Committed Helping Hands Int. Inc. works in rural and village areas to promote individual development as well as regional integration. This is the foremost policy issue facing Africa today. By ‘regional integration’ is meant the initiatives by organs of the African Union and regional economic groupings to integrate balkanised African countries economically, politically and socially.
In the sphere of economics, the expansion of inter-African trade is a priority. It is now widely recognised that Africa’s ability to lift itself out of poverty depends to a large extent on its ability to increase its trade. Yet Africa’s share of world trade has declined over the last 30 years, falling from around 5% in 1983 to barely 3% today. Inter-African trade accounts for just 10% of the continent’s total trade, compared to 40% in North America and 60% in Western Europe.
Much of the trade between African countries, modest as is it, is conducted across land borders. Much is conducted by women who cross borders on foot and face harassment by border officials, who have little inkling what impact this has on the volume of inter-African trade.
Knowledge about the problems facing Africa’s cross-border women traders is mostly anecdotal. C.H.H.Int’s core programme, ICTs for Women’s Cross Border Trade, seeks to understand these problems and to bring them to the attention of policy-makers. Women producers and cross-border traders will be empowered to themselves present problems for redress to decision-makers, at both local government and central government levels.
Together with C.H.H.I’s broader ICTs for Community Empowerment programme, the programme promotes a grassroots regional integration movement that can inform and perhaps challenge the current top-down integration processes.