NKWETO MFULA, Chingola
TRADE at Zambiaâ€™s Kasumbalesa border with Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is always at its peak with small-scale traders marketing their merchandise through the one-stop border entry point.
Agricultural produce, such as maize, oranges, tomatoes, potatoes and vegetables are sold at the border.
Other manufactured products such as cement, drinks, bread, plastic merchandise, mattresses and many other commodities pass through the border.
Kasumbalesa one-stop border post is located about 18 kilometres from Chililabombwe and has over the years been congested going by the huge volume of trade between Zambia and DRC.
Other goods on transit into DRC from other Southern African Development Community Countries (SADC) also pass through the one-stop border post.
However, with the construction of the US$25 million modern one- stop border facility, congestion has drastically reduced as a result of quick clearing of transporters.
About 400 to 900 trucks cross over either way of the border point everyday, making it one of the busiest entry points from Nakonde and Chirundu border posts.
On the other hand, smuggling of goods into DRC which was too rampant seems to have reduced following the construction of a trade corridor on the DRC side.
Bicycle pushers earn their living by transporting goods through designated entry points.
Moise Ilunga of DRC is one of the porters at the border who takes care of four children, all girls.
He explains that using bush paths makes one pay more than using normal entry points.
â€œKatamulomo mingi sana, iko unenda through Bilanga, (the payment is much higher when one passes through Bilanga area),â€ he says.
Bilanga area at Kasumbalesa is an illegal passage for illegal traders which is slowly fading off from being used by traders who used to smuggle goods through the bush paths.
Mr Ilunga, 36, says he has benefited from trade information desks (TIDs) as he has acquired knowledge on how to run a business.
â€œBeing a porter is also a business and one can grow from one level to another,â€ he says.
And with the establishment of TIDs at the border, a good number of traders are now opting to use designated customs entry points.
Through TIDs, traders are made to pay K2 on the Zambian side, while on the DRC side they are made pay 5 francs.
Through bush paths traders are made to pay over K150 and 600 francs respectively. This has discouraged traders from using illegal gateways.
Cross Border Traders Association (CBTA) chairman general Charles Kakoma says about 80 percent of the small-scale traders pass through the designated entry point as opposed to using bush paths.
CBTA, through its TIDs, is able to monitor goods passing through Kasumbalesa entry point into DRC.
The CIDsâ€™ establishment is funded by Common Market For Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) under trade for peace umbrella.
Mr Kakoma paid tribute to COMESA for the gesture, saying it has helped to improve trade among stakeholders at the border.
â€œOur statistics for goods that have passed through trade information desks in June shows that the value of tradeable goods stood at K832.190, 342 and in July the value increased to
K 941.406,487,â€ he says.
Mr Kakoma says most traders are now using TIDs and the trade corridor walk way that has been established on the DRC side.
DRC has shown commitment to fight smuggling through the establishment of the facility for small-scale traders.
Mr Kakoma points out that Government and its DRC counterparts have made headway in formalising cross-border trade.
Through stakeholdersâ€™ meetings, DRC and Zambia have been successful in sharing challenges and how best to resolve and handle the matters being faced by traders, especially smuggling, which resulted in both government losing revenue.
The trend has resulted into reduced smuggling activities on the one stop border which attracted reports on smuggling activities as far back as the early 1980s.
The DRC government has since commissioned a trade corridor walk way to encourage traders to use normal entry points as opposed to smuggling.
Mr Kakoma said CBTA is waiting for the construction of the corridor walk way on the Zambian side following the establishment of the facility on the DRC side.
Currently, a temporary passage has also been created on the Zambian side.
Newly elected Chililabombwe executive mayor Christabel Mulala says the trade corridor walk way will be duplicated on the Zambian side.
He commended DRC for the step taken to encourage formal trade amongst small-scale traders which has resulted into decreased smuggling activities.
She is also looking forward to increased revenue generation for the district through Kasumbalesa and Tschisenda border posts.
Ms Mulala is keen to rehabilitate the road network leading to Tschisenda border post with DRC.
She says the border will be upgraded to help decongest Kasumbalesa one stop-border.
The mayor-elect also wants to link Chililabombwe with Mufulira by opening a new route between the two mining towns through Muliashi area to increase trade.
With commitment to curb smuggling by DRC authorities all is not lost to have a Kasumbalesa smuggling free-zone and this can be done through concerted efforts from both governments.
There seems to be light at the end of the tunnel for formal traders looking at the increased numbers, which is about 80 percent of traders passing through the formal entry point.
Kasumbalesa border facility enhances trade
NKWETO MFULA, Chingola