Cross-border Trade: from Strategy to Action – Bringing Partners Together for Implementation

Development partners supporting cross-border trade interventions in Rwanda came together for the first time to discuss how to provide coordinated support in implementing the National Cross-Border Strategy.


The engaging dialogue jointly organized by the Ministry of Trade and Industry and East African Community Affairs (MINEACOM) and the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) was presided over by the Honourable Minister of the MINEACOM, H.E. Mr François Kanimba, and included panel presentations from the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Department of International Cooperation (DFID), the EIF, the National Bank of Rwanda, Pro-femme Twese Hamwe, TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) and the World Bank.


Cross-border trade emerged as a priority focus area in Rwanda's 2011 Diagnostic Trade Integration Study (DTIS), with the need for border markets specifically highlighted. To further identify intervention areas, Rwanda developed a National Cross-Border Trade Strategy that has set the direction for Government interventions and development partner support.


Opening the workshop discussions, Mr Robert Opirah on behalf of the Permanent Secretary of the MINEACOM provided the context of how cross-border trade has been mainstreamed into Rwanda's national development strategies, noting that, "Cross-Border trade is a success story that we at the MINEACOM are very proud of. It has a strong impact on growth and development. It particularly targets border communities, has a high incidence on gender impact and increases regional integration with spill‑over effects on regional peace."


The cross-border trade workshop was held in conjunction with the 23rd EIF Board Meeting in Kigali given the EIF's role in supporting this area in Rwanda. Mr Ratnakar Adhikari, the Executive Director of the Executive Secretariat for the EIF, said, "It is clear that cross-border trade is something that clearly supports the EIF mandate. Cross-border trade works with those who need it most, with a direct impact on trade volumes, and supports particularly vulnerable groups, including a majority of women traders."


Mr Adhikari further elaborated, "As the EIF partnership, we are pleased to have been with Rwanda on this journey in developing cross-border trade. This was a key issue highlighted in the DTIS for Rwanda, and we have been able to continue this journey with the design of a project as soon as the Cross-Border Trade Strategy was prepared."


On behalf of the MINEACOM's Cross-Border Trade Unit, Mr Zephanie Muhigi highlighted the interlinking nature of cross-border trade in terms of goods traded. He provided examples of a number of products traded, ranging from agricultural and livestock to agro-processed and manufactured goods. He emphasized the need to move up the value chain and expand on product ranges, especially in products with a high poverty incidence impact. He also underscored the need to streamline cross-border operations through the coordination framework, the Cross‑Border Trade Unit, and adopt a joint and common implementation plan for the strategy. Developments, such as the cross-border trade portal, were also showcased. The presentation was complemented by video testimonies from cross-border traders in cooperatives receiving support from EIF projects at Cyanika and Karongi border crossings.


Opening up the panel discussion, the TMEA Country Director, Ms Patience Mutesi, elaborated how TMEA was supporting border markets, providing market data services and putting in place one‑stop border posts. The AfDB's Country Representative, Mr Bernis Byamukama, highlighted the Bank's interest in financing cross-border trade in Rwanda through funding roads to border areas and construction of two cross-border market centres to further enhance regional integration in Africa, linking Rwanda to its neighbours while facilitating and making doing business easier for the traders in the border regions. The Director of Statistics of the National Bank of Rwanda, Mr Wilson Kamali, highlighted how the Bank had been championing the exercise of collecting and disseminating informal cross-border trade data through conducting regular surveys, which was a key component of the National Cross-Border Trade Strategy. He further emphasized how tracking informal cross‑border trade and automating data collection had helped to provide real‑time information in Rwanda.


Mr Simon Hess, the ES Coordinator for Rwanda, elaborated on the value of the EIF partnership in enhancing cross-border trade in Rwanda, highlighting how partners had come together to provide coordinated support to cross-border trade in Rwanda, linking trade to development for border communities. "There is enormous opportunity to systemically change the face of informal trade with the firepower and resources that have been dedicated by the World Bank, TMEA, the AfDB, the EIF, a number of NGOs, the work of COMESA and more," he said, while highlighting how EIF support was being linked as effectively as possible to other programmes in this area. "We are co-financing six district support officers for the Cross-border Trade Unit," while emphasizing the challenge to continue to enhance the focus on coherence and coordination amongst cross-border trade development partners.


On her part, the Executive Secretary of Pro-femme TweseHamwe, Mrs Emma Marie Bugingo, explained how Pro-femme was helping women to join cooperatives to fully benefit from cross‑border trade as they face more non-tariff barriers than men. She also highlighted the importance of value addition for cross-border women traders, which was key in supporting women economic empowerment. On their role, she described how Pro-femme was working in 9 districts and supporting women in 15 border regions with TMEA support. Dr Kato Kimbugwe representing DFID in its role as EIF Donor Facilitator and key funding entity of TMEA, highlighted the key results achieved through DFID support, including setting up one‑stop border posts that have resulted in 25% of on‑site time reductions. He also emphasized the DFID sustainability vision looking at private sector investments beyond cross-border trade support provided by the EIF, the World Bank and TMEA.


The World Bank's Trade Practice Leader, Mr Paul Brenton, highlighted lessons drawn from the World Bank's implementation of the Great Lakes Trade Facilitation project, which addressed the challenges of access to regional markets, especially for small cross-border traders. He noted that access to finance and linking to digital innovations to provide feedback, thus curbing women harassment at border regions, was key, as well as improving infrastructure in border regions to enhance services for cross-border trade in Rwanda with its East African Community neighbours. He emphasized that informal trade did not mean illegal trade and that that was why supporting small-scale cross-border traders and the ongoing work to reduce trading costs were key.


From the discussions, it was agreed to develop a common and coordinated harmonized approach, bringing together different development partners to implement the cross-border trade strategy.


Drawing a lot of enthusiasm and active participation from the Ministry of Gender, ITC and UNIDO, among others, the workshop further looked into more concrete coordinated support to cross‑border trade. On behalf of the EIF Board, the Interim Chair, WTO LDC Group Coordinator and Ambassador of Benin in Geneva, H.E. Mr Eloi Laourou, provided a statement, highlighting how the EIF programme revolved around partnerships. He also said, "The issue of cross-border trade is something that many EIF Countries can identify with and recognize as being important. What we have seen and heard today is the impact that a coherent and structured approach, delivered through a strategic vision, leadership and a steady prioritization and resource mobilization process can deliver. From this, I am sure that the EIF Countries, our Partner Agencies and the EIF Donors will all take away something that will no doubt spur and influence the way in which we support cross-border traders in our own countries."


H.E. Mr Kanimba concluded the workshop emphasizing the need to incorporate a value for money mind-set while implementing the various cross-border projects funded by development partners. He also underscored the need to now address cross-border trade in services in Rwanda. "Cross-border trade market centres should be managed under a public-private partnership model," the Honourable Minister underlined, to ensure the sustainable functioning of the cross-border markets constructed.


The cross-border trade workshop was followed by a press conference led by the Honourable Minister, joined by H.E. Mr Eloi Laourou, the EIF Donor Facilitator, Dr Kato Kimbugwe, Mr Antti Piispanen from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland and Mr Ratnakar Adhikari. Questions focused on how to better support Rwanda's national development and economic growth, women's economic empowerment, together with accompanying Rwanda's vision to implement the Sustainable Development Goals. The media was also invited to accompany the Honourable Minister and the EIF Board Delegation to a field visit in Karongi, one of the two cross-border trade markets being supported by the EIF programme.


Notes to editors:


The EIF is a multi-donor trust fund, which provides financial and technical support to build trade capacity in all 48 LDCs and three graduated countries. The EIF programme administratively housed within the WTO is the only global Aid for Trade programme exclusively designed for the LDCs and is, therefore, uniquely placed to assist the countries to develop sustainable trade strategies, which have a positive impact on people's lives through the promotion of private sector development and job and income opportunities.



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