Work programmes

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 The DAIAT initiative will promote the use of big data and advanced data science to facilitate African trade between the continents through implementing five interdependent and collaborative work programs. 

Work program 1: Identification of export opportunities

This work prorgram is motivated by the need for the expansion of African countries' exports at the extensive margin.

During this work program a decision-support model for export opportunity identification  will be developed for Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Burkina Faso,  and Tanzania. These are five countries that have seen relatively fast growth in industrialization since 2010 and which may need access to expanded markets to continue to raise productivity growth. 

For each of the five countries the detailed opportunities to export to Ireland, and for Ireland to export to these countries, will be identified, using advanced data analytics. Such mutual opportunity identification will support the engagement of Ireland with these countries based on a mutual advantageous expansion of trade. It will also generate a template for expanding to other EU countries in future.

The second aim of this work program would be to consider the availability of export data per region, firm - i.e., decentralized export data in Africa. Most government (e.g., through the tax revenue departments) have access to this data but tend not to make this available. This may impose an information cost / gap on trade.

This work program  is co-ordinated by Dr. Martin Cameron from Trade Research Advisory (Pty) Ltd, based in Pretoria, South Africa.

Work program 2: Matching exporters and importers

This work program is motivated by the need to break information gaps and assymetries, and better match exporters and importers in Africa's trade. 

The program will explore the development of online and open access tools for matching potential exporters and importers from Africa and Europe and for assisting export promotion agencies.

Working through the network of the Machine Intelligence Institute of Africa (MIIA) and using Zindi, the continent’s largest data science platform competition, various innovative trade-tech solutions will be explored to improve the matching of African and EU based businesses. This could include competitions to seek innovation solutions, e.g., such as recommender engines, that can alert potential exporters to opportunities.

This work program is co-ordinated by Dr. Jacques Ludik from the Machine Intelligence Institute of Africa, based in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Work program 3: Trade for structural transformation

The work program is based on the need for exports to contribute better to industrialization in Africa. 

Africa’s development ultimately depends on achieving productivity-enhancing structural transformation. Exporting can be an important driver of such structural transformation.

Therefore, the consortium will conduct further research into, and understanding of, the links between trade and industrialization, and how for instance new export opportunities can be utilised by strengthening a country’s industrial platform.

Data science capabilities can help African countries to develop their policies and strategies to make better use of the AfCFTA and for driving Export-Led Growth (ELG). However, many countries do not have capacity and resources to e.g., develop models and apply these to help inform better fact-based policy and even company-level decision making.

Moreover, building African capacity in data science in this respect will require development of training and teaching material on Entrepreneurship in Analytics and AI.

This work program is co-ordinated by Professor Fiona Tregenna from the University of Johannesburg, South Africa.

Work program 4: Trade for sustainability and the circular economy

This work program is based on the need to reduce the carbon footprint of trade.

Furthering the understanding of the role of Africa’s particular position in global value chains on the fight against climate change. Transportation and logistics contribute significantly to global greenhouse gas emissions. Increasing African trade and associated industrial development will therefore pose significant challenges in this regard. From the EU-Africa trade perspective this is indeed pertinent given that the European Commission’s Trade Review 2021 made it clear that “The Commission’s resolve for the next decade is to […] promote value chains that are circular, responsible and sustainable.”

Given that African countries will need significant investments in transport and transport infrastructure, the continent may be less dependent on legacy investments, and in a position to start new investments in infrastructure and transport modalities that are less carbon intensive and even carbon neutral. Data-driven solutions, including the real time tracking of transported goods, the impact of AI on circular-trade, and the role of digitization, including 3D printing and related technologies to reduce the carbon footprint from trade, will be the central point of departure from which these challenges will be examined.

A particular focus within this work program will be on maritime transport and maritime transport infrastructure such as ports, as these are currently the major modes of trade movements to and from Africa. How African ports can act as “act as decarbonisation hubs” will be explored and the relevance of such initiatives in EU for Africa will be examined.

In addition, this work program will be concerned to derive more accurate data on transport and logistical dimensions affecting African exports. Once issue that needs to be addressed, is to find accurate measures of distance to ports and markets for African-based exporters. At present, most approaches uses the geodesic distance.

Finally, there are potential challenges arising from the planned implementation of the EU’s carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM). This will put a premium on the extent to which African countries can adjust to meet new requirements, as well as identifying new opportunities for exporting environmental goods to the EU. The implications for data capturing, measurement, and data access for research and policy development will be derived.

This work program is co-ordinated by Professor Wim Naudé from University College Cork, Ireland.

Work program 5: Gender-responsive trade and investment policies

This work program is motivated by the need to increase the participation of women entrepreneurs in international trade. 

In the Buenos Aires Declaration on Trade and Women’s Economic Empowerment, 123 countries have committed themselves to increase women’s participation in trade. The consortium will, in collaboration with UNCTAD, focus on gathering and use trade data that will facilitate gender-responsive trade and investment policies.

It will be a cross-cutting priority of the consortium to ensure that export opportunity identification be considered from the perspective of empowering women entrepreneurs in exporting as well as to more broadly maximizing the benefits of trade for women in African countries.

This work program is  co-ordinated by Dr. Amelia Santos-Paulino from UNCTAD, Geneva, Switzerland.

Data and Artificial Intelligence for African Trade Initiative

Room AL2.05, Áras Na Laoi, University College Cork, Ireland, T12 K8AF

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