The crossing: Small-scale trade and improving cross-border relations between Goma (DR Congo) and Gisenyi (Rwanda)

The objective of this study is to analyse the dynamics of small-scale cross-border trade in agricultural goods as an economy of survival in order to understand what impact its improvement would have on neighbourly relations, peace and security between DRC and Rwanda.

Small-scale trade in agricultural goods (cereals, pulses, vegetables, fruit, cooking oil, etc) between the province of North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda’s West province is very significant. ‘Small-scale cross-border trade’ is defined as commercial activity generating daily transactional revenues of less than US$100 by trader.

This commerce provides at least 22,000 small-scale traders and their dependents on both sides of the border with a survival economy. It also provides opportunities for farmers, pastoralists, wholesalers and warehouse employees and – arguably – even border officials on the Congolese side of the border.

Small-scale trade generates important revenues for both provinces and the individual states. It furnishes visible evidence of the economic interdependence between the cities of Goma and Gisenyi, and their surrounding regions. Reinforcing trust between small-scale traders in DRC and Rwanda, and promoting their economic activity would be important steps toward consolidating peace in the region.