Women traders operating in markets around Nimule, Uganda’s border with South Sudan, may soon resume business following the launch of the Safe Trade Zone Protocol on Friday.
Developed by TradeMark East Africa (TMEA), in partnership with Amref Health Africa, the Safe Trade Zone protocol seeks to facilitate safe opening of border markets, given the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The protocol proposes several guidelines that need to be followed for border markets to re-open, so as to allow people to trade safely. It is now almost seven months since trade at border markets came to a halt after governments closed borders and banned gatherings to contain the spread of COVID-19.
The director in charge of gender and inclusion at TMEA, Wanjiku Kimamo, said the safe trade zone project was informed by the need to help women traders at the bottom of the pyramid who have been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, to regain their source of livelihood by conducting trade in a safe environment. Women constitute about 80% of the workforce in border markets.
Kimamo, who was speaking during the virtual Safe Trade Zone Protocols validation workshop on Friday, said they plan to start rolling out the project by March next year.
Dr Shiphrah Kuria, the reproductive health specialist at Amref Health Africa, said the protocol provides step-by-step procedures for the implementation of the safe trade zone.
Among them, the protocol proposes that each market sets up clear guidelines on operating time, cleaning, fumigating, arrival of vendors and suppliers and opening to the public, as well as closing.
Proper wearing of face masks is a must at all times while maintaining a physical distance of at least two metres, creating a one-way flow through markets to reduce back and forth movement and to control the number of people in the marketplace at a given time, in addition to designating “waiting areas” and other potential points for controlling crowds.
It also proposes that no one should be allowed to enter the market without having their temperature checked and that anyone with a fever or COVID-19 symptoms be referred to the nearby health facility for further care and treatment.
It suggested that digital payments, such as mobile money for customers, should be adopted among traders and customers and where digital platforms are impossible, they should use gloves or encourage customers to deposit cash in a box or jar.
Constant washing of hands should also be encouraged.
“The protocol seeks to facilitate the establishment of safe trade zones with the capacity to prevent, detect and respond to COVID-19, so as to minimise the risk of person-to-person or surfaceto-person contamination while facilitating smooth and un-interrupted border market operations across the six EAC member states and Ethiopia,” she said.
Fund worth sh84.9b
The TMEA country director for South Sudan, John Bosco Kaliisa, said women have been adversely impacted by the effects of the pandemic; wiping away their incomes and livelihoods. While the project will first be rolled out at Nimule, Kaliisa said they would also cover the Busia and Mutukula border markets.
The safe trade zones is part of the $23m (about sh84.9b) wider Safe Trade Emergency Facility rolled out by TMEA in the East African region in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that trade is not disrupted and that it continues to play a critical role in the region.
The European Union, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), among others, fund the safe trade emergency programme.
The South Sudan under-secretary for East African Community Affairs in the Ministry of Trade Industry and EAC Affairs, Mou Mou Athian Kuol, lauded the partners for the safe trade zone initiative, saying it will promote trade in a safe manner.
He, however, said the proposed guidelines provided in the protocol are stringent and that enforcing them could be difficult.
He suggested that Amref Health Africa and TMEA put in place penalties for non-compliance, as well incentives for the compliant ones, so as to entice traders to comply.
Article first published on newvision.co.ug