Building capacity to help Africa trade better

tralac Alumni Roundtable 2011


tralac Alumni Roundtable 2011

tralac Alumni Roundtable 2011

In 2006, tralac launched a postgraduate programme to build trade law and policy capacity, particularly in African governments. The programme is presented in collaboration with the Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town, which has recently been ranked by the Financial Times among the top five Business Schools based in emergent markets, which includes South Africa’s BRIC partner countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), and as offering the best value for money MBA in the world.

The University of Cape Town accredits and awards the Postgraduate Diploma in Management Practice (Trade Law and Policy) which combines the three disciplines of trade law, trade policy and management to assist African countries not only to build technical trade law and policy capacity but also to build institutional capacity to strengthen policy making and implementation processes at national and regional levels.

In conjunction with the 2011 Annual Conference, tralac launched its Alumni Network, and held its first Alumni Roundtable on Friday, 9 September 2011. This Roundtable was presented by alumni of tralac’s Postgraduate Diploma Programme – they shared their perspectives on regional integration in east and southern Africa. See below to download the presentations made at the Roundtable.

Introductory remarks by Trudi Hartzenberg 

tralac launched the Postgraduate Diploma Programme (in Management Practice – Trade Law and Policy) in January 2006, and although graduates from the programme have been contributing actively to various tralac programmes, this workshop officially launches the network of tralac Alumni. We do hope on future occasions to bring together even more trade law and policy experts from this programme and also from the short course programmes that tralac offers.

The Postgraduate Programme is an academic qualification (accredited and awarded by the University of Cape Town), combining three disciplines trade law, trade policy and management.

Why these three disciplines?

While it is obvious that an inter-disciplinary approach (combining trade law and economics) is important to build the capacity to make sound trade policy, negotiate and implement international trade agreements, and to assess the contribution of trade to development; the inclusion of management may not be as obvious.

As the trade agenda has expanded, beyond trade in goods to services and other new generation issues; trade policy processes have become increasingly complex, require stakeholder coordination and institutional collaboration within the public sector as well as, with the private sector and other non-sate actors (including academia and NGOs). Effective trade policy making therefore requires the management of input from this broad range of stakeholders, balancing specific interests to ensure coherence and consistency within the overall policy strategy.

Trade policy making requires not only technical capacity on trade matters, but also the development of strong institutions, both in the sense of ‘the rules of the game’ and institutions as organizations. Institutional capacity (in both senses) is necessary for the development of trade policy, the negotiation and the implementation of international trade agreements. The incentive frameworks within our trade-related organizations should encourage and facilitate ongoing learning, the transfer of learning and the development of policies, processes and procedures for optimal application of technical skills to develop and manage trade policy in this complex environment.

The post-graduate Diploma in Management Practice (Trade Law and Policy), which we have been offering for the past 5 years, in collaboration the Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town, brings together the three disciplines – trade law, trade policy and management to address both individual (technical) and institutional capacity requirements.

The programme follows a mixed-modality approach to learning, combining residential learning modules with distance learning. This means that our participants are not taken out of the work environment for an extended period of time, but rather for short modules, and then return to work to directly apply the progamme learning. The progamme is also anchored institutionally; with buy-in and support from the participant's manager and institution. The management component in particular assists participants to develop a professional skills set, supporting their learning process within sometimes difficult institutional settings. Mechanisms for transfer of learning are still not common in these organizations; and for newly trained/capacitated individuals, it may well be that they are back to the same job as before, with little opportunity for application of new knowledge and skills. This certainly contributes to high staff turnover in some of these organizations.

The postgraduate programme has been supported by the Dutch Embassy, AusAID and more recently DANIDA. This first Alumni Workshop brings together some of the graduates of the programme, and we’ve asked them to share with us their experiences and perspectives on national and regional trade matters. They will share with us their views on trade-related capacity needs in our region (east and southern Africa).

During the past year we’ve been working on upgrading the progamme to the Masters level and we are very pleased to announce in 2012 we will have the first intake of students on the Masters programme. We will also be introducing, in 2013, a Masters programme with options for specialization in a range of different trade topics, including trade in services, investment, competition policy , customs management and trade facilitation.

On this occasion we can reflect on the trade capacity building challenges in our region, but also to share positive experiences and find ways of collaborating to build stronger trade policy processes and legal and institutional frameworks for better trade outcomes. It is not possible for a small organization such as tralac to have all the capacity necessary to offer programmes such as these. Institutional partnerships and the input by experts from the region and further afield are therefore extremely important to ensure quality delivery of the programmes. tralac remains however the institutional anchor for the trade component of the progamme; this means that it is important that we continue to build our own capacity in key areas.

The challenge is to strategically identify what these key anchor areas should be and how tralac can continue learning to ensure that the necessary capacity is available inhouse. As an example, 5 years ago, we recognized that services would become a very important trade issue for countries in the east and southern African region. At that stage we didn't have any capacity in this area within tralac. Our strategy was to enlist external support; in this case from the World Trade Organisation. Patrick Low, Chief Economist of the WTO, presented the services module of the postgraduate programme for 2 cycles, while tralac staff took the opportunity to learn alongside our students. Following these 2 cycles, tralac staff were able to offer this module on the progamme.

In conclusion, we would like to thank you all of you who have contributed to the development and delivery of the tralac/Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town progamme.


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