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March 12, 2021

STAFF REPORTER

3 min read

Women cross border traders hard hit by COVID

Women cross border traders hard hit by COVID

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WOMEN informally trading on the borders of Lesotho and South Africa have been hard hit by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic that among others include restrictions on movement meant to curb the spread and transmission of the deadly coronavirus.

The amount of trade that women from the two neighbours bring into their respective countries is immense and when the borders separating Lesotho and SA are closed, a lot of families that depend on the monies generated there feel the pinch.

With no movement between the borders, that means most of the services and goods procured in South Africa cannot make their way into Lesotho.

On the other hand, South Africa can also not enjoy the ample market for its goods that Lesotho offers.

Studies however show that even before the closing of the borders, the women cross border traders who make the bulk of informal cross border traders in the SADC region were already highly compromised by gender related impediments to trade.

A study by the UNDP states that for informal cross border traders, who rely on South Africa and cross border movement for their daily income and livelihoods, the border closure meant they were unable to secure products to sell in Lesotho and that killed that their only means of livelihood.

The Central Bank of Lesotho as the overseer of the country’s economy shows that domestic economy is projected to contract by 6.6 percent in the coming months, due to the economic fallout of the pandemic.

Long-term effects are especially forecasted to be felt in the textile, mining and construction sectors.

When the borders were closed, most of the informal traders ran out of business and some of them have not been able to resuscitate their small businesses for lack of start-up capital.

But another challenge that the traders encountered was that when the borders opens were finally opened, they were expected to produce COVID-19 free certificates whenever they crossed to the other side to buy stock.

And the certificates were too costly for them. 

Being in the belly of its only neighbour South Africa, it is therefore imperative for Lesotho to ensure that it controls the spread of the virus to within manageable realms because if not, that only means more trouble for Basotho, again.

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The restricted movement between the two countries does not only affect the informal cross border traders, but it also impacts the entire economy of both countries.

Migrant workers who bring millions of maloti in remittances for services rendered in South Africa are unable to return to work or come back home to their families at the height of the pandemic.

A lot of business has over the past year been lost with no hope of recovery between the two countries since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Skilled labour was also lost in amazingly huge figures because many people succumbed to COVID-19 related complications.

Most of the skilled people who died in the fight against the virus were still women who make the bulk of the frontline workers in the health sector.

Thus, it is up to all of us to ensure that our country remains safe from the virus so that our movement remains unhampered.

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