The Cross Border Traders Association is helping a new influx of Zimbabwean traders operating in neighboring Zambia and other countries. The group is also lobbying sub-Saharan African governments to ease trade entry points to make it easier for small business people to cross borders. Voice of America English to Africa Service reporter Danstan Kaunda in Lusaka says large numbers of Zimbabwean traders enter Zambia every week through the capital, Lusaka?s main bus depot ? the inter-city bus station.

The traders, mostly middle-aged women, deal in basic goods, including laundry soap and bottled drinks. Zambian officials issue them special yellow trade permits, allowing them to trade in established markets in Lusaka and other cities.  

Tadeo Taruvinga is a coordinator of the Cross Border Traders Association, based in Lusaka. He says, ?Our main aim is to ensure that we assist the small-scale traders to find [specific] trading space where they can trade. So basically, this [new initiative] is to look for trading space for our members -- those people coming from foreign countries -- trading places where they can operate freely [within market places.?]  

The group is also proposing an introduction of a regional passport that will make movement easy within the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC.)  It will allow traders to make multiple entries into other countries and reduce administrative costs and time at border check-points. 

Zimbabwean trader Charles Tafuna says the change comes just in time.[?If] I come here with items to sell, like tea leaves? I expect people to take me seriously. Not like what happened today at the Zambian border, where we were delayed [entry] by the [border control] officers [who allowed] returning Zambian residences to cross the border first.?      

Zimbabwe?s galloping inflation, food shortages and declining economy have led more traders to cross into neighboring countries, including Botswana, Namibia and Zambia.

The Cross Border Traders Association is also seeking loans from financial institutions to train its members in basic business and financial management. Taruvinga says, ?From time to time, we have workshops with our members [the traders] where we teach to do business and [create] companies. Other workshops look at immigration rules and policies, as well as how to apply for business permits or self-employment permits for those traders wishing to [live] in a foreign country for a long [time.]? The association has more than 15,000 members trading in the 14 SADC countries. An estimated 2,000 Zimbabwean traders are working in Zambia.