The UNCTAD-WTO-ITC workshop on trade policy analysis organized by the Vi with financial support from the government of Finland last October has already produced concrete results in teaching, research and policy advice to governments in participating countries.
“At the Vi, we believe that the measure of success of our professional development workshops lies in the extent to which our graduates apply the new knowledge in their work,” said Vi Chief, Vlasta Macku.
Results from a six-month post evaluation show that participating academics have used the knowledge and skills from the workshop to enrich their university courses, develop research papers and provide training or research inputs to governments.
Lecturers from Bangladesh, Burundi, Egypt, Lao PDR, Lesotho, Nigeria and Togo, for example, used workshop materials to add valuable content to their existing courses.
"As a lecturer, I was able to update my notes with the most up-to-date information gotten from you,” reports Montseng Tsolo, of the National University of Lesotho. “I teach International Trade and most of the material on Tariffs and Non-Tariff Measures came very handy in my course."
Phouphet Kyophilavong, of the National University of Laos, writes: "I am using materials and skills from the training for my lecture on Applied Econometrics, and I am going to use some of this material to produce a textbook on Applied Econometrics for undergraduate students."
Sharif Hossain, of Jagannath University in Bangladesh, reported using the workshop materials in teaching the gravity model to the students of his International Economics course, while Anani Nourredine Mensah, of Togo's University of Lomé, translated the presentations on the gravity model and the partial equilibrium model into French to use them in his graduate course on International Trade.
The tools and knowledge from the workshop also facilitated research undertaken by participants from Bangladesh, Botswana, Cameroon, Egypt, South Africa, Togo, Uganda and Vietnam.
"Using some of the materials from the workshop, I was able to complete my ongoing proposal on Product Standards and Africa’s Agricultural Exports, which was accepted for a grant not only for a year, but two years, under the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP),” writes Olayinka Idowu from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. He added that another of his papers, resulting from “the ideas on research topics in trade policies given to us at the workshop” was accepted for the forthcoming Global Trade Analysis Project (GTAP) conference."
"The workshop enabled me to open up my vision and think of new variables and issues while researching international trade, beyond traditional ones. This was useful to my ongoing research project on the analysis of China’s cotton market with focus on Egyptian cotton. Based on the workshop, I decided to rethink my assumptions and consider, for the first time, the influence of factors such as the Tariff Rate Quota and other related variables, which made me expand my research questions and led to more interesting results", reports Assem Abu Hatab from Egypt, currently on a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Uppsala in Sweden.
Manfred Kouty of Vi core Cameroonian member, the University of Yaoundé II, wrote a paper on trade and income inequality in developing countries using the materials from the workshop, while Albert Makochekanwa, of the USAID Souther Africa Trade Hub, used SMART methodology to develop a paper which she presented at the annual conference of Oxford University's Centre for the Study of African Economies held in March.
Isaac Shinyekwa, of Uganda’s Economic Policy Research Centre, with the increased understanding of the gravity model derived from the workshop, is currently working on research papers on trade creation and trade diversion effects of the East African Community (EAC) regional trade agreement, and on comparing the performance of Uganda intra-EAC trade with other trading blocs.
The workshop has also been useful in strengthening the link between researchers and policymakers.
“I have so far used the techniques learnt at the workshop to present my work to policymakers in what we term ‘targeted dissemination’,” writes Shinyekwa. I presented two papers to this effect. Overall, there has been demand for our work by the Ministry of East African Community Affairs."
"I have been able to use not only the materials distributed, but also the knowledge shared/transferred by the resource persons and the diplomats in policy advice to the Honourable Minister of Trade and Investment in Nigeria (through the Chair of Institutional Framework sub-committee of the Nigeria Trade Policy Review Committee) and consultancy work on the Trade Policy Review of Nigeria, which we have just concluded early this year," added Idowu.
In addition, Kyophilavong provided training on trade analysis, as well as research guidance, to the economists at the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, using the knowledge and skills he gained from the workshop.
The workshop also raised interest among academics from universities which are not yet members of the Virtual Institute in establishing closer cooperation.
"I have great interest in ensuring that the University of Botswana becomes a member of Vi,” Sekolokwane said. “I am concerned that graduates finish school knowing only theory and nothing practical about international trade issues. So that's one of the contributions I want to make to my country."
Moi University in Kenya, where Willy Marcel Ndayitwayeko, of Burundi, is preparing his PhD project, has already become a Vi member, and membership discussions are under way with universities in Bangladesh, Botswana, Lao PDR and South Africa.