This Customer Discovery Report offers initial perspectives on the development of an SMS and USSD platform developed by Sauti Africa for use by any cross-border trader with a simple feature phone. By innovating a series of automated text-based interactions, Sauti has the potential to leverage the ubiquity of mobile phones in the EAC to enhance the delivery of trade information available to cross-border SMEs. The platform will enable small-scale traders to conveniently access trade and market information relating to clearing procedures, documentation, and taxes applicable to their products, cross-border commodity prices and exchange rates. Traders will also be able to use the platform to anonymously report incidents of bribery and harassment at borders.
For women, small-scale cross-border trade has played an empowering role in the alleviation of poverty in East Africa. However, women crossborder traders face distinct constraints and challenges when trading across East Africa’s borders. Information asymmetry between crossborder traders and border officials regarding procedural information and duties creates an economic environment of risk and uncertainty. Bribery and corruption is exacerbated among women traders by gender-based harassment and threats to personal safety. Focus group discussions and surveys at the Busia and Malaba border crossings suggest that the time, effort, and resources spent by women cross-border traders to balance non-tariff barriers exacts a significant business cost and adversely affects their economic behaviour in the East African cross-border regime.