THE Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) region would annually gain US$17,5 billion in intra-regional exports if all the member states within the bloc fully implemented the digital trade facilitation reforms that involves the use of paperless trade facilitation measures.
According to research findings presented to the ongoing 5th Comesa Annual Research Forum in Nairobi, only five countries have the greatest intra-Comesa export trade potential for the region. These are Eritrea, Egypt, Sudan, Libya and Ethiopia. A researcher, Mr Adam Willie, a principal economist in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Enterprise Development in Zimbabwe, said this was based on their low baseline implementation score of the six digital trade facilitation measures in the study.
“The implementation scores used in the study only captured the paperless trade facilitation measures that enable efficient coodination and exchange of data and documents among Government border agencies and business community within a country,” Mr Adam explained.
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 the study.
The Comoros, DR Congo, 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.
Arising from these findings, 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 circumstances on why they have not been able to scale up implementation,” Mr Adam said, noting that ‘one size fits all policies’ may not work as there is greater variability in baseline implementation levels.
The five day-forum is reviewing the best 11 out of 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 the policy making for member states. Over 60 regional experts drawn from the academia, policy think tanks, government and private sector institutions and international organisations are participating in the forum.