Eighty-two academics, policymakers and representatives of civil society in 60 countries successfully completed the first edition of the Virtual Institute online course on structural transformation and industrial policy. Held November 1 to December 19 with funding from the Government of Finland, the course succeeded in preparing participants to contribute to policy design and enrich their academic work.

“The course has opened up a wide landscape of knowledge and skills we Least Developed Countries need to emulate in our quest for structural transformation with the aim of catching up with modern industrialization trends geared toward ending poverty,” said Themba Simelane, trade practitioner at the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade in Swaziland. 

Based on the Vi teaching material on structural transformation and industrial policy.the course reviews theories and empirical findings on these topics, introducing their role in socio- economic development.

“Malawi's economy is predominantly agricultural with the agriculture sector contributing to 36 percent of GDP and employing 85 percent of labor,” said Malonje Makwemba, Director of Finance of the Malawi Investment and Trade Centre. “It is therefore imperative that the country join other countries that have moved from poverty to prosperity through pragmatic structural transformation policies. Having attended the course I am confident that I can effectively contribute to our policy advocacy role and offer alternative solutions that would help my country to be on the path of industry-led economic growth.”

All participants agreed that the course met or exceeded their expectations and found the course well designed and the material extremely interesting. They particularly praised the course tutor, Francesca Guadaño, for the quality of her support, her dedication and her ability to make a complicated topic understandable.

“I really learned a lot from this course, beyond expectations I should say. This was my first online course and it was quite exciting and enlightening,” said Tamuka Joel Mukura, lecturer at Vi core member, the Univesity of Zimbabwe. “The content was excellent and the evaluation top notch. Francesca is quite knowledgeable in the area and was in total control. Even the reference material that she continues to give in response to online form queries testifies to this. Hats off to her and team.”

Overall, participants feel confident about using their newfound knowledge in their teaching, research or policy advice work and some have already started applying what they have learned.

“The course came at a time when the negotiations toward the WTO 11th ministerial were ongoing,” said Stanley Mwendia, of Kenya’s Permanent Mission in Geneva. “As a delegate for developing countries, the course helped me understand the trade and development implications and contribute to the debate through, for example, writing some background notes for fellow delegates. The negotiations will be ongoing beginning next year and I will continue using the knowledge acquired to push for policy space for developing economies.”

“The quantitative part was interesting,” said Tareq Muhammad Shamsul Arefin, member coordinator at Vi Banagladeshi core member, Jagannath University.  “The instructor explains in detail the estimation techniques of the papers discussed in the course which enhanced my quantitative skills and confidence to apply the same techniques in my personal research project.”