Informal cross border trade played a significant role in averting widespread food insecurity in
Southern Africa during the major regional drought of 2002 and 2003. However, information on
informal trade has been mainly anecdotal and its contribution toward redressing supply/demand
imbalances has not been adequately quantified in Southern Africa. In the absence of this data,
decision making by governments, aid agencies and traders about appropriate levels of
commercial imports and food aid is difficult.
Since the volume and direction of trade can change from year to year, monitoring systems are
necessary, rather than one-off studies which provide background information or snap shot views
of the trade at a given period. In order to address this information gap, WFP and FEWSNET, in
collaboration with other partners, have established a monitoring system for capturing informal
cross border trade. The monitoring system began operations in June 2004, and currently covers
24 borders shared by six countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Malawi,
Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe’s borders with South Africa,
Mozambique and Botswana and additional borders between Zambia and the DRC are being
assessed for inclusion in the system.
This is the first report on informal cross border trade on food among the selected countries in
southern Africa. As the monitoring system is still in its initial stages, we welcome comments and
suggestions from our partners and readers so that we can further improve it.