The WTO’s first online Regional Trade Policy Course (eRTPC) for English-speaking African countries concluded on 20 August, with 26 government officials representing 16 WTO members and observers attending the 14-week training activity which began on 17 May. The course covered the WTO agreements and other trade-related matters, including regional trade policy issues.
The training activity for English-speaking Africa was the third eRTPC that the WTO has delivered since the COVID-19 pandemic struck last year, and the first one for Africa. The government officials were from Botswana, Egypt, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Uganda and Zambia.
Organized by the WTO’s Institute for Training and Technical Cooperation (ITTC), in partnership with the University of Mauritius, the course sought to ensure that trade-related technical assistance continued to be available despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
In her keynote video address delivered at the closing ceremony of this course, the Director of the WTO’s Institute for Training and Technical Cooperation (ITTC), Ms Bridget Chilala, highlighted that the course had taken place at a critical moment for global trade, which was severely impacted by the COVID‑19 pandemic. WTO members are grappling with how to ensure that international trade continues to play a crucial role in economic growth, in development and in addressing poverty and inequality, Ms Chilala noted. Given these circumstances, Ms Chilala said that the course participants had “picked an opportune time to learn more about the WTO, what it stands for, and to explore together the challenges and opportunities that the multilateral trading system provides.”
Professor Rajendra Parsad Gunputh, Dean of the Faculty of Law and Management, University of Mauritius, also addressed the participants at the closing ceremony of the eRTPC via audio recording. Professor Gunputh congratulated the participants for their successful completion of the 14-week course, despite the challenges they faced during this period. He was grateful for the opportunity granted to the University of Mauritius to play a crucial role in this project and looked forward to future collaborative opportunities.
The participants expressed appreciation for the eRTPC, noting that it better equipped them to engage in trade-related discourse and assist their governments in making better informed decisions. Several indicated that the eRTPC had broadened and deepened their understanding of the multilateral trading system. The participants also welcomed the opportunity to meet and interact with a wide range of WTO professionals, regional experts and other African government officials, with whom they hope to continue engaging. The participants’ testimonials can be viewed here.
The eRTPC replicated most of the training components offered by face‑to‑face regional trade policy courses, but with adaptations made to accommodate the online environment. For instance, the face‑to‑face RTPC usually runs for eight weeks while the duration of the eRTPC was 14 weeks, which allowed participants to continue working while undertaking the course.
While online training presented challenges, it also offered opportunities such as access to a wider diversity of expertise from within the WTO community since they did not need to travel to deliver training. In the same vein, the online nature of the eRTPC offered the WTO Secretariat an opportunity for greater collaboration with other capacity-building institutions working on international trade-related issues in the African region. Indeed, through the innovation of the so-called “Tuesday lobby sessions”, participants of the eRTPC gained knowledge of the practical impact of international trade in Africa through webinars showcasing the trade-related work of institutions such as the University of Mauritius, the International Trade Centre, the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF), the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), the Africa Trade Policy Centre (ATPC) of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the Advisory Centre on WTO Law (ACWL).
In addition, on 18 August 2021, the eRTPC hosted a virtual roundtable discussion on trade and finance in Africa. This discussion brought together several distinguished trade and finance experts from the WTO and from the African region to address issues pertaining to access to trade finance, a topic of pressing relevance to the African region. The virtual roundtable featured guest speakers from the African Export-Import (Afrexim) Bank, UNECA, the African Development Bank (AfDB), Mauritius Africa Fintech Hub (MAFH), and the EIF. The event was attended by more than 230 individuals, mostly from Africa and Europe, from diverse affiliations including government, the private sector, intergovernmental organizations, and non-governmental organizations.
Culled from WTO News