Sadc intra-trade suffers setback due to Covid-19

BY STAFF WRITER 

THE Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) intra-trade encompassing the Informal Cross Border Traders which accounts for up to 40% has been adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic due to border closures and travel restrictions.

This was revealed by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) on Tuesday.

“Informal cross border trade which accounts for up to 40% of total intra-SADC trade, with an estimated value of US$17,6 billion has been adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic because of border closures and travel restrictions throughout the region,” IOM said.

“These measures have had a negative impact on the livelihoods of ICBTs as they are unable to conduct their trade.  The project managed by IOM Zambia, is implemented in conjunction with IOM missions in Malawi, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.”

IOM noted that funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the United Kingdom, the initiative aims to contribute towards the enhanced protection of the health and economic rights of ICBTs through the facilitation of continued trade during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The UN agency visited Chirundu border on Tuesday which marked the commencement of several interventions including training for both frontline border officials and ICBTs on Covid-19 infection prevention and control, trade and travel restrictions and traders’ rights, inter-agency consultations, the development of cross border action plans and the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE).

“The visit provides an opportunity for interaction among the project steering committee, border officials and informal cross border traders. Participating are officials from the ministries of Industry and Commerce, Women Affairs, Community and SMEs Development, Industry and Trade and Health and Childcare including local authorities, the Department of Immigration, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) and representatives of Cross Border Trader organisations and officials from IOM,” the IOM said.

Zimbabwe Cross Border Traders Association (ZCBTA) programmes manager Eric Chikukwa hailed the FCDO and IOM for the project meant to empower traders.

“For cross border traders the value of correct information relating to trading safely during Covid-19 cannot be overemphasised. We appreciate the platform of engagement,” Chikukwa said.

Head of IOM Zimbabwe’s governance and development unit, Esther Wiesmann thanked FCDO for supporting the government to promote safe trade during the pandemic.

“Informal cross-border traders have a critical role to play in mitigating the negative socio-economic impact of Covid-19. We must continue to equip those engaging in Informal Cross Border Trade and the frontline officials who work with them daily, with the tools to operate efficiently during the pandemic,” Wiesmann said.