THE ongoing civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is casting a long shadow over cross-border trade at Kasumbalesa, one of Zambia’s busiest border crossings.
As armed conflict disrupts lives and livelihoods in eastern DRC, businesses on both sides of the border feel the pinch.
Zambian traders like Emmanuel Njolomba report a drastic decline in Congolese customers, attributing it to fear and uncertainty fueled by the war.
“Customers are still having doubts on buying goods in bulk because there is too much theft in Congo so they buy goods in small quantity until things stabilise.”
“But this is effecting our business because we supply them goods so they can finish at a certain time, and if they don’t, we run at a loss,” said Njolomba, explaining how the risk of theft and destruction during the conflict deters bulk purchases.
This limited buying significantly impacts businesses like his, which rely on consistent demand.
The situation on the Congolese side paints a grim picture as Njolomba describes near-absence of business activity compared to the bustling Zambian side.
Low security and poor sanitation further compound the problems, creating a challenging environment for trade.
As if economic woes weren’t enough, the conflict has triggered a massive humanitarian crisis.
Recent fighting has displaced around 150,000 people, with approximately 78,000 being children. Many are fleeing towards Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, seeking refuge from the violence.
The current situation demands immediate attention. International efforts are crucial to address the humanitarian crisis, mediate ceasefire agreements, and facilitate lasting peace in the region.
Like President Hakainde Hichilema always emphasises,” instability anywhere is instability everywhere.”
So without a peaceful resolution, cross-border trade will continue to suffer, and innocent lives will remain at risk.
By Buumba Mwitumwa
Kalemba February 12, 2024