Researchers from the African continent and beyond are set to congregate in Kenya from Monday next week for the 5th COMESA Annual Research Forum.
The one week Forum will bring together representatives from the academia, the private sector, policy think tanks governments and development partners.
Anchored on the theme: “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend for Social Economic Transformation and Deep Regional Integration in COMESA through Academia-Industry Linkages,” the Forum will focus on the Digital Economy in the context of the Tripartite and African Continental Free Trade Areas.
This includes markets, industry, agriculture and infrastructure development.
Other thematic areas are financing for commercialization of research work; innovation and technology for social economic transformation; curriculum reforms to create entrepreneurial universities; and applied research and harnessing innovation.
“This theme has been motivated by the fact that Africa will make up a quarter of the world population by 2050 with an average 60% of the population being under 24 years according to the UN estimates,” says Dr Francis Mangeni, the COMESA Director of Trade and Customs.
Since 2014 COMESA has been organizing Annual Research Forums under the Africa Capacity Building (ACBF) funded project on “Enhancing Capacity of the COMESA Secretariat to Support Economic and Trade Policy Analysis and Research.
Riding on the success of the previous fora, a remarkable spike in submissions of research papers has been made by academicians and policy practitioners across the globe with 88 extended abstracts received.
Eleven of these will be presented to the Forum and later published in the COMESA flagship publication on Key Issues in Regional Integration.
The policy implications from the papers will be presented to the COMESA policy organs for consideration as a basis for the policy making.
“Member States have appreciated the critical role of the policy analysis and many them have been implementing the policy recommendations on various papers presented in the previous research forums,” says Benedict Musengele, the COMESA Senior Research Fellow.
The other benefit of the research forum is turning student research outputs into employment through commercialization given the progress made in establishing the COMESA Virtual University.
This is complemented by bringing together seasoned and budding researchers.
“The idea is to create links between universities, banks and industry,” Dr. Mangeni, says.
“This will enable universities to steer the work of their students into practical innovative research outputs which can be incubated and thereafter commercialized.”
Alongside the presentation of papers, a key note address will be presented by the Professor of science and Innovation Policy University of Pretoria, South Africa, John Mugabe titled “Science, Technology and Innovation Policy for Human Development in Africa: Some Reflections on Calestous Juma’s Intellectual Wealth and Heritage”.
At the forum, the Chandaria Business Innovation & Incubation Centre, Kenya will showcase four innovative ideas which the centre incubated and commercialized.
The curtain raiser to the Research Forum will be a half day training by the UNCTAD, on Non-Tariff Measures.
Among the institutions that have confirmed participation includes the Africa Development Bank, Economic Commission for Africa (ECA,) Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Afrexim Bank, COMESA Competition Commission, ZEP-Re and Trade and Development Bank.