The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) member states have been urged to invest more in research and innovative projects to fast-track economic development in the region. This, according to trade experts, would help produce evidence based data that help policy makers to move fast on market integration and business.
Speaking during the third COMESA Annual Research Forum in Kigali, Dr Kipyego Cheluget, the COMESA assistant secretary general, said the economic challenges facing Africa and COMESA bloc, in particular, can be best addressed through evidence based policies.
The five-day forum is running under the theme, “Boosting intra-African trade through regional economic communities: Perspectives from COMESA regional integration programme”, and seeks to strengthen the participation of governments and other key stakeholders in the regional integration agenda by sharing and discussing research findings.
“Research is essential in providing evidence to inform policy formulation,” Cheluget said, urging economists and policy-makers to pay keen attention to the regional integration agenda and how it can enhance development.
Speaking at the event, Robert Opirah, the director general of trade and investments at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and East African Community Affairs, cautioned that commitments made by member states to implement regional integration programmes may be overtaken by events, if not fast-tracked.
“Regional integration is not a static process…Therefore, agreed commitments require evidence-based policy redirection in order to achieve the intended goal,” Opirah said.
He added that evidence-based decisions necessitate undertaking empirical examination of the past and the current trends and at times forecasting future occurrence, a reason why policy-oriented research is instrumental.
“As technical experts you must focus your discussions on evidence-based issues to help champion deeper regional integration to attain economic growth and development for our people,” said official.
“The golden rule is to think of posterity instead of being guided by short-term challenges and short-term gains,” he told participants at the forum that is intended to create a common understanding on the research priorities for COMESA, the largest regional economic community (REC) in Africa.
Experts say RECs have continued to individually pursue integration agenda both as a development and transformative strategy whose basis is free trade, customs unions and common market within their respective jurisdictions. As the building blocks of the African Union, a common understanding in the regional integration agenda is seen as critical.