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From the ground up: How a new market brings new prospects to a border town

By APO Group
29 March 2022   |   12:00 pm
In the northwestern part of Tanzania, close to the border with Burundi, villagers from Muhange and Muhange Juu have been trading with each other since before their countries’ independence. Today, semi-formal and informal cross-border trade remains a notable feature of African economic and social landscapes. Over the years, an open-air makeshift market emerged at the…
United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF)

In the northwestern part of Tanzania, close to the border with Burundi, villagers from Muhange and Muhange Juu have been trading with each other since before their countries’ independence. Today, semi-formal and informal cross-border trade remains a notable feature of African economic and social landscapes.

Over the years, an open-air makeshift market emerged at the Muhange border where small-scale traders from both countries sell a variety of food items and household wares.

Yolanda Lusio is a small-scale trader who sells tomatoes and rice at the makeshift market. Like most of the villagers, news of a UNCDF-funded modern market complex being built in Muhange has her beaming in anticipation.

Yolanda said: “I am excited to work from the new market as the old one was very challenging. We laid our products on the ground to sell them – which isn't a hygienic thing to do with food. When it rained, the old market closed as the makeshift reed tents couldn't withstand the downpour. Every time it rained; it meant a loss of income for women like me.”

UNCDF together with the Kakonko District Council have constructed a new cross-border market that accommodates approximately 3,000 traders, farmers, livestock keepers and service providers who bring positive socio-economic impact to the Kakonko District Council (Tanzania), Cancunzo Province (Burundi) and beyond. The new market includes purpose-built trading sheds, water supply storage and toilet facilities and other key infrastructure that the open-air market lacks.

The vast majority of traders at Muhange cross-border market are women as they are exposed to a number of gender-specific challenges and risks that threaten their personal safety and health of their children.

“First of all, for those of us with young children, having an enclosed, designated space to sell from has improved our childcare. At the old market, we used to sell from unhygienic ground and our children were exposed to all types of germs while we work. Also, since the old market was informal, there were times men would come and take our goods or space, and we couldn't really do anything about it other than complain amongst each other.”

At least 60 percent of UNCDF-funded stalls/shops have been allocated to women entrepreneurs and they will be assigned shares. With stable streams of revenue from their businesses, and better working conditions, Muhange's women traders can look forward to focusing now on highly productive economic activities.

Income derived from small-scale trading activities is key to the reduction of poverty with positive impact on long-term developmental outcomes. The Muhange cross-border market project is an excellent example of how border communities can benefit and enjoy locational comparative advantages. Benefits of cross-border commerce include better food security, faster job creation, poverty reduction, increased tax revenues for authorities and better long-term developmental outcomes. Additionally, the district councils and village authorities were previously unable to collect any significant amount of market fees and levies, however, the new facilities ease revenue collection for them.

The surrounding village of Muhange is already seeing multiplier effects of the market, with villagers building restaurants, lodging facilities, mobile money kiosks, storefronts and maize milling stations in anticipation of the boom from the new market.

Yolanda says that this is only the beginning of her entrepreneurship journey with promising prospects on the horizon at the new market: “From the extra money I receive from the new market, I am saving up to provide lunch for the people who work here. I think all of us have an opportunity for self-improvement, and to have extra sources of income from the increasing number of people coming to the market now from more villages in Burundi and Tanzania. Life is good!”

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF).

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United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF)
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