Mutukula, Uganda: Women entrepreneurs trading between Uganda and Tanzania have appealed to the government to set up a special credit facility for cooperators engaged in cross border trade.
The traders made the call during the commissioning of a women’s trade one-stop information center at the Mutukula One-Stop Border Point-OSBP last week.
Janet Nassiwa, treasurer of Mutukula Women Cross Border Traders Cooperative said that their biggest challenge is the lack of capital to enable them to expand their businesses across the two borders.
According to Nassiwa, the cooperatives cannot secure credit from commercial banks due to the high-interest charged on loans and very expensive collaterals.
“Our appeal is that government supports us with a special fund, from which organized women cooperatives can secure low-interest credit facilities to enable us to boost our businesses into Tanzania,” said Nassiwa, who spoke on behalf of female cooperators.
The information center will act as customs clearance and networking point for cross-border women traders at Mutukula border point. The aim is to save female traders from the long processes of the normal clearing procedures at the common customs offices.
Building the Centre is also a step towards increasing women’s participation in trade and business across borders in the region.
The information center was established with support from Trademark East Africa, through the Eastern African Sub-Region Support Initiative for the Advancement of the Women project.
According to Nassiwa, while they appreciate the relevance of a center dedicated to serving female traders, they equally need a financial boost to enable them to sustain the businesses.
“our hope lies in seeing more women entering and progressing in business, other than registering them falling off the truck after they are cheated by unscrupulous money lenders and the ‘exorbitant’ commercial bank loans,” she said.
Records indicate that at least 250 women are engaged in cross-border trade between Uganda and Tanzania. These are dealing in agriculture produce and other foodstuffs, soft drinks, clothing material especially fabrics, among other household items.
Mutukula Women Cross Border Traders Cooperative leadership says its members have the capacity to turn around fortunes of thousands of lives as well growing more businesses that can substantially generate more revenues if supported by the government.
State Minister for East African Community Affairs, Julius Maganda Wandera who launched the center, said member states are committed to eliminating all barrier that frustrates women from effectively engaging in cross border trade.
He advised the cooperators to make their appeal formally to the Ministry of Cooperatives.
The traders also raised concerns of the emerging trade restriction especially in Tanzania, where Ugandan goods are denied free entry to various market places.
Joseph Kakinda, one of the cross-border traders said besides the restricted movement of goods, the lucky traders that cross into Tanzania are subjected to very long clearing processes that also result in huge losses suffered by dealers in perishable foodstuffs.
Kakinda says they have without success tried to find lasting solutions to the challenges, appealing to the
government to directly enter negotiations with their Tanzanian counterparts to have the problem addressed.
In 2009, the East African Community member states signed a protocol for the establishment of a common market which was premised on principles of free movement of goods, persons, labor, services, and capital between the five partner states.
Edith Mwanje, the Permanent Secretary to Ministry of East African Community Affairs, says their teams will study all the cited challenges and accordingly present reports to the relevant authorities to have them addressed.