encounter, like other global actors, structural constraints
and opportunities that have implications
for political economies, social identities, and
The first Pan-African Conference held on African soil occurred on April 15, 1958, in the city of Accra Ghana. African leaders and political activists gathered at the first Conference of Independent African States. This conference represented the collective expression of African People’s disgust with the system of colonialism and imperialism, which brought so much suffering to African People. The conference gave sharp clarity and meaning to Pan-Africanism, the total liberation and unification of Africa. The conference laid the foundation and the stratagem for the further intensification and coordination of the next stage of the African Revolution, for the liberation of the rest of Africa, and eventual and complete unification. This conference earmarked the unity of Africa and the birth of African Freedom Day later known as Africa day.
Africa day was to, “mark each year the onward progress of the liberation movement and to represent the determination of the People of Africa to free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation.” In 1963, the Organisation of Africa Unity (OAU) was formed which was later named the African Union (AU) and a charter was set out which sought to improve the living standards across member states.
Africa Day was changed from 15 April to 25 May. Of the fifty-two republics and two kingdoms in the AU only five African countries presently observe 25 May as a public holiday. These countries are namely, Ghana, Mali, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Is Africa decolonised?
Recently there have been talks on the discourse of decolonization in Africa, years after the birth of AU which has roles of promoting democracy In African countries, promoting human rights, sustaining African economies by preventing intra-African conflicts and promoting common markets. Over the years, there has been evidence of institutional and structural colonisation in Africa. Most African states have attained their independence, but their citizens still have not attained their freedom, and are still oppressed and fighting for democracy. African countries are free from colonial rule but oppressed by their African leaders. Political authoritarianism and the lack of democratic space for ordinary Africans to contribute towards deciding on the social and economic affairs that affect them is a major problem in Africa.
Colonial borders still have an impact in the present Africa, free travel, and extension of free trade, between countries remains a tall order despite the very obvious advantages it promises. A trace of the colonial policies is still visible in the current immigration laws and migrants have faced xenophobia attacks which questions the celebration of African unity. There have been talks on open borders but this has not been implemented in Africa, immigration laws are flexible to Western nationalities compared to African nationalities in Africa.
This article looks at women cross-border traders from Zimbabwe and how they have experienced migration regimes and what that means within the context of Africa Day. The rise of the phenomenon of women cross border traders has been mostly due to the collapse of the formal sector and crisis in Zimbabwe. Women constitute between 60 and 70 percent of cross border traders and their trade constitutes between 25 and 30 percent of all cross border traders . One of the objectives of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NePAD) was to accelerate the empowerment of African women but they still face many challenges. NePAD emphasises political and economic development of Africa via integration and an African focus but fails to consider the potential contributory power of these small entrepreneurs. The NePAD initiative has tended to focus on large scale entrepreneurships therefore sidelining small scale entrepreneurs like cross border traders.
Trade policies have paid little attention to the activities of small entrepreneurs who are involved in informal cross-border trade. Cross border traders facilitate the movement of goods and capital through the region. The current legislation, or the Immigration Bill, does not contain provisions which facilitate the businesses of cross border traders to trade across South Africa’s borders. This article mentions the South African policies because Africa is an important export market for South Africa and this market is dominated by Southern African countries. The activities of cross border traders are overshadowed by attempts to support the activities of big business and capital. Currently most cross border traders are from SADC yet no country in the region has a specifically dedicated visa which allows cross border traders to cross legally access markets. This has led to cross border traders smuggling goods across borders in an attempt to avoid high tariffs so that they glean some profits. This smuggling of goods is also prompted by the tax which cross border traders are supposed to pay. The cross border traders are subject to pay 10 per cent presumptive tax (VDP) that is paid at the port of entry for all goods that are imported into Zimbabwe. The smuggling of goods and evasion of taxes has forced Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) officials to mount roadblocks on all major roads from South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique and search the buses. Some bus crew charge border fees to facilitate passengers passing through the borders without declaring their goods. Bus crews collect money, from cross border traders to bribe Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) officials. Cross border traders have tended to resort to smuggling and bribing as a way of protecting their businesses from laws that initially exclude them.
The importance of cross border trading to the contribution of livelihoods to African households needs no over-emphasis. 30% of households in Africa are headed by women, and most of them are in the informal sector, hence cross-border trading is a crucial livelihood for women and their families. It enables them to fulfil their responsibilities, as mothers and heads of households and to develop other economic and social identities, such as that of traders/business women, and cosmopolitans. Cross-border trading supports livelihoods and creates employment, including for disadvantaged and marginalised groups (women). Therefore cross border traders helps in poverty reduction.
Contribution to the economy
Cross Border Trading contributes about 43 percent income to Africa’s entire population. Cross Border Trading contributes to about 30-40 percent of total intra-regional trade in the Southern African. There is hope that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, which was signed at the African Union (AU) Special Summit held in Kigali on 21 March 2018 will bring the anticipated change to cross border traders therefore lessening their challenges. It is noteworthy that the AfCFTA does not explicitly mention cross border traders but encourages for open borders, which means there is need to lobby for policy re-alignment. However, there is need for the AU to formally address cross border traders since they can play a major role towards the achievement of the continent’s structural transformation and poverty reduction goals contained in the African Union’s Agenda 2063. Cross border traders plays a pivotal role in income generation, job creation, structural transformation, and food security therefore there is need for government to have policies that accommodate cross border traders in Africa.
I argue that Pan-Africanism and Africa day should represent solidarity and unity among African citizens, the implementation of free movement and promoting small scale business is key to emancipating the citizens of Africa which is one of the motives of AU.
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