The COMESA Innovation Awards was launched in 2013 to celebrate the Africa Union 50th Anniversary. The Awards are aimed at recognizing and celebrating individuals and institutions that have used science, technology and innovation to advance the regional integration agenda. The inaugural Innovation Award was made at the 17th Summit of the COMESA Heads of States and Government held in February 2014 in Kinshasa DR. Congo and the second was made at the 18th Summit in March 2015 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
This year COMESA has advertised for call for papers under the theme; “HARNESSING INTRA-COMESA TRADE THROUGH THE INTERFACE WITH AFRICAN CONTINENTAL FREE TRADE AREA (AFCFTA)”. The selected papers will be presented at the Seventh COMESA Annual Research Forum scheduled for August 2020.
The AfCFTA, once complete, will be a continent-wide free trade area for States Parties that have deposited their instruments of ratification. It is called a ‘Free Trade Area’ but will be more akin to a comprehensive partnership agreement because the disciplines will go beyond trade in goods to cover services, investment, competition and intellectual property.
The main objectives of the AfCFTA are to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, and thus pave the way for accelerating the establishment of a continental customs union. It will also expand intra-African trade through better harmonization and coordination of trade liberalization and facilitation instruments across the RECs and Africa in general. The AfCFTA is also expected to enhance competitiveness at the industry and enterprise level through exploitation of opportunities for scale production, continental market access and better allocation of resources.
Trade within RECs will continue according to the trading regimes in place (customs unions or free trade areas). New tariff liberalization under AfCFTA will only occur among Member States that do not have an existing agreement with one another. The Regional Economic Communities (RECs) will not disappear, Member States will continue to trade under their respective REC trading regimes. In the AfCFTA Agreement, the Member States reaffirm their existing rights and obligations under other trade agreements of which they are members. Similarly, Article 5 refers to the ‘RECs’ Free Trade Areas as building blocs for the AfCFTA and recognizes best practices in the RECs. The Agreement also provides for the “preservation of the acquis”, which means that what has already been achieved as part of the implementation of RECs obligations will be preserved.
In line with the Annual Research Forum theme, COMESA calls for innovation concepts to be show-cased and presented during the Forum. The focus of the 2020 Innovation Concepts will be on new products, new methods of production through the use of technology. Also included in the criteria is methodology of opening new markets, new ways of doing business, supply of raw materials and implementation of a new form of commercialization among others. Although the Innovation Concepts are geared towards all innovators in Member States, the three main target groups are SMEs, youth and women.
SMEs: COMESA has established an aggressive program to foster the development of technology based new enterprises. It is envisioned that SMEs would serve as the vehicle for harnessing existing technologies and use them to enhance industrial production. However, SMEs are expected to be technology-based with high potential for growth. Thus, the need to recognize and reward SMEs that contributes to the achievement of this goal.
Youth: COMESA seeks to harness nature and grow the innovative capacity of the youthful population in the region for sustainable economic development. The youth will be challenged to harness science and technology to create wealth and employment. Through this they can provide innovative ways of solving challenges facing the region such as food security, access to basic education, healthcare, energy, climate change and industrialization among others.
Women: Women have traditionally been under-represented in the fields of science and technology. Consequently, COMESA will focus on women and like the youth challenge them to harness science and technology to come up with innovative ways of solving challenges in the region.
The COMESA Secretariat invites innovation concepts from individuals who fit the following criteria
- Young (35 and below, male and female);
- SMEs (SMEs that meets the definition of SMEs of a COMESA Member State);
- Group (open to all collaborative efforts); and
- Institution (Open to all institutions of any kind).
Only the following categories can submit the innovation concepts:
- Citizens or long-term legal residents of Member States,
- Teams of less than four members with at least one citizen of a Member State.
- Teams of 5 or more with at least 3 citizens of a Member State.
- A non-citizen member team will be considered if all its team members legally reside in and the project is based in a Member State.
- SMES who are based in and operate in Member States,
- Institutions who are based in and do substantial business in Member States
Each submission will be scored on the following aspects:
- Novelty/significant advancement in the field;
- Social impact (actual or potential);
- Economic impact (actual or potential); and
COMESA now invites individuals and groups to submit their innovations. The innovations will be competitively evaluated and the top two in each category invited to the seventh COMESA Annual Research Forum to be held in August 2020 in Lilongwe, Malawi. During the annual Research Forum each of the selected innovators will have an opportunity to showcase his/her innovation throughout the one-week event and will present the innovation to the annual research forum. The annual Research Forum is attended by government officers, academia, policy think tanks, development partners and the private sector. The 10 selected innovators will be notified by 30 May 2020.
Funding for participation
COMESA will fund the participation of the innovators in the research forum. The funding will cover a return economy air ticket, accommodation and daily subsistence allowance.
All the submissions must be in English or French, the innovation concepts are to be submitted by 30th April 2020 electronically to firstname.lastname@example.org with a copy to email@example.com or by Courier or registered mails to COMESA Secretariat.
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