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Virtual Institute core university members from France, Morocco and Senegal converged on Rabat November 8-10 for the sixth edition of the “Colloque International de Rabat,” organized by the Université Mohammed V - Souissi’s WTO Chair and the UN Economic Commission for Africa. 

The dialogue, titled “Trade of the Mediterranean countries in the context of political transitions underway: Problems and promises,” debated the effects of recent crises and the impact of emerging southern economies on developing countries in Northern Africa and the Middle East. 

“The political and economic changes that have affected Mediterranean countries in 2011, including the Arab Spring, the euro crisis and the rising importance of big economies from the South, provide both challenges and opportunities to the economies in the Mediterranean region,” said UNCTAD expert, Piergiuseppe Fortunato, of the Unit on Economic Cooperation and Integration among Developing Countries, whose intervention was facilitated by the Vi. 

Evidence presented by international, regional and national experts from academia, government and international organizations suggest that, despite successive financial, economic and sovereign debt crises which have negatively affected the Mediterranean countries since 2007, the long-term economic prospects for the region are favourable, Fortunato reported. 

“In fact, the internal dynamics of democratization and economic reform triggered by the Arab Spring and the revival of economic integration within the Arab Maghreb Union are likely to have important consequences on growth, trade, investment and eventually on the well-being of the North African population,” he added. 

Fortunato’s presentation, “The rise of the South and South-South development cooperation,” drew on UNCTAD’s research and compared the impact of this type of cooperation to that of traditional North-South linkages. 

His intervention was part of a special panel discussion chaired by Philippe Hugon, of France’s Institutde Relations Internationales et Stratégiques, in which Vi core French university member coordinator, Pierre Berthaud (Pierre Mendès France University), presented the findings of his research on the impact of major southern emerging powers (Brazil, India, China and South Africa) on global governance. 

Vi Senegalese core university members, Malick Sané and former Vi fellow, Chérif Sidi Kane, of Cheikh Anta Diop University, also contributed to the congress with presentations on the political and economic transition of West Africa during a dedicated session chaired by Berthaud. 

Sané, who also presided a panel discussion on inequality, contributed a presentation titled "The economic and financial crisis and international trade negotiations: What lessons for the countries of West Africa?" Kane, who also chaired a panel on sectoral approaches, made a presentation titled “Socio-political risk and foreign direct investment in West Africa." 

“The exchange on topical issues relating to development issues in Africa, and especially in Mediterranean countries was of a very high scientific level,” writes Sané. “It also helped to strengthen relationships between different participants, which could promote the development of South-South and North-South scientific cooperation.

“The conference has also allowed different members of the UNCTAD Virtual Institute to know each other better, and given participants the opportunity to learn about the benefits of joining the Vi,” he added. 

“In addition to the exchange of views between researchers and senior experts on issues relevant to the shores of the Mediterranean and Africa, this conference has allowed young Master’s and doctoral students to benefit from  the presence and experience of senior researchers,” reports Azzedine Ghoufrane, Vi member coordinator at the Université Mohammed V - Souissi.

“In this regard, the last day was devoted to a graduate workshop in which these young researchers and doctoral or Master's student exchanged views on the issues raised by the conference and on research methodologies.”

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