EAC Women Cross Border Traders’ Cooperative Accelerator

Lead Consultant, DMT

Women Traders coming together – an idea was born.

The cooperative accelerator idea was born during the implementation of the 2017 TradeMark East Africa / Uganda Women Entrepreneur Association Ltd. Women-in-Trade project, for which Dorothy with DMT Consultants provided project implementation technical assistance.  One of the project components was “Sensitization of Women Urban Traders on EAC Trade Procedures.”  DMT Consultants developed simplified EAC trade procedure materials and sensitized 4,800 women traders and women entrepreneurs at 24 locations in Uganda.  Two of the sensitization events were held in Kampala’s Owino Market.  During those events, the women urban traders from Tugunjuke Community Initiative (TCI) in Owino Market expressed a strong interest in engaging in cross border trade, with a view to diversifying their current activities.  At the time, they had never even considered cross-border trade as a means of making a living.  Their two top reasons for seeking diversification were:

  • The narrowing margins on the products they sell in Kampala due to stiff competition within Owino Market.
  • The difficult conditions under which they operate as individual vendors. The average market vendor in Owino Market wakes up at 3:00 am every day in order to get to the market early enough to buy produce off the trucks that bring it in from the country side. She buys produce worth UGX 25,000 which she then does her best to sell during the course of the day.  If she is lucky, she will make UGX 10,000 in profit.  The next morning, the cycle continues.  UGX 10,000 is just under US$0.30 a day.
Starting the research on the ground.

This led Dorothy and her team to conduct an informal research study with the chairpersons of the Malaba, (Kenya) and Busia (Kenya and Uganda) Women Cross Border Traders Associations.  All three chairpersons were excited about the possibility of strengthening their nascent cooperatives by creating market linkages with the women urban traders in Owino Market, Uganda.  The women cross border traders further hoped that lower purchase prices would improve their profit margins and gradually build a larger pool of financial resources, which in turn would increase their purchasing power and grow their businesses.  They expressed concern however, about their lack of knowledge on how to run a cooperative successfully.

Subsequently, a two person team from TCI travelled to Busia for a face to face meeting with Mariam Babu, Chairperson Busia Women Cross Border Traders Cooperative Society Ltd., Uganda (BWCBTCS). Ms. Babu led them on a tour of the designated border crossing and the markets on both the Uganda and Kenya sides of the border.  The project idea began to crystalize and take shape following the above events and subsequent meetings between the chairpersons of Busia Cross Border Women Traders Savings and Credit Cooperative Society Ltd., Kenya (BCBWT SACCO), TCI and DMT Consultants Ltd.

Under this project, DMT Consultants equips the cooperatives to effectively run and deliver collective purchase and sale services to their members.  The cooperatives will learn how to evaluate opportunities that provide margins high enough to cover cooperative service fees and still provide the participating women traders better margins than they earn today.

Having over 16 years of experience.

Dorothy Tuma is a Consultant at DMT Consultants Ltd.  She has over 16 years of international development experience in strategic planning and enterprise development for Micro, Small and Medium size Enterprises in Eastern and Southern Africa, with a special interest in women’s entrepreneurship.  She has designed, led and/or implemented a variety of enterprise growth and training initiatives for the private sector as well as development agencies interested in enterprise development.  She has worked with over 8,000 women entrepreneurs and traders.  Prior to working in international development, Dorothy was a brand manager at a US California-based Fortune 500 company.

Dorothy chairs the East African Women in Business Platform, which represents over 20,000 women entrepreneurs and traders in Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.  She is a published author and hosts a podcast on women business owners in Eastern Africa.