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Kasese fish traders ask government to open border, markets for business

A section of traders packing fish as they await for bulk buyers from DRC on Monday

Kasese, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT |  Traders at Mpondwe Market in Lhubiriha Town Council in Kasese District are crying foul because of the suspension of their activities for over a year. The traders are protesting the high cost of Covid-19 testing, which has limited them and their Congolese counterparts from crossing the border.

The town council neighbours the Uganda-DRC border point. In September, the government reopened Entebbe international airport and all borders after more than six-month closure as part of the COVID-19 preventive measures. However, all travellers have to be tested for COVID-19. But these restrictions have affected the entire cross border business in Kasese District. 

Fish traders have since abandoned their businesses due to lack of customers and now want the government to lift the ban on their operations. They also want the government to give them free Covid-19 testing so that they can ably cross into DRC.  

Haruna Daud, a fish trader says his business capital has gone down from over Shillings 10 million to Shillings 2milion since the suspension of the operations of Mpondwe market. The trader says his main customers were from DRC but these suspended their businesses due to the high Covid-19 testing costs.  The testing cost US$ 40 on top of US$ 50 for the visa. 

Tanazio Kule, another fish dealer says businesses in Mpondwe are heavily dependent on the Congolese who purchase in bulky. He says the cross border restrictions have impacted heavily on the number of customers.  Kule said he could sell about 50 boxes of fish to DR Congo each day but he had to suspend the business due to the absence of customers. 

Fatima Abudallah says she is going through hard times since the border market was closed.  The trader says she cannot afford to routinely pay for Covid-19 testing and has to depend on a few local buyers.  

Walyuba Kule says currently it’s only transit traders that can meet the high costs involved in the fish business. He says largely the Congolese would buy from local traders to go and resale in their Country.  

Sulah Bwambale, a poultry products dealer told URN that he used to sell more than 2000 birds per week to Congolese traders.  He now sells between 30-50 birds on the local market since the ban took effect.   

Fatuma Nyakimwe, a mobile money agent says her business has equally been shuttered by the lock-down restrictions. She says weekly markets would offer her between 100-200 clients a day.    

Elias Masereka, the Secretary-General Mpondwe traders says the traders are incurring a lot of costs to take their goods in DRC unlike the past where the Congolese would directly come into the market.  

Lubiriha town council alone has lost close to Shillings 1Bn in market revenue collections since last year. 

The town council chairperson Sylvester Mapozi says their collections largely depended on market activities.

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