Trading across borders for peace and prosperity

This article was originally published on the global development media platform Devex.

When we think of people crossing borders, our minds jump to the tragedies of the millions of refugees who flee their homes to find safety and to build new lives. But there are also millions of people who cross borders every single day, back and forth, to earn a living.

In the Great Lakes of Africa — in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Uganda – these traders are mostly women. Their small trade not only provides much needed livelihoods, but it can also help build links between communities divided by borders, prevent flashpoints flaring up into full-scale conflict, and help build the economic underpinnings of peace.

In fact, these traders are a walking definition of the much-heralded 'resilience' to conflict – continuing trading even when security levels are dangerously high. Everyone knows that livelihoods are key to peace, but it is not so easy to create employment, especially in fragile situations. Perhaps it would be better instead to focus on those people already trading and support them to survive and scale up their enterprises.

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