Capacity building at tralac – Geek Week, 4-8 May 2015
As an essential part of its capacity building initiative, tralac conducted a week-long trade data accessing, collation and interpretation training workshop (also known as ‘Geek Week’) at its offices in Stellenbosch, from Monday 4th to Friday 8th May, 2015. Participants came from the National Agricultural Marketing Council, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and IMANI Development. The training was conducted by Professor Ron Sandrey (tralac Associate) and tralac Researcher William Mwanza.
The participants were divided into two groups and through a ‘hands on’ approach to obtaining, analysing and interpreting international trade data, produced draft papers in the following areas:
Black holes in African trade data. In an era when the regional emphasis is focussed on broader trade and economic integration the need for quality data and sound interpretation of this data is paramount. While the availability of African data is certainly improving there are still some questions that arise. A black hole is defined in Wikipedia as a mathematically defined region of space-time exhibiting such a strong gravitational pull that no particle or electromagnetic radiation can escape from it. At times Africa trade data seems to exhibit these same characteristics, as attempts to reconcile data between bilateral partners can result in interesting situations where data seems to have plunged into one of these black holes. Several of our tralac trade data publications have uncovered evidence of these black holes, and the objective for this paper was to examine and possibly explain some of these.
In mid-November 2013, the South African Revenue Service (SARS) announced the revision of trade statistics that entailed the inclusion of the trade data from the BLNS, which were previously excluded in the compilation of trade statistics. This follows the comprehensive modernisation of systems to incorporate international trade transactions. The revision covered trade data from 2010 to 2012 and then moving forward. A comprehensive analysis of South Africa’s trade with BLNS is therefore only possible since this revision, and we took advantage of this improved data for South Africa along with BLNS data from the SACU Secretariat to analyse the intra-SACU agricultural trade data in detail.
The participants at the Geek Week were: