Cross-border Market for Transforming the Local Economy and Empowering Women in Tanzania
Cross-border Market for Transforming the Local Economy and Empowering Women in Tanzania
Inclusive and Equitable Local Development (IELD) Programme


Traditional cross-border markets in the Kigoma region of Tanzania, which lies on the border with Burundi, often lack proper infrastructure and facilities that are critical for local traders, especially women. The Kakonko District is one of six administrative districts in the region. The border between Burundi and Tanzania is a traditional economic corridor that provides important economic opportunities to the border communities on both sides.  

Even before the two countries existed, the people of Kakonko traded freely with the culturally similar communities to the west through local markets such as Muhange cross border market. Local women are actively engaged in cross-border trade, trading farm produce and livestock and selling food to vendors. However, the bare-bones venue was unhygienic and insufficient in multiple ways. There was no shade, warehouse, running water or toilets. Where markets are not formalized and secure, women traders are vulnerable not only to the physical environment, but also to sexual harassment and rape, being cheated out of payments or simply being shut out of the market economy.    

Women’s empowerment and sustainable economic development are often very closely linked.  Therefore, when developing cross-border markets, it is critical to envision new infrastructure that puts women at the core of design planning. 

Towards a Solution

To address this challenge, the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), under the Inclusive and Equitable Local Development (IELD) programme, provided grant funding of $120,000 to the Kakonko district government to expand and upgrade the existing market by developing a modern cross-border market in Muhange village  

The IELD programme, a joint programme by UN-Women, the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), provides funding through grants, loans and guarantees to local governments to finance public infrastructure projects, and businesses to support “missing-middle” small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), including women-owned SMEs, in select programme countries in Africa and Asia1. The Muhange cross border market project was implemented by the district government, which managed crucial tasks from land acquisition to the supervision of construction, in close collaboration with UNCDF. UNDP and UN-Women provided important input in the project assessment, selection and design to make sure that the market layout was gender-responsive and provided a work environment conducive to women traders.    

The Muhange Market expansion's objective was to increase income for local government revenues, improve food security and livelihoods, and trigger local economic activity. By addressing extreme poverty and vulnerability among local women and girls through better access to economic resources and basic services, the project contributes to Sustainable Development Goals 1 (No Poverty) and 5 (Gender Equality). The project also contributes to IPoA Priority Areas 2 (Agriculture, food security and rural development), and 5 (Human and social development).  

The new Muhange Market provides a safe space for traders from Burundi and Tanzania to participate in economic activity, and yields significant positive impacts for the local area, especially for women. The project also improves access to water and sanitation, leading to health benefits for women and their communities. Other significant outcomes include: 

  • Supporting women’s livelihoods and security: The project stimulates entrepreneurial and enterprise development among small-holder producers, livestock and poultry keepers and SMEs to establish businesses in the market as tenants, middlemen or other market actors/operators. A total of 2,120 women traders have benefitted from the new market, while the new facilities constructed provide safe and secure stalls and storage room for women traders. The    project also created jobs for women during the construction phase. 
  • Access to water and sanitation: Restrooms built as part of the market for female vendors and traders provide a clean facility for the local women. The market provides sanitation access to over 3,000 members of the local community, 67 per cent of whom are women. These facilities are especially important for women with children. With water supply installed as part of the market, the community now has access to a proper source of water, which is expected to improve health and hygiene conditions by reducing the spread of communicable diseases, including cholera  
  • Women’s ownership and leadership: The Muhange Market’s special purpose vehicle (SPV) board of directors includes 25 per cent female members. This is critical to ensure that women’s voices are heard in decision-making processes for local economic development. 
  • Increase in revenue for local and central Government: Revenue generated from the market activities are subject to various taxes and levies due to the central and local governments. The Kakonko District Council (KDC) now generates more revenues and benefits from a reduced dependency on central government transfers, which are often insufficient and untimely. 

Muhange is one of the five cross-border markets planned by the Kakonko District Council (KDC) that intends to promote regional economic cooperation, attracting traders from neighbouring wards, divisions and districts within the border area of about 200 km on both sides. The Muhange market has been growing rapidly due to the improvement of road infrastructure from Kakonko town to the market site. The road on Burundi side is accessible all year long and provides easy access for local traders to purchase commodities from producers in Tanzania, the majority of whom are women. The market also plays an important role in enhancing border security between the two countries, which is an important priority for the member states of the East African Community2. This is a replicable model for cross-border trade and could be implemented in other LDCs through South-South cooperation. 

The Muhange Market was designed to address structural gender inequalities by prioritizing women’s economic empowerment, their leadership role, participation in market governance, ownership of stalls as well as their safety and security, and access to water and sanitation. The project takes into account women as individual workers in their community, members of households (caregivers) and as traders playing a crucial role in the local economy. The holistic approach of the project provides important lessons for replicating a model for gender responsive cross-border markets in LDCs. 

Contact Information

Ms. Samina Anwar Programme Manager, UNCDF

Countries involved

Burundi, Norway, Switzerland, United Republic of Tanzania

Supported by

UNCDF, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UN Women, Government of Switzerland, Government of Norway

Implementing Entities

UNCDF, UNDP, UN Women, Kakonko District Council (KDC)

Project Status


Project Period

4/2018 - 4/2022

URL of the practice

Primary SDG

01 - No Poverty

Primary SDG Targets

1.1, 1.4

Secondary SDGs

05 - Gender Equality

Secondary SDG Targets


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