A partnership with academia

Building knowledge for trade and development


altA fellow from Vi core member in Uganda, Timothy Esemu (pictured, far right), Academic Head of the Department of Marketing and International Business at the Makerere University Business School (MUBS),completed his 6-week teaching project at UNCTAD October 31.

In view of the growing importance of global value chains (GVCs) for developing countries, Esemu decided to develop a new course on Global Value Chains Management, to be included in the Master's in International Business currently offered by his university.

His project proposal was selected for support by the Virtual Institute, which, thanks to the grant provided by the government of Finland, offered Esemu a 6-week fellowship in Geneva to develop the content of his course, identify suitable readings, and prepare lecture materials.

During his stay in Geneva, Esemu benefited from support by Rashmi Banga, of the Division on Globalization and Development Strategies, as well as consultations with Axèle Giroud and Fulvia Farinelli, of the Division on Investment and Enterprise. This advice was complemented by discussions with several experts from the International Trade Centre (ITC). Esemu also attended several GVC-related meetings at UNCTAD, the World Trade Organization and ITC.

"Through the Vi, I was able to expand my network of contacts with leading professionals working on GVCs in different contexts," specified Esemu.

The course he developed focuses on three main issues. First, it addresses theoretical and conceptual issues that underpin relationships between the main actors in modern GVCs. Second, it provides students with the tools enabling them to measure and evaluate the participation of these actors in GVCs. Finally, the course looks at the participation of developing country SMEs in GVCs, the challenges they face and the policies that could help them become more competitive and move up to higher levels of value addition in GVCs.

"(The fellowship) has helped me to widen my multidisciplinary approach to the teaching of GVC management, especially the nexus between theory, practice and policy," said Esemu.

At the end of the fellowship, he presented the results of his work to the Permanent Mission of Uganda in Geneva.

"The course is very timely and could provide useful tools to the government trade negotiating team", said Michael Wamai (pictured, left), First Secretary at the mission, making reference to the current discussions at the WTO and in the Enhanced Integrated Framework. In his view, developing countries need to have better understanding of GVCs, including their benefits and pitfalls, to be able to make informed decisions in international trade negotiations and formulate appropriate national policies.

To this end, "we have to create linkages between researchers and policymakers, and interest people in the government to get involved in this course", he added.

He also emphasized the need to integrate this course into capacity building programmes on trade and development in Uganda and provided concrete ideas with regard to possible training for the government, as well as a contribution of the MUBS to the country's inter-institutional trade committee.

"His suggestions to strengthen the role of MUBS in supporting both government and the private sector in trade development and participation in GVCs were very valuable", acknowledged Esemu.

Back at home, Esemu intends to prepare the course for delivery starting February 2015, and also develop shorter courses on GVCs for the private sector and policymakers. He also plans to prepare research projects on how SMEs in Uganda could minimize the risks and maximize the benefits of participating in GVCs.