Trade is at the core of economic growth and structural transformation.
Growth in trade has become a focus of development policy in Sub-Saharan
Africa, with significant progress made in recent years, for example
through building infrastructure and trade-related policies. Hard
infrastructure has improved, including road and railway networks linking
landlocked regions to ports and airports, in parallel with harmonising
and simplifying soft infrastructure such as customs and excise
procedures and duties. There has also been the establishment of free
trade zones, including the East African Community.
In East Africa, improvements included the establishment of
transcontinental trade corridors to international ports at Mombasa and
Dar es Salam and of ‘one-stop border posts’ (OSBP) allowing customs
preclearance and rapid inspections of traded goods, giving significant
reductions in the cost and time of transportation and of border
crossings. These initiatives were mainly directed at large-scale trade,
but less is known about small-scale cross-border trade. In particular,
it is not known if such policy changes affect poor households (often
dependent on informal trade and highly vulnerable to economic shocks) in
the vicinity of the OSBP. This issue is the focus of this case study.
The case study examines the economic and non-economic (such as
conducting community and family relationships and accessing health care
and education) value of the border for small traders and informal
workers. It examines a specific example of policy – an OSBP on the
Kenya-Uganda border – and how the policy changes have affected these
groups. The case study’s goal relates to consideration of the need for
policy that specifically addresses issues relevant to vulnerable poor
The key findings are that economic livelihoods have not been negatively
affected for the majority of informal traders and workers – and may, in
fact, have been enhanced. Other aspects of the value of border
crossings, in relation to access to health care, finance and education,
are largely unchanged. However, there are two major exceptions. First,
bribery of officials is a significant problem at the OSBP. Informal
traders are routinely forced to pay petty bribes, decreasing their
already low incomes and making the conduct of their businesses more
difficult. The study indicates that the OSBP has not affected levels of
corruption at the border, which continues at a high level. Second, the
poorest of the poor are vulnerable to the policy changes. These are most
commonly day labourers or casual workers without any forms of capital or
self-employment who are dependent on manual work at the border such as
portage and transportation of goods and people. As the new forms of
trade are reducing this type of manual work, they are vulnerable to
losing their livelihoods. Special consideration should be given to
policy initiatives for these groups. In addition, there should be
consideration of broadening policy to include community relations in
areas surrounding the OSBP.
We also note areas for further research. In particular, this study does
not allow conclusions on the long-term or indirect effects of the OSBP.
These issues – including important ones such as the effects on
employment and earning opportunities and on commodity prices – would
benefit from a more extended and longitudinal research programme.
Tyson, J.E. Effect of Sub-Saharan African trade corridors on vulnerable groups. ODI, London, UK (2015) 47 pp.
Effect of Sub-Saharan African trade corridors on vulnerable groups