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Traders strategise on regional platform

The Daily Times, Malawi

Traders strategise on regional platform

By Deborah Chipofya

6 November 2008

Seven Sadc member countries met in Lilongwe on Tuesday to strategise on creating a regional platform for informal cross border traders who would work to ensure that trade integration in southern Africa benefits poor people at regional level.

The meeting was convened by Southern African Trust (SAT) in collaboration with Economic Justice Network (EJN) of the Fellowship of Christian Councils of Southern Africa (FOCCISA) and the Cross Border Traders Association of Malawi.

Representing Cross Border Association of Malawi, Patricia Chisi said it was important for cross border traders to have a common forum where they could address issues affecting cross border traders.

“Most cross border traders are victimised, especially at border points and most of these victims are women. This, therefore, makes them susceptible to things like HIV/Aids,” said Chisi.

The meeting followed a research conducted by SAT on how to support informal cross border traders in southern Africa to benefit from trade integration in the region.

According to the research, many people earn a living from cross border trade although the area was largely ignored as a potential trade area.

“Despite lack of data, some estimates have put informal cross border trade at between 30-40 percent of intra-Sadc trade, suggesting that by ignoring informal cross border trade, Sadc member states could be overlooking a significant proportion of their trade,” read part of the research notes.

Regional Integration Advisor of SAT Themba Mhlongo said the formation and strengthening of a cross border traders’ network in the region would be a step in the right direction towards incorporating poor traders’ needs into implementation of the Sadc trade protocol.

Represented countries at the meeting included the host Malawi, Zambia, Swaziland, South Africa, DRC and Mozambique.

The meeting also attracted representatives from Comesa, the Sadc secretariat, formal business associations and other civil society organisations.