Informal trade is ubiquitous in Africa, but too often ignored

Fair exchange, sometimes robbery

“THE border is like a river,” says Ronald Sembatya, “where somebody can come to get fish.” He is resting beside his wheelchair in the muddy no-man’s land between Uganda and Kenya. His disability makes it hard to find work elsewhere. But here he earns his “fish” by shuttling goods across the border, slotting a bag of flour or carton of eggs beneath the seat of his chair. Scores of other wheelchair-users trundle back and forth, their loads rarely inspected by officials. The local police commander says he has orders not to touch them. Stop a wheelchair, sighs a customs officer, and “people will lynch you”.

Informal trade is ubiquitous in Africa, but often, like Mr Sembatya’s wheelchair, tactfully ignored. He passes on a potholed track a few hundred metres from the main border post at Busia, a town straddling the frontier. Kenyan women tramp through the same puddles to buy cheap Ugandan tomatoes. Some traders deal in charcoal; other hoist...



via The Economist: Finance and economics Business Feeds

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