The sixth annual Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) research forum being held in Nairobi seeks to promote Intra-COMESA trade through innovation which is encouraged by the close link between innovation and trade.
The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives Principal Secretary (PS), Chris Kiptoo in a speech read on his behalf by Director of Administration in the ministry Fauzia Shauri said COMESA region’s average economic growth increased from 4.7 percent in 2016 to 5.6 percent in 2018 but has not been accompanied by job growth rate.
“There is a link between trade and innovation. Innovation creates technological advantage which in turn drives trade. Therefore, technology gaps have been identified as a key determinant of trade and investment between nations,” said Kiptoo.
Kiptoo said that Intra-COMESA export of goods has risen from 1.5 billion dollars in the year 2000 to about 8 billion dollars in 2017 minus small scale trade to be about 40 percent of total trade.
“I urge you to focus your discussions on evidence-based issues that will enable us to enjoy the trade benefits associated with innovation to attain economic growth and development,” Kiptoo added.
The COMESA Assistant Secretary General Programmes, Kipyego Cheluget said the capacity building interventions in research and training carried out by COMESA were aimed at the enhancement of the capacity of the member states in economic and trade policy analysis and research as well as trade negotiations.
“During this forum, innovators will showcase their innovative incubated and commercialized ideas to be discussed,” said Cheluget who added that universities were playing a huge role in development of the region, and this month a course in regional integration would start being offered at Kenyatta University.
Speaking at the forum, the Strathmore University Executive Dean, George Njenga said not trading within Africa costs the continent close to 80 billion dollars since traders don’t buy from each other but go out of Africa to trade.
Njenga added that greatest barrier to trade is the tariff barriers which block Africa’s regional relationships.
Thirteen research papers aligned to the theme and which have been competitively chosen, will be presented by the authors for discussion.
The Policy think-tanks from COMESA Member States, researchers, public and private sector trade experts, innovators in science and technology and representatives of development partners will attend to discuss emerging topical issues in regional integration.
Among the papers to be presented include the role of trade in innovation and socio-economic transformation in COMESA countries, impact of Intellectual Property Rights on intra-COMESA Trade Flows, technology diffusion in COMESA member states, role of trade and human capital movements and leveraging innovation and quality standards to increase Intra-regional trade and the case of the common market for eastern and southern African region.
The forum is expected to take place from 2nd to 6th September 2019.
By Charles Kirundi