The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has started rolling out support programmes to mitigate the effects of Covid-19 pandemic on informal cross-border traders in the Sadc region.
In a statement, the organisation’s Zambian office said the support initiative will include holding a series of visits, training sessions and goods distribution activities at key border posts.
Most of the ports of entry, IOM said, were part of supporting informal cross-border traders in Southern Africa to do business safely during the Covid-19 project.
“Informal cross-border trade which accounts for up to 40 percent of total intra-SADC trade, with an estimated value of US$17,6 billion has been adversely affected by the pandemic because of border closures and travel restrictions throughout the region,” said IOM.
“These measures have had a negative impact on the livelihoods of informal cross border traders as they are unable to conduct their trade normally.”
The project to support informal cross-border traders is managed by IOM Zambia and being implemented in conjunction with IOM missions in Malawi, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.
Some funding has been secured from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the United Kingdom.
“The initiative aims to contribute towards the enhanced protection of the health and economic rights of informal cross border traders through the facilitation of continued trade during the pandemic,” said IOM.
Field visits will provide stakeholders with a background on the project and provide refresher training on Covid-19 infection prevention and control and training sessions on trade facilitation, which will be followed by a registration exercise for informal cross border traders in Chirundu and Beitbridge.
IOM said the points of entry and border markets will be equipped with hand-washing facilities.
In addition, a waste management system will be implemented for safe disposal of used infection prevention and control materials.
Border staff will be provided with personal protective equipment and thermometers while cross-border traders will be provided with Covid-19 kits including sanitisers, masks and gloves.
Some of the officials to partake the training sessions will be drawn from the ministries of Industry and Commerce, Women Affairs, Community and SMEs Development, district development, and medical officials.
Others will come from the Department of Immigration, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) and representatives of cross-border trader organisations as well as officials from IOM and the funding partner FCDO.
IOM Zimbabwe’s chief of mission Mr Mario Lito Malanca said reducing the constraints and challenges faced by informal cross border traders operating during the pandemic, was critical.
“With projections indicating that Covid-19 could be with us for a while longer, it is critical to equip those engaging in informal cross border trade with the tools to operate efficiently in the midst of it”, he said.