The Ministry of East African Community and Regional Development (EAC), has signed a tripartite agreement with the University of Nairobi (UON), African Women Research Studies Centre- Economic Empowerment Hub and Collaborative Centre for Gender and Development, to enhance women cross border trade.
The collaboration aims at enhancing women cross-border trade by providing evidence-based policy advocacy, that will inform policy implementation, up-scaling and advancing best practices for women, youth, children and persons with disability, in order to empower them economically through cross border trade.
The signing ceremony held at the Ministry of EAC and Regional Development offices at Co-op Bank House, Nairobi, was undertaken by the Principal Secretary (PS), State Department for East Africa Community, Dr Kevit Desai, Vice Chancellor, University of Nairobi, Prof Stephen Kiama, and Mr Masheti Masinjila, Executive Director, Collaborative Centre for Gender and Development.
Speaking at the ceremony, PS Desai said the partnership will focus on bringing the women who constitute 80 percent of the cross border traders, the youth and people with disabilities on the e-platform, to enable them increase their trade transactions.
He said many cross border women and young people lag behind in the use of online platforms, a need that requires the partners to encourage them to embrace e-trading and value addition, as majority engage in agricultural produce.
“We have not been able to reach out to all the One- Stop- Border Points (OSBPs), with gender friendly market facilities, we are, therefore, happy to engage in this tripartite framework which will not only add value in terms of policy decisions based on evidence, but also increase our outreach,” said the PS.
He noted that the inclusion of University of Nairobi in the collaboration, will help in providing research based on evidence with data, which is crucial in planning and designing.
Dr Desai also commended the Collaborative Centre for Gender and Development (CCGD) for helping and rescuing young girls and women who have fallen prey to sexual and Gender Based Violence challenges during this period of Covid-19 pandemic and for collaborating with EAC in implementing several women and youth empowerment projects at the OSBPs.
“These projects and programmes which include rescue centres in Busia and Kajiado and gender desks to handle cases of Sexual and Gender Based Violence have positively impacted in the country and region,” noted Desai.
He announced that EAC has put in place gender responsive cross border projects, along the East Africa Community transit corridors and OSBPs among them infrastructure upgrades and capacity development for traders, to enhance market access for small and medium enterprises involved in informal cross border trade at border points.
The infrastructure upgrade programmes are in Namanga, Busia, Isebania, Taita Taveta, Lungalunga and Malaba One-stop border points.
The PS disclosed that the proposed Busia Jumuia Cross border market, which is at the design level, and the Safe Trade Zone Emergency Facility, already under construction, are aimed at addressing issues of market access and providing suitable trading environment for cross border traders.
In his remarks, Prof Kiama said University of Nairobi will fully support the initiative in a bid to empower the beneficiaries of the programmes and project in order to put EAC on the platform it requires to accelerate business as it has potential to improve livelihoods and businesses.
“As a partner, we will provide the data needed for decision making so as to build trust and synergy so that each member of the communities brought by the diversity can bring value to the table,” he said.
The VC said University of Nairobi will also involve others universities to support the culture of collaboration and to do business with each other.
Masinjila said the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding is crucial as it serves as a meeting point for making policies and a reference point of success, besides supporting women facing challenges.
He noted that the research conducted by University of Nairobi will provide useful information, adding that the partnership will also provide an opportunity to extend the programme to the other countries in the East Africa Community.
Masinjila said the collaboration will increase accountability and success as most people have high expectations from the programme.
By Bernadette Khaduli