The Saana Institute recently participated in TradeMark East Africa’s Symposium on Regional Integration, Trade, Growth and Poverty held in Nairobi, Kenya between November 3-4th. The two-day conference, combined with the annual TMEA Stakeholders Forum, featured presentations and panels show-casing the latest research on the trade-growth-poverty nexus. The event included an update on the progress made by TMEA programmes and the outlook for the second phase of TMEA due to start in 2016.

The Saana Institute team preseTMEASymposiumpicnted three research papers at the symposium. In the opening plenary session, Julia Lipowiecka presented a paper on “The segmented nature of informal cross-border trade (ICBT) in East Africa and the implications for Aid for Trade interventions”. Through an in-depth analysis of the structure of trade in the region, the presentation painted a more complex picture of how various economic and political incentives push traders into informality and recommended a two-pronged approach for Aid for Trade interventions seeking to address ICBT in the region.

In the second session, Quentin de Roquefeuil’s presentation compared the experiences of ECOWAS and EAC in terms of managing their Common External Tariff. The presentation reviewed the mechanisms by which member states are allowed to suspend CET rates in the two RECs, and reflected on how these measures could be phased out or modified in view of the consolidation of their Customs Unions.

In a parallel session, Petter Lammi’s presentation explored opportunities for building poverty-impact evaluations into the design of TMEA’s current and future phases in order to generate more rigorous, micro-level evidence on the relationship between trade and poverty and measure project attribution.

SymposiumParticipantsAll three presentations by the Saana Institute were very well received by the audience, and generated dynamic and fruitful discussions on the topics. The Symposium brought to the fore some of the success stories from TMEA stakeholders in East Africa about how progress in regional trade and integration has helped generate economic growth and poverty reduction in the region. Nevertheless an overarching message emerging from the event was the need for more rigorous micro and macroeconomic research on the channels through which trade and regional integration impact upon the poor as consumers and producers of traded goods, picking out the different challenges and opportunities for both formal and informal traders.