Capacity Building at tralac – Geek Week, October 2012
Taku Fundira, tralac Researcher, discusses tralac’s latest ‘Geek Week’
As a part of the tralac’s capacity building initiative, tralac hosted officials from a number of government departments and other institutions for a Geek Week held at tralac’s offices in Stellenbosch from 9-12 October 2012. A Geek Week is designed to take participants through a complete and comprehensive training exercise that makes a valuable contribution to areas of interest to their institutions and others working in these trade data research and policy advice areas.
Geek Weeks have become an important part of tralac’s trade policy capacity building initiatives. A small group (6 – 12 participants) spends a week at tralac where they work on a specific project or projects. A project could focus, for example on intra-regional trade in eastern and southern Africa, and include a trade flow and tariff analysis in addition to an assessment of non-tariff barriers for selected products. Different parts of the project are allocated to members of the team, and an important component of this exercise is policy analysis. By the end of the week the team will have prepared a draft research paper. This means that participants have some research output to take back to their department or organisation, and also have contributed to a publication. Tralac considers that this Geek week provided participants with valuable training covering the spectrum of what is needed from the modern trade policy analyst.
This Geek Week was attended by three persons from South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry (the dti), two from the Western Cape Department of Agriculture, one from National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC), one from Invest North West in South Africa, one from the South African Table Grape Industry (SATI), one from the Agribusiness Chamber (ABC) and two from tralac.
During the week, teams of (generally) two people worked on the following exercises:
The performance of imports from South Africa into the EU and the impact of the TDCA: This exercise updated a previous study undertaken at a 2010 Geek Week, which assessed the performance of over 5,000 import lines from South Africa into the EU market over the period December 2000 to December 2009. The analytical technique was to assess the average performance of South Africa in the EU market relative to its competitors and from that point assess every HS line with meaningful trade against the average performances of firstly the EU imports and secondly South Africa’s performance in these lines against the overall average. The analysis concluded that South Africa had done very well in the EU market to that point. The objective for this exercise was to update the 2009 analysis by using data extended through to December 2011.
An assessment of South Africa’s agricultural exports to the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China): This exercise aims to explore how South Africa’s agricultural sector can be positioned within the BRICS configuration, and to identify opportunities that the BRICS formation creates for South African agricultural exports.
An assessment of Brazil and Russia’s exports of manufactured products into Africa: This exercise is an extension of earlier tralac work that focussed on South Africa’s and China’s exports of manufactured products into Africa where the objective was to assess the recent export performance of South African industrial goods to the African market compared with the rise of China in that same market. This was done by analysing the World Trade Atlas data for both South Africa and China, and this was extended during Geek Week to also look at Russia and India and Brazil. The data was examined both at the aggregate level to assess the big picture, and, at the more detailed levels, to examine the niche markets where South Africa may be outperforming China, Brazil, Russia and India, or, in a more pessimistic scenario, examine where South Africa at least is doing comparatively better.
An assessment of intra-regional trade amongst 5 main players in the envisaged COMESA-EAC-SADC tripartite FTA: With interest in the region becoming focussed on the so-called Tripartite Agreement between the 27 economies of southern and eastern Africa the problems of such an agreement for many of the smaller economies is becoming apparent. In this exercise we started an examination of the implications for the region of “the big 5” players of South Africa, Egypt, Kenya, Mauritius and Zambia that are possibly more amenable to regional integration in effect going alone on integration. This is essentially the European Union model, where back in 1960 the initial six founding members of the EU were established and since that time the still continuing process of extension has absorbed more countries as they meet the membership criteria. An initial examination of the trade data between “the big 5” was carried out.