Voice of business in policy to boost COMESA services trade: new ITC-CBC study

19 April 2016
ITC News
The report highlights a need for stronger cross-border business support services and direct participation of services suppliers in the regional integration process to accelerate trade, economic growth and employment in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa

Services trade in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) – which accounts for more than half of its gross domestic product (GDP) – outpaces traditional manufacturing and agriculture in driving growth and employment, and presents strong potential for further expansion.

A new report called Services in COMESA – An Industry Perspective: Integrating the Voice of Business in Policy by the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the COMESA Business Council (CBC) finds that stronger participation of the private sector in the policymaking process will create a more business-friendly environment.

The report, based on extensive private sector consultations in the region, is being launched on 19–20 April at the COMESA Business Council (CBC)’s first public-private dialogue for information and communications technology (ICT) services industries, in Nairobi, Kenya.

Businesses consulted for the study expressed a need for cross-border business support services and direct participation in the regional integration process. As competitiveness of the services sectors often depends on policies and regulatory practices that shape the services business environment, the voice of services-oriented businesses in policymaking is essential.

To facilitate this process, the report offers regional data for key services industries – tourism, transport, finance and telecommunications – as well as ‘services snapshots’ for each COMESA country. It also identifies key constraints to trade, such as challenges of size, funding and know-how, and recommends solutions.

A core recommendation of the report is a call for services business groupings to join forces in a Regional Services Industries Group, to collectively advocate the interests of the private sector through collaboration with governments. The report charts a four-phase roadmap to establish a coalition of services industries as a step towards stronger regional trade.

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