Informal Cross Border Trade (ICBT) has become a topical issue in Africa, and in particularly the Mano- River Union (MRU) due to its broader impact on the economies of these countries. This form of trade lowers the efficiency of measures put in place to ensure health, safety and environmental protection. Agricultural commodities which are often traded informally, for example, escape sanitary and phytosanitary controls meant to ensure adequate food safety at home and avoid proliferation of diseases across borders. Such practices erode government revenue and could lead to unreliable external trade statistics which might hinder the formulation of appropriate trade and macroeconomic policies. The study aims to provide information on informal trade practices, ascertaining the magnitude in volume or value of informal trade which may not only be relevant for incorporation into national account, but also important for the formulation of appropriate policies and strategies to measure its potential impact, particularly on livelihood and economic growth at national and sub-regional levels.
Whilst the existence of informal realities in cross border trade is increasingly recognised, few efforts have been made to systematically study how they function or to understand differences across population group and locations within the Mano River Union (MRU). In recognition of this fact, and consistent with its mandate of Trade Promotion and Facilitation, the Sierra Leone Investment Export Promotion Agency (SLIEPA) engaged the International Growth Centre to undertake a research study on cross border trade with a particular focus on agricultural products which are typically traded, processed and consumed in the MRU or its immediate neighbours.