Business leaders, researchers, trade experts and government officials from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) bloc are in Kigali for the third COMESA Annual Research Forum.
They are meeting to devise ways of deepening trade across the continent.
With intra-Africa trade facing many barriers, including lack of uniform trade policies and tax regimes, experts called on member states to invest more in research and innovative projects to help address these challenges and fast-track economic development.
Research is essential to help policy-makers make evidence-based laws and regulations to support trade and integration.
Intra-Africa trade is still low; between 15 and 17 per cent compared to North America whose trade levels stand at 40 per cent. Trade between Western European countries stands at about 60 per cent.
The 19-member COMESA bloc has a population of about 390 million people and is the largest regional economic community in Africa. This is a huge market that should be attractive to investors and a major economic powerhouse.
However, to achieve this, governments, academics and the private sector need to support the research process and, more importantly, implement the recommendations. Otherwise, research alone will not deliver the desired results.