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Lusaka, Friday, July 27, 2018:  The fifth COMESA Annual Research Forum will take place in Nairobi, Kenya, from 6-10 August 2018. The Forum will bring together the academia, Government officers, private sector, policy think tanks and development partners to discuss emerging topical issues in regional integration.

Since 2014 COMESA has been organizing Annual Research Forums under the ACBF funded project on “Enhancing Capacity of the COMESA Secretariat to Support Economic and Trade Policy Analysis and Research.”

The theme for this year’s Forum is: “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend for Social Economic Transformation and Deep Regional Integration in COMESA through Academia-Industry Linkages.”

The theme covers five sub-themes: The Digital Economy – markets, industry, agriculture and infrastructure development in the context of the Tripartite and African Continental Free Trade Areas; 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 the UN estimates that Africa will make up a quarter of the world population by 2050 with an average 60% of the population being under 24 years,” says Benedict Musengele, the COMESA Senior Research Fellow.

Riding on the success of the previous fora, a remarkable spike of submissions have been made by academicians and policy practitioners across the globe with 88 extended abstracts/papers received. Eleven of these will be presented to the research Forum and later published in the COMESA flagship publication on Key Issues in Regional Integration.

The policy implications from the papers are presented through the COMESA policy organs and forms a basis for the policy decision making process. 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.

The research forum also focusses on 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 Francis Mangeni, the COMESA Director of Trade and Customs 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 be showcase four innovative ideas which the centre incubated and commercialized.

The curtain raiser to the Forum will be a half day training on Non-Tariff Measures by the UNCTAD.