Making Trade Work for Women in East Africa

Search for Common Ground (Search), with funding from TradeMark East Africa (TMEA), implemented the “Making Trade Work for Women” project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This project aimed to contribute to the greater inclusion of women in trade as one of the pathways to increased business competitiveness and increased trade in the East African Community.

To achieve these results, Search in collaboration with TMEA, targeted small-scale cross-border traders, members of Cross-border Trade Associations and Cooperatives (CBTAs), officials at border posts, and administrative authorities.


Peace Impact Framework

Outcomes of this project relate largely to Institutional Legitimacy (how institutions maintain trust from the people they are meant to serve), Investments (whether a society has the resources to support peace or conflict in the long term), Personal Agency (whether people believe they have the power to positively change their societies) and Violence (people’s personal and direct experience with violence) themes in the Peace Impact Framework.

Project start & end date

12/01/2020 - 12/01/2022


  1. Improved environment (policy/regulation/institutional reforms) facilitating women's trade in East Africa.
  2. Increased formalisation and value of goods traded by targeted women in East Africa.
  3. Improved prevention and response to gender-based violence and harassment by targeted women traders in East Africa.

Peace Impact Framework Pillars

  • Lived Experience
  • Aligned Measures
  • Expert Observations

Lived Experience


people from the community were consulted

Aligned Measures & Project Indicators


Institutional Legitimacy

35 % of the population who believe decision-making is inclusive and responsive.
68 % of the population that are satisfied with services they seek from authorities.
66 % respondents who changed their behavior and attitude towards customs officials
60 % respondents who attest that border officials have complied with policies and regulations compared to 12 months ago
60 % cross border traders who think that laws/regulations are correctly applied in the decision-making process by officials
35 % cross border traders who think that information on laws/regulations is available to cross border traders
80 % women cross border traders who feel they can report GBV with confidence
78 % cross border traders who report having heard of a resource centre or suggestion box
54 % cross border traders who think that the resource centre and suggestion box are effective in preventing or reporting violations of women's rights
47 % surveyed cross border traders who report having received assistance or reparation when they were victims of GBV, rights abuse, harassment, conflict and others
68 % cross border traders satisfied with the assistance they received when using the resource centres


57 % targeted women traders who perceive a significant increase in their income
71 % women benefiting from opportunities in trade
75 % small traders who received funding for their small business

Personal Agency

81 % small traders who report an improvement in their social and economic autonomy
52 % respondents who believe they have sufficient knowledge to confidently defind their rights in the case of GBV or any other form of harrassment
61 % small traders who feel that the opportunities available are accessible


54 % cross border traders who said they felt safe
83 % reduction in GBV cases reported to resource centres
Indicates Aligned Measures

Expert Observations

Positive outcomes

The project contributed to improving the business environment for small traders by supporting 6 initiatives governing CBT and facilitating small traders in inter-country trade.

Unexpected outcomes


  1. The implementation of the one stop centre at the Kavimvira-Gatumba border post (Uvira) has had a positive impact on the reduction of cases of harassment.


  1. There is a need to broaden advocacy actions towards actors at the national level who have oversight over the provinces and cities.

Changes in the context that affected the outcome

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted trade, with Congolese buyers unable to go and check the quality of their orders, and cross border traders from other countries unable to cross and claim their payments. Losses for small traders were reported on both sides. On the positive side, it has enabled the implementation of the groupage system, which prevents cases of harassment for cross border traders.

Promising Practices

  1. The resource centres are a good approach to handling complaints and preventing cases of GBV & harassment.
  2. Organise activities that strengthen the dialogue between cross border traders and officials on the difficulties encountered.
  3. The intentionally inclusive selection of participants by including youth, adults, persons living with disabilities, etc. allows for coverage of beneficiaries that are ignored by other projects.


  1. For projects working in cross-border trade, it would be better to aim to reach both countries as beneficiary areas.
  2. Strengthen institutional support based on the mapping of actors.
  3. Search will need to reflect on an approach for close monitoring of the direct beneficiaries of the project, by organising regular monitoring visits to the implementation areas.

Lessons Learned

  1. Provide materials and financial support early enough to allow time for the team to identify and deal with the needs and skills required for the beneficiaries.

Key Statistics

  1. 81% of women are participating in formal trade.
  2. Implementation of the one-stop centre in Uvira and the groupage system in Kamanyola and Bukavu countered the hassles observed at customs and reinforced formalisation when crossing.
  3. The implementation of the Prime Minister's instruction to reduce taxes on raw products to zero when declaring or clearing customs was beneficial.