To the east of the DR Congo, more and more housewives in the neighborhood of Bukavu are getting food in neighboring Rwanda where it is cheaper. Near the border, traders from this country have installed depots. The development of these exchanges brings down some prejudices.
Saturday, 5 pm. In an hour the boundary will be closed. At the Ruzizi I border crossing on the bridge between DR Congo and Rwanda, hundreds of women carrying handbags and burdens on their backs hurry to cross. Some Bukavian women, returning from the market in Rwanda, are accompanied by children who also hold small parcels. In recent months, these housewives cross the border every day to buy from neighboring beans, cornmeal, bananas, vegetables and meat. A few years ago, only a few wealthy families went shopping in Rwanda. The traders also supplied themselves and resold the goods in the DR Congo. They continue today, but almost all of them now supply areas further from the border.
Several families who live in the commune of Ibanda in Bukavu, less than 2 km from Rwanda, now prefer to make their own purchases. “I used to buy supplies from traders, and now I buy what I need and I save money,” says a woman in a hurry from Rwanda. “You can only go to the depots when you have enough money to buy several kilos,” says another, accompanied by a little boy. Traders often set the minimum quantity to be purchased at 5 kilos of beans or flour.
Currently, many families shop at the neighbor and buy in small quantities for the evening meal. They bring back products that have become scarce and / or cost more to retail in Bukavu. According to them, the additional transit and transport costs (totaling 600 CFR, approximately 0.6 $) are amortized even for modest purchases.
Bukavu has more and more inhabitants – about 600,000 in 2008 according to the National Institute of Statistics, almost three times more than in the 1980s – that it is difficult to feed. As a result of repeated wars and insecurity in the region, villages that supplied the city with agricultural products were emptied. In addition, the capital of South Kivu has few areas to cultivate. Necessity obliges, some inhabitants have returned to agriculture, but they produce only for their families.
On the other side of the border, Rwandan traders understood that the needs of their neighbors were important. For some years, they have installed depots just after the bridge. Previously, buyers had to go to the Kamembe market, about 5 km away. “I sold at the market, but I settled here on the border, because there are a lot of people coming from Bukavu. My business is doing very well,” said Jean de Dieu, a Rwandan reseller. Many villages surround Kamembe, a town of about 80,000 inhabitants. Farmers from the surrounding area thus arrive at the border with hand chickens, eggs or banana diets that they sell to the Congolese at an affordable price.
Trade brings people closer together
More and more Congolese are crossing the border for various reasons. At the end of 2009, according to an official of the Customs and Excise Office, there were 2,000. “Last Saturday, I counted more than 4,000. that I do this work and, in recent months, I noticed an increase, “observes a customs officer.
Those who go through say they do not take into account the prejudices that existed since the political tensions between the two countries. “At first I was a little scared, I do not know why, but one day I accompanied a neighbor and it went well, I realized that politics did not concern me, I go alone three times a week, “says an inhabitant of Nguba, the first district of Bukavu after the bridge. “I have clients who come from DR Congo and who know me, my only concern is to sell my stock, I am a simple peasant, I do not see how political tensions affect me”, says his side John of God smiling.
The opening 24 hours a day, applied at the border between Rwanda and Goma and which could also enter into force in Bukavu before the end of this year according to Congolese customs sources, should allow to develop further exchanges.