Researchers and trade experts have implored the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa to integrate policy research into the institutional structure and budgeting of the Secretariat to make it sustainable.
Speaking at the closing of the 3rd Comesa Annual Research Forum in Rwanda experts noted that this will facilitate continuity in the implementation of high impact project interventions that the regional bloc has achieved in the last three years.
Currently, the Comesa Research project is financed from a $3 million kitty provided by the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) for capacity building in economic and trade policy research and analyses. The project financing will come to an end in September this year.
Experts asserted that policy research was not an option but an imperative for the success of regional integration. “The Comesa research project demonstrates a highly successful programme that has come up with findings and policy recommendations that have informed key decision-making by the Comesa policy organs,” said the experts.
They cited the decision to establish the Comesa Virtual University of Regional Integration which is set to begin enrolling students in September this year as an outstanding accomplishment. A total of 22 Universities in the Comesa region are involved in this project.
Other success stories cited were six key studies that the Comesa research project has undertaken in the last three years. Among them was the study on Comesa intra-regional trade potential.
The study found that the potential value of trade in goods that exists among Comesa Member States stands at $ 83 billion. This is above the current intra Comesa trade of $20 billion.
The other studies that have informed policy decisions in regional integration include an Audit of non-tariff barriers in Comesa and their impact, Competitiveness study in Comesa which resolved the Kenya sugar safeguard application concerns, the implications to Eritrea on joining the Comesa Free Trade Area and the impact of the Transpacific Partnership on AGOA eligible Comesa Member States trade with the United States.
At the Kigali Forum, 18 research papers focusing on the key pillars of regional integration namely; market integration, industrialization, economic infrastructure, investment and the blue economy were presented and reviewed.
They included the testing the level of market integration in Comesa and EAC and Implications to Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA towards operationalisation of the Comesa shipping line.
The forum described the papers as candid in their policy implications which if implemented would play an important role in boosting intra-Comesa trade and consequently the intra-African trade.
This is in line with the key motivation for the ongoing negotiations for Continental Free Trade Area to be launched this year.