UK Partners With IOM to Provide Support to Boost Trade Links Across Southern Africa During Covid-19 Pandemic

Border Trading Market.  Coyright Comesa Zambia

The UK Minister for Africa, James Duddridge MP is in Zambia this week, where he has been meeting businesses, trade bodies and the Minister for Finance to discuss UK support to boost trade links across Southern Africa – including measures to ensure traders can do business safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“From farmers selling their crops at regional markets, to growing African businesses exporting to global markets, traders across Southern African are an important and growing driver of regional business, investment and prosperity”, said James Duddridge MP, Minister for Africa.

“UK support to help both formal and informal traders to move their goods quickly and safely will help Southern African trade to not just survive the economic consequences of COVID-19, but thrive in the future.”

During visits to businesses, the Minister announced UK support for a new partnership between the Government of Zambia and Trademark East Africa (TMEA), to improve trade flows at one of Southern Africa’s busiest borders – the Nakonde border post between Zambia and Tanzania, through which 135,000 trucks pass every year.

Work will begin immediately to establish a ‘Safe Trade Zone’ at the Nakonde border post, to ensure informal traders and border staff can use the post safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, TMEA and the Government of Zambia will start work on designs to improve infrastructure at the border post, to make it more resilient and significantly speed up transit times.

Cutting the time is takes to move goods through Nakonde will enhance opportunities for businesses across Southern Africa – including for exporters from Zambia, DRC and the wider region, accessing markets in Tanzania, Kenya, and the world through Dar es Salaam Port.

“This announcement by the UK government marks the start of a long-term partnership between TradeMark East Africa and the Government of Zambia to promote Zambia’s trade competitiveness. The Safe Trade Emergency Facility in Zambia aims at making the Nakonde border facility safe to trade, protecting job losses and making Zambia resilient to future crisis”, said Frank Matsaert, CEO, TradeMark East Africa.

The Minister for Africa also heard about the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on the livelihoods of informal traders across Southern Africa, and announced further UK support to help cross-border businesses trade safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Minister announced that the UK is partnering with the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) to provide advice and training to traders, governments and border agencies, so that key border posts in Zambia, South Africa, Malawi, and the wider region can be open and safe spaces for traders to resume their business legally and safely.

Informal cross-border trade accounts for up to 30-40% of regional trade across Southern Africa – making it a vital source of income and food security for communities across the region. But with many borders closed to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic, traders – up to 70% of whom are women – are missing out on crucial earnings their families rely on.

“Our livelihood depends on us being able to cross borders frequently, in order to buy and sell goods. With the spread of COVID-19, it became difficult to trade across borders as most borders were closed. Although there are alternatives, like online shopping, our businesses have suffered great losses”, said Womba Mumbuluma, a small scale border trader at COMESA Market, Lusaka, Zambia.

“It is important to ensure that the livelihoods of traders are sustained despite the challenges brought about by border disruptions caused by COVID-19. We are thankful to the UK for the critical support provided to this programme. Working in partnership with the Governments of Malawi, South Africa, Zambia and the wider region, we will support small scale traders and help make cross border trade safer and more sustainable”, said Charles Kwenin, IOM Regional Director for Southern Africa.

During his visit to Lusaka, the Minister for Africa also met with Hon. Ms. Chileshe Kapepwe, Secretary-General of the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA). With 21 member states, stretching from Tunisia to Eswatini and the Seychelles, COMESA represents a market of approximately 560 million people.

The Minister and the Secretary-General discussed the UK’s commitment to supporting economic growth across Africa through increased regional and global trade – with a particular focus on the role of trade in supporting an economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the meeting it was announced that the UK’s High Commissioner in Lusaka, Mr Nicholas Woolley will shortly be accredited as the UK’s Special Representative to COMESA, leading on the UK’s partnership with COMESA. In this role, Mr Woolley will ensure closer working between UK and COMESA on key regional issues.

Watch the video here.

For more information, please contact Mr. Abibo Ngandu, IOM Regional Media and Communication Officer –