The UN estimates that Africa will make up a quarter of the world population by 2050.
NAIROBI – The Fifth Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Annual Research Forum is underway in Nairobi, Kenya.
Over 50 leading policy think tanks, the academia, and the private sector representatives from the 21 COMESA Member States participating.
The Forum is anchored on the theme: “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend for social-economic-transformation and deep regional integration in COMESA through Academia-Industry linkages.”
The experts will review and discuss 11 research papers that have been developed by researchers on key regional integration issues focusing on the digital economy in the context of the Tripartite and African continental free trade areas.
The Principal Secretary, State Department of Trade in Kenya, Dr Chris Kiptoo described the forum as an opportunity to contribute to policy development and interventions on regional integration and trade development.
“Our coming together is purposely to share knowledge and deliberate on empirical issues on how to harness the youth demographic dividends for the socio-economic transformation of our region,” he said.
The UN estimates that Africa will make up a quarter of the world population by 2050 with an average of 60% of the population being under 24 years.
With almost 200 million people aged 15–24, Africa has the youngest population in the world and that number will double by 2045.
In his speech presented by the Secretary of Trade Joyce Ogundo, the PS urged the delegates to focus on evidence-based issues that would enable COMESA and the African region at large to enjoy the demographic dividends associated with the youth bulge to attain economic growth and development for our people.
“This youth bulge presents a fantastic opportunity for social economic transformation of the African region through tapping into the vigour and idealism of youth and commercialising ideas into industries in the context of innovation and the fourth industrial revolution,” he said.
“The golden rule is to think of posterity instead of being guided by short-term challenges and short-term gains.”
The Director, Capacity Development Division of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Stephen Karingi noted that Africa has healthy and qualified young people hence policy makers should develop policies to harness their full potential.
“Deepened integration includes building capacity, connectivity through better infrastructure and harnessing innovation,” Karingi said. “Policy research should be precise and provide credible and robustly interrogated policy options.”
The COMESA Competition Commission and the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD) sponsored the Forum.
In his statement, the Director of the COMESA Competition Commission George Lipimile said his Commission would benefit from the work of the Forum will contribute to the development of best practices in the formulation and effective enforcement of competition and consumer protection laws and policies so as to promote development.
The other people that addressed the Forum were Dr. Alessandro Nicita, Economist at the (UNCTAD) and the Regional Director at the Trade and Development Bank, James Kabuga and Director of Trade and Customs, COMESA, Dr. Francis Mangeni.
Among the research papers presented on the first day of the forum were: Science, Technology and Innovation Policy for Human Development in Africa; Non-tariff measures: Economic Assessment and Policy options for development and an update on the establishment of the COMESA Virtual University of Regional Integration.
Since 2014 COMESA has been organising 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.