Researchers and trade experts from the 19-member Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) bloc have called on member States to integrate policy research into the institutional structure and budgeting of the COMESA Secretariat to make it sustainable.
This comes after more than 60 experts representing the academia, policy think tanks and the public-private sector trade experts from the bloc and beyond concluded a week-long third COMESA Annual Research Forum in Kigali, last week.
“Scholars and policy think tanks want COMESA Member States to finance research in regional integration in order to make evidence-based policies,” said Mwangi Gakunga, COMESA’s head of Corporate Communications.
Integrating policy research into the institutional structure and budgeting of the Secretariat, will facilitate continuity in the implementation of high impact project interventions that the regional bloc has achieved in the last three years, the experts said in a statement.
The bloc’s research project is currently financed from a $3 million fund provided by the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) for capacity building in economic and trade policy research and analyses.
Gakunga said: “The project financing will come to an end in September this year. The experts asserted that policy research was not an option but an imperative for the success of regional integration,” he said.
“The Secretariat is already engaged with other possible partners. The COMESA committee on administration and budget will discuss it. In addition, the Council of Ministers directed the Secretariat to address the matter. So, there is hope.”
Gakunga further explained that the bloc’s research project demonstrates a highly successful programme that has come up with findings and policy recommendations that informed key decision-making by the COMESA policy organs.
Praise for COMESA Virtual University
Participants at the just concluded Kigali forum cited the decision to establish the COMESA Virtual University of Regional Integration which is set to begin enrolling students in September as an outstanding accomplishment.
A total of 22 Universities in the region are involved in this project.
Other success stories cited were six key studies that the COMESA research project has undertaken in the last three years. Among them was the study on COMESA intra-regional trade potential. The study found that the potential value of trade in goods that exists among Member States stands at US$ 83 billion, which is way above the current intra COMESA trade of $20 billion.
Other studies that have informed policy decisions in regional integration are; an Audit of Non-Tariff Barriers in COMESA and their impact; Sugar 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 USA.
At the Kigali forum, 18 research papers focusing on the key pillars of regional integration; market integration, industrialisation, economic infrastructure, investment and the blue economy were presented and reviewed.