margins Women informal cross-border traders are encouraged by the higher profit margins that they get when they sell their products across the border. A case study given during one of the focus group discussions convened as part of this study indicated that for example women informal cross border traders that trade in bananas (matooke) buy a bunch at approximately Ugx 10,000 and in South Sudan will sell the same bunch at almost thrice the buying price. Both Vuura and Oraba border towns in Uganda are flooded with goods that are sold at marked-up prices in both South Sudan and DRC. Besides, in both South Sudan and the DRC, US Dollars are readily available on the black market and their is a preference among traders including ICBTs to use US Dollars whose value is relatively stable compared to the DRC Franc and the South Sudanese Pound which are not stable.

Lack of alternative job opportunities Women engage in ICBT due to a lack of alternative job opportunities. Respondents blamed the legacy of the LRA insurgency in parts of Northern Uganda, especially in Gulu, Kitgum and Pader districts, for their lack of job opportunities. The insurgency, which lasted over 20 years, resulted in the immense loss of life, destruction of property and the displacement of tens of thousands of people. The conflict also resulted in reduced access to social services and paralyzed economic activities. A female FGD participant mentioned; “most of us came to the border to look for survival. In search for better livelihoods many of us engage in ICBT.” Another participant noted; “We don’t have any factory to employ us and this trade has helped to employ most of the people from this area” (FGD participant). SIHA Network

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According to the Uganda Poverty Assessment report of 2016 that examined poverty trends by region from 2006 - 2013, the northern region of Uganda had the highest percentage of poor populations with 39% in 2006, 38% in 2010 and 47% in 2013. Now that the conflict has ended, the region is going through a rebuilding and reconciliation process. Respondents noted that women are poor, vulnerable, own limited assets, have few income-generating skills and have limited job prospects. As such, informal cross-border trade is the only available alternative for women who need to generate income and support their families.

Bureaucracy, Harassment and Bribery Respondents at both Vuura and Oraba border posts also cited bureaucracy, harassment and the fact that customs officials and police often attempt to solicit bribes, as some of the reasons why they engage in informal cross-border trade as opposed to formal cross-border trade. It is important to note that the informality refers to the status of the trader (unregistered) and not the trade itself. It should be emphasized that under formal cross border trade, the traders would have to be registered and their records captured by the official customs system. Although ICBTs espouse their formal registration by the official customs system, it is characterized by long delays and bribery. One of the respondents noted, “Border officers and the police often seek bribes from traders and sometimes harass women, which forces them to stop formal cross-border trade and resort to informal cross -border trade. At about six different roadblocks, one has to pay bribes of up to 150,000 shillings. Traders who refuse to pay normally have their goods confiscated.” It should be emphasized that even with the shift to informal cross-border trade, challenges like harassment and bribes still persist, albeit at a reduced rate.

THE RISKS, CHALLENGES AND EXPERIENCES OF WOMEN TRADERS COMPARED TO THEIR MALE COUNTERPARTS Long delays Women informal cross-border traders face a myriad of challenges including long delays that make their experiences unique compared to male traders. In order to circumvent the existing barriers at border points, some women informal cross-border traders reported that they use porous borders or unofficial routes to access markets. Moreover, they travel at night when there are fewer checkpoints. This poses many risks for the women because such illegal routes are often dangerous, lengthy and expensive due to smugglers, limited security at night and high transport costs, Moreover, the security situation in both South Sudan and DRC remains potentially volatile with sporadic reports of fighting between armed groups and government forces. Women informal cross-border traders who cross the borders using illegal routes are therefore at a huge risk of being arrested, killed, kidnapped for ransom or harmed. Respondents reported that male traders are more assertive in demanding for their rights as opposed to women traders. This could also partly explain why more women traders are harassed than the male traders.

Unpaid Care Work Women informal cross-border traders reported that they are torn between engaging in informal cross-border trade and doing necessary unpaid care work at home. The unpaid care work often involves cooking, fetching water, collecting firewood, cleaning, and taking care of children and the elderly. Being responsible for the majority of care work has significant implications for a woman’s ability to actively take part in informal cross-border trade. This, SIHA Network

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in turn, limits the women’s opportunities and impedes their ability to advance their businesses, increase incomes and progress to the formal sector . Men, on the other hand, generally spend far less time on unpaid care work and thus have ample time to engage in other economic activities including cross-border trade. There is need to support efforts that champion the equitable burden-sharing of domestic work between men and women either through changes in social norms or legislation and policy measures.

Bribes Respondents reported that customs officials and the police are much more likely to ask women cross-border traders for bribes at check points compared to male traders because a majority of the traders are women and they are perceived to have a low bargaining power. Many women informal cross-border traders reported that they continue to pay bribes at checkpoints and this affects their profit margins. They noted that they pay bribes of up to 150,000 UGX. This money does not go to the government coffers but directly into the pockets of checkpoint officials. Women who refuse to pay the bribes risk being detained or having their goods confiscated. There is a marked lack of coordination among the different checkpoints and authorities, which exposes the women traders to exploitation as they are forced to pay bribes for services that should be free. It is worth noting that both Uganda and DRC are members of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), a free trade area where member states agreed to eliminate tariffs on goods originating from within the member states. In addition, member states of COMESA have implemented the Simplified Trade Regime (STR) arrangement that is meant to improve the performance of small-scale cross-border traders by offering them preferential treatment when importing or exporting goods. Moreover, small-scale traders from COMESA countries who import or export goods valued at $2,000 USD or less are exempt from customs import duty and other barriers. The same is true between Uganda and South Sudan under the East African Community Customs Union where member states agreed to eliminate all tariff and non-tariff barriers and not to levy tax on goods valued at $2,000 USD and below. The existence of tariff and non-tariff barriers as reported by the women informal cross-border traders, shows that there are gaps in policy implementation. Notwithstanding the above, the Customs Officer at Oraba border point noted; The goods of ICBTs are checked by the Uganda Bureau of Standards and Security Officers whose aim is to check for legality of the goods, the vehicle registration numbers and take stock of what is entering and leaving the country. However with regards to paying bribes, it’s an arrangement between the traders and the security officers but for us as customs, we do not request for bribes” [Customs Officer Oraba].

Physical and Sexual Harassment The prevalence of physical and sexual harassment is higher among women informal cross-border traders compared to their male counterparts. The women cross-border traders reported that customs officials and police often sexually coerce them and conduct body searches for undeclared goods. It was also observed that the majority of customs officials and police who guard the border checkpoints are men. Sexual harassment has a negative effect on the mental and physical health of the women traders and may expose them to HIV/AIDS. The harassment has also led some women to stop or reduce their border crossings, affecting their financial stability. There is need for duty bearers to address this harassment and to end impunity.

Information Gaps on Existing Trade Rules and Regulations.

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Similarly, women informal cross-border traders are often exploited by customs officials, the police and middlemen because they are not aware of existing customs regulations. A majority of the women traders have low literacy levels and have a minimal understanding of the existing trade policies and regulations. Moreover, many of the trade regulations are not translated into local languages. It is important, therefore, to raise awareness among the women traders about the existing policies and procedures and to translate all documents into local languages. It is equally important to enhance literacy among the women traders through adult education programs. Male traders reported that they experience similar challenges but that their experiences were not as pronounced as the women informal cross-border traders. It should be emphasized that women constitute the largest number of informal cross-border traders and as such, they face the most problems and risks in informal cross-border trade.

High Transport Costs Women informal cross-border traders incur higher transport costs when compared to male traders. The study revealed that women traders cross the borders more regularly because they buy smaller amounts of merchandise. Therefore, they pay high transport costs but get small profit margins. Women buy less merchandise because they have limited capital. The male traders, on the other hand, have the financial means to buy larger quantities of goods thereby earning higher profits. This difference arises from gender constructs and limitations that hinder women from making economic progress, having access to credit, financial literacy and owning land and other assets. Given this difference, male traders have the means to transport their goods to distant, often more profitable markets while the women traders can only afford to transport their goods to markets that are close to the border, where they often fetch smaller profit margins.

Limited Financial Access Women informal cross-border traders face a disproportionate number of financial access barriers. This makes it impossible for them to compete with their male counterparts, to expand their businesses and to improve their lives. Socially constructed gender roles mean that women spend a substantial amount of their time involved in domestic work. This is not the case for men. Domestic work prevents women from participating in income generating activities. The situation is compounded by the fact that women informal cross-border traders do not possess productive assets to use as collateral security in order to take out loans from financial institutions. In addition, the majority of women informal cross-border traders have low literacy levels, which result in a lack of financial literacy and limited access to information on financial products and services.

Limited Infrastructure Limited infrastructure at both Vuura and Oraba border posts negatively affects the women ICBTs. Both border posts do not have adequate water and sanitation facilities. This has implications for the women’s reproductive and menstrual hygiene management and makes women traders more vulnerable to infections. The study also revealed that there were no support facilities for persons living with disabilities such as sign language for the deaf or elevators/ramps for those with physical disabilities. This impedes access to essential services for women living with disabilities and increases their vulnerability and dependence on other persons who could possibly take advantage of them. Furthermore, both borders lack cold rooms where the traders can store their perishable goods. Due to such difficulties, the women’s goods often become stale or rotten, which affects their profit margins.

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CONCLUSION ICBT is a major source of livelihood for Northern Ugandan women. Women disproportionally work in this precarious and at times dangerous sector due to a combination of factors including a lack of alternative job opportunities and poverty, influenced by gender disparities in access to resources like land, socio-cultural norms and harmful traditional practices like early marriage and, the burden of unpaid care work. There is a mismatch between policy and practice. Firstly, many of the laws and policies aimed at promoting trade are not reflective of the needs of ICBTs and assume that all cross border traders are the same and thus don’t make a distinction between small scale informal cross border traders and other medium and large scale formal cross border traders. This is the case despite the fact that ICBT is a significant component of merchandise trade between Uganda and the neighbouring countries. Secondly, the Government of Uganda has for the last 10 years been conducting the ICBT survey Ideally, the ICBT survey would be the platform to identify issues that affect ICBTs and help government to roll out plans aimed at improving the conditions of women ICBTs and help them enter the formal economy. However, the ICBT survey is conducted to establish the main commodities traded informally, determine the value and volumes traded and to ascertain the direction of trade. Exposure to corruption, bribery, robbery and harassment (mainly sexual) is highlighted as a prohibitive cost of doing business across borders. The weak response to reported corruption has left women frustrated with border officials. These issues, when coupled with additional non-tariff barriers, present significant obstacles for women small-scale ICBTs trying to benefit from the economic opportunities promised by trade. Future government policy needs to be gender sensitive and needs to consider the significant differences between large-scale and small-scale ICBTs. This will ensure that trade policy provides a structure whereby both groups can achieve business success while improving social welfare for all.

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RECOMMENDATIONS THE FOLLOWING RECOMMENDATIONS ARE MADE; To the Government i.

Improve access to information on border-related processes and procedures. Many women ICBTs were exposed to exploitation because they were unaware of the East African Community and COMESA tariff exemption for goods under $2,000 USD. The government should consider setting up functional Trade Information Desks (TIDs) where traders can access real-time information with regard to markets, prices and document processing at border posts. TIDs could ease and lower the cost of doing business. The Government should also publicize official fees, duties and taxes that apply to informal cross-border traders.

ii. Provide emergency relief packages to women ICBTs affected by border closures occasioned by the Covid 19 pandemic. These could be in the form of living allowances and food. iii. Translate trade policies and border procedures into local languages and disseminate them through posters, brochures and flyers at border points. iv. Strengthen formal grievance procedures by establishing more accessible mechanisms through which women ICBTs can appeal customs decisions and report cases of bribery and harassment. The established mechanisms will not only improve the level of interactions between border officials and women traders but also promote trust in the business environment. v. Strengthen the link between policy and practice by enforcing existing policies that address gender-based violence and corruption. Officials who violate policies need to be held accountable. Furthermore, policies should be informed by empirical data. The government should strengthen mechanisms for collecting gender disaggregated data on informal cross-border trade so that the interests and concerns of women traders are taken into consideration. vi. Incorporate information and communication technologies (ICT) into border operations and ICBT. Automated customs and immigration forms as well as cell phone messaging with up-to-date information on regulations, prices, and other data, may be helpful in facilitating trade. vii. Improve border infrastructure and access to basic facilities including storage, sanitation and transport.

To Civil Society Organizations i.

Conduct evidence based advocacy on the issues affecting women ICBTs especially violence, exploitation and harassment.

ii.

Raise awareness of the burden of unpaid care work, and advocate for policies that favour burden sharing, provision of childcare services, and changes in cultural norms that traditionally only assign domestic work to women. This will free up women’s time to fully engage in paid employment.

iii. Creation and strengthening of women ICBT associations as a means for traders to access more information, finance, training opportunities, better manage their businesses and strengthen their bargaining power. iv. Conduct research on women ICBTs at all border points to document the experiences of women traders so as to inform policy makers about their experiences, challenges and risks. SIHA Network

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REFERENCES African Development Bank (2012). Informal cross border trade in Africa: Implications and policy recommendations. Vol 3 issue 10. Blumberg, R.L. et al. (2016) Women Cross-border Traders in Southern Africa: Contributions, Constraints, and Opportunities in Malawi and Botswana. USAID Brenton et al (2011). Risky Business: Poor women cross border traders in the great lakes region of Africa. Brenton et al (2014) Improving behaviour at borders to promote trade formalization: The charter for cross border traders. Brenton P & C Soprano, ‘Small-scale cross-border trade in Africa: Why it matters and how it should be supported’, Bridges Africa, 7, 4, 2018. Chipika, J., and J. Malaba. 2010. “The Southern African Development Community Free Trade Area (SADC FTA) from a gender perspective: What is in the FTA for the poor, excluded and marginalized women?” Gaborone, Botswana CIGI (2018) Reshaping Trade through Women’s Economic Empowerment. Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI). Collaborative Centre for gender and development (2006). The East African Community Customs union. Women and cross border trade in East Africa, opportunities and challenges for small scale women traders. Dr. Blumberg R. L , Malaba J, and Meyers L .2016. Women Cross Border Traders in South Africa: Contributions, Constraints and Opportunities in Malawi and Botswana. EAC: Protocol on the Establishment of the East African Community Common Market 2. EAC: East African Community Common Market: The Common Market Protocol Explained East African Community 2006. Women and cross-border trade in East Africa: Opportunities and challenges for small scale women traders. Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and Collaborative Centre for Gender and Development. EASSI. 2011: Mapping of women engaged in cross border trade in the East African Community Volumes I and II EASSI (Eastern African Sub-regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women). 2012. Women informal cross border traders: opportunities and challenges in the East African Community. An Action Research, Trade Mark East Africa, Kampala, Uganda. Higgins, K. (2012) Gender Dimensions of Trade Facilitation and Logistics: A Guidance Note. The World Bank Higgins, K. and Turner, L. (2010a). Brief 1: Integrating poverty and social analysis into Aid for Trade programmes: an overview. Prepared by the UK DFID Aid for Trade: Promoting Inclusive Growth and Poverty Reduction Programme. International Trade Centre and Uganda Export Promotion Board (September 2011): So you want to Export? Moving SIHA Network

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from informal to formal trade: A guide for women informal cross border traders in Uganda Koroma S et al., Formalisation of Informal Trade in Africa: Trends, Experiences and Socio-Economic Impacts. Accra: FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) Regional Office for Africa & CUTS International, 2017. Kristof Titaca (2009) The changing cross-border trade dynamics between north –western Uganda, north eastern Congo and Southern Sudan. Lesser C, and Moisé-Leeman E, 2009. “Informal cross-border trade and trade facilitation reform in Sub-Saharan Africa.” OECD Trade Policy Paper No. 86. Little P. 2007. Unofficial cross-border trade in Eastern Africa. Paper presented at the FAO workshop on “Staple food trade and market policy options for promoting development in Eastern and Southern Africa”. Rome: FAO. Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (2011). National Employment Policy for Uganda. Ministry of Tourism, trade and industry (2007). National Trade Policy Ruiter, C. et al. (2017) Impacts of Non-Tariff Barriers for Women Small Scale Cross-Border Traders on the Kenya-Uganda Border. Sauti Africa. Sloans et al (2015) Informal cross border fish trade: Invisible, fragile and important. Spevacek AM, Constraints to Female Entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africa, USAID Knowledge Services Centre. Washington DC: USAID, 2010. Titeca K and Kimanuka C. 2012. Walking in the dark: Informal cross-border trade in the Great Lakes Region. International Alert, in collaboration with UN WOMEN, London. Uganda Bureau of Statistics (2016). The informal cross border trade survey report World Bank. 2012. Africa can help feed Africa: Removing the barriers to regional trade in food staples. Poverty Reduction and Economic Management, Africa Region. Washington, DC: World Bank.

SIHA Network

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Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa

SIHA NETWORK REGIONAL OFFICE Plot 2A Lugogo Lane (Bank Village), Naguru, P.O. Box 2793, Kampala, Uganda (+256) 200 906 263 | (+256) 706 442 912

SIHA Network

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