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Money changers at Elegu Border count losses as Covid19, restrictions bite

Money Changers at Elegu, Uganda’s border with South Sudan in Atiak Sub County, Amuru district are counting losses after majority have been pushed out of the business due to Covid 19.

At the time of the lockdown, there were over 50 money-changers stationed at the border crossing but a recent investigation by theCooperator found that the number has since declined to 10 owing to limited cross-border movement as a result of COVID-19 related restrictions.

Moses Muganwa, one of the money-changers who’s stayed on at the border told theCooperator that where he would make profits of at least Shs. 70,000 a day before the lockdown, he now struggles to make as little as Shs. 20,000.

Muganwa says that during normal times, money changers exchange Uganda Shillings, Kenyan shillings, and South Sudanese Pounds. But, he noted, “At the moment, the business is down, the demand is very low and many of our colleagues are no longer in business and some have even returned to their homes.’’

 Joyce Ndagire, Muganwa’s colleague says she only decided against going home for fear of spending even her capital.  “I decide to keep here so that I am able to get at least Shs. 10,000, for feeding the children. Had I gone home, I would by now have already eaten even the capital,’’ she said.

 LCII Vice Chairperson Elegu town council, Godfrey Muhoozi, said the entire business has been paralyzed due to Covid 19, especially with strict vigilance against cross-border movements. He said that the new Ministry of Health guidelines against allowing entry of truck drivers who test positive for COVID-19 has further exacerbated the problem. “Looking at the numbers of the truck drivers from different countries who have since pulled out, definitely the money changers have no way for survival,” he said. 

The LCV Chairperson Amuru district, Michael Lakony told theCooperator that being a border district, money exchange and cross-border trade was one of the biggest revenue sources for the district, and that the district is now trying to adjust to the inevitable revenue shortfalls as a result of the lock down.   

On 1st June, President Museveni allowed the resumption of public transport as part of the steps to gradually reopen the economy, but cross-border movements remain suspended except for COVID19-negative truck drivers. Uganda has so far registered 679 cases of Covid19, a significant number of which have been from truck-drivers coming through Elegu border.

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