June 24th, 2024

Women and Youth Convene to Discuss the Implementation of the EAC Simplified Trade Regime to Facilitate Cross-Border Trade (GIZ)

As key stakeholders facilitating cross-border trade in the region, organisations representing women and youth in the EAC Partner States participated in the regional stakeholders meeting that took place from 12 to 16 June 2024, in Nairobi to discuss the implementation of the EAC Simplified Trade Regime (STR) and its review.

The discussions kicked off with an overview of the STR, its requirements, and applicable procedures, i.e., the thresholds, values, and common lists of goods applicable to trade. Further, participants were informed about the responsible border agencies, the implementation status, and the recommendations on reviewing the STR submitted by the EAC Council.

Among the challenges presented by women and youth representatives that collectively hinder the smooth and efficient trading activities of women and youth at the borders are lack of harmonised customs policies and procedures and limited knowledge and awareness of the STR among informal cross-border traders.

Based on the submitted challenges, the following recommendations were proposed to improve the implementation of the EAC STR:

  • Harmonisation of Customs Policies: EAC Partner States should expedite the harmonisation of customs policies and procedures, especially with new members such as South Sudan, the DRC, and Somalia. This harmonisation would facilitate smoother cross-border trade for women and youth entrepreneurs in East Africa.
  • Awareness and Education: The EAC Secretariat and Partner States should conduct comprehensive awareness campaigns among small-scale cross-border traders, border authorities, revenue authorities, and customs officials. These campaigns should focus on educating stakeholders about the benefits and procedures of the STR policy. This education aims to encourage traders to use formal routes and reduce corruption at border points.
  • Capacity Building: EAC Partner States should prioritise the domestication of the EAC STR regime. This involves providing continuous training and capacity-building sessions to key stakeholders involved in its implementation. Such efforts would enhance the effective and efficient application of the policy's provisions.
  • Gender-Responsive Approach: EAC Partner States should adopt a gender-responsive approach in implementing the STR regime. This includes integrating cross-border trade under the STR, addressing the specific challenges faced by women traders, increasing women's representation in policy discussions and decision-making processes, and establishing gender help desks at border points to support women traders.

These recommendations aim to address the identified barriers and enhance the opportunities for women and youth engaged in cross-border trade within the EAC.

In their contributions to the meeting reviewing the EAC Simplified Trade Regime (STR), representatives of EAC women and youth proposed for increase in the threshold from USD 2,000 to USD 5,000. They justified this upward adjustment to accommodate rising business costs, increased trade volumes among MSMEs at borders, and to align with the USD 5,000 threshold under the AfCFTA, aiming to boost continental trade for EAC MSMEs. Additionally, under the current threshold of USD 2000, the women and youth representatives emphasised the need for comprehensive statistics on the current threshold's benefits, full adoption of the STR across all EAC Partner States, and a regional study involving all key stakeholders to inform the review process effectively.

Concluding the discussions, the EAC trade experts and private sector, inclusive of women and youth, agreed to maintain the STR threshold at USD 2,000. They proposed to conduct a detailed study in 2025 to inform future reviews, initiating a stakeholder sensitization programme on the STR, and enhancing trade help desks at borders to support women and youth engaged in cross-border trade.

At the close of the meeting, women and youth representatives were provided with the Simplified Guide, which was developed by the EAC Secretariat with the support of GIZ. This guide is a comprehensive tool, with updated information on STR, policies, procedures, requirements, and rules of origin, among other information facilitating cross-border trade.

Find the EAC Simplified Guide for MSMEs on Cross-Border Trade of Perishable Agricultural Goods here.

str.jpg Find more information on the EAC-GIZ SEAMPEC II Programme here.