The Eastern African Sub-Regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women (EASSI), with support from EAC and GIZ via IIDEA, is implementing a project on "Positioning Women Cross Border Traders to Seize Opportunities in The East African Community and Africa Continental Free Trade Area".

The project’s two main objectives are to enhance participation of women cross-border traders in the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), and to advocate for gender-sensitive policies and processes in the implementation of the AfCFTA.

This project was inspired by EASSI’s research which showed that women cross-border traders face gender-specific challenges such as information gaps on cross-border regulations and procedures, lack of information on markets, competition from big companies, high taxes, exploitation, delays at borders and sexual harassment. They also face barriers in accessing capital, credit and trading networks and trade in low incentive items such as produce and consumables. If these challenges are not addressed, trade opportunities such as the AfCFTA are likely to widen gender disparities instead of realising the women’s economic empowerment they envisage. 

The project is timely in its bid to enhance awareness about AfCFTA opportunities, and in supporting women cross-border traders to engage in digital trade to explore wider markets beyond their borders without their physical presence. It will also promote a favorable environment for women cross-border traders within the AfCFTA through engaging policy-makers and duty-bearers on addressing gender-specific barriers to women’s participation in cross border and regional trade.

Specifically, EASSI is undertaking capacity building for 100 government officials from the EAC Partner States of Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya to strengthen their ability to identify gender disparities that hinder women’s participation in trade and cause policy reform for gender sensitive implementation of the AfCFTA. The project also profiles and markets 30 women cross-border traders’ businesses in Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan on an international trade digital platform. 

Furthermore, there is sensitisation of 80 women cross-border traders on the AfCFTA and their strategic positioning to explore its opportunities at the EAC borders of Isebania, Sirari, and Malaba between Uganda and Kenya, Busia between Uganda and Kenya and Mutukula between Uganda and Tanzania.

The project additionally facilitates regional policy discourse amongst stakeholders in the EAC on addressing issues that hinder women in cross-border trade, and in turn inform AfCFTA’s implementation. This will address concerns such as those of Mariam, a woman cross-border trader in Busia who noted, "Women cross-border traders feel the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of regional trade policies first hand and should be at the negotiation table if they are to really gain from trade!"

This is what EASSI with support of EAC and GIZ works towards!

EASSI is a partner in the EAC-GIZ IIDEA project. IIDEA incubates small-scale regional integration projects which are proposed and implemented by civil society and private sector across East Africa. IIDEA provides technical and financial support to innovative projects across East Africa that highlight and contribute towards East African integration.