NAIROBI– The Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) bloc will gain 17.5 billion US dollars annually in intra-COMESA exports if all the 21 member States fully implement the digital trade facilitation reforms which involve the use of paperless trade facilitation measures.

According to research findings presented to the 5th COMESA Annual Research Forum taking place in Nairobi this week, five countries have the greatest intra-COMESA export trade potential for the region — Eritrea, Egypt, Sudan, Libya and Ethiopia.

The researcher, Adam Willie, the Principal Economist at the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Enterprise Development of Zimbabwe, said this was based on their low baseline implementation score of the six digital trade facilitation measures covered in the study.

Top scorers under the assessment criteria were Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius and Rwanda. According to the researcher, the top scorers have exhausted their potential to generate additional intra-COMESA exports with respect to scaling up implementation of the six e-trade facilitation measures considered in this study.

Comoros, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Djibouti, Malawi, Swaziland, Seychelles, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe had medium implementation scores thus presenting significant potential to increase intra-COMESA trade by implementing the DFTA.

The study sought to investigate intra-COMESA exports gains resulting from full implementation of e-trade by member States. In particular, the study sought to assess the impact of the current implementation level of e-trade facilitation on intra-COMESA exports and secondly, to estimate the regional gain in intra-COMESA exports when all member States fully implement digital trade facilitation.

The study recommended policy change by countries with low to medium baseline implementation scores to scale up implementation of e-trade facilitation to realise the demonstrated potential benefits for the region.

Efforts should be made to understand country specific circumstance on why they have not been able to scale up implementation, Adam cautioned, noting that ‘one size fit all policies’ may not work as there is greater variability in baseline implementation levels.

Milton Ayoki, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Policy Research and Analysis of Uganda presented a paper on “Innovation-Driven Economies as Models for Employment Strategy in sub-Saharan Africa: The Case of Uganda Innovation Initiatives”.

The five days Forum is reviewing the best 11 out 88 research papers submitted by researchers from COMESA members States. The policy implications from the papers will be presented to the COMESA policy organs for consideration as a basis for policy-making for member States.

More than 60 regional experts drawn from the academia, policy think tanks, government and private sector institutions and international organizations are participating in the forum.


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