A partnership with academia

Building knowledge for trade and development


Vi Commodity Workshop in FrenchA second edition of the commodity workshop (Dakar, Senegal, 5-9 June 2006) gathered participants from French-speaking African universities and research institutes. The objective was to present the training package developed by the Vi and the UNCTAD Commodity Branch, and to discuss participants' teaching and research of commodity issues and the ways of enhancing them. The participants left very motivated and with concrete ideas about how they will use the materials and tools from the workshop in their academic work.

The workshop, financially supported by the Governments of Finland and Canada, and UNCTAD’s Special Programme for Least Developed, Landlocked and Island Developing Countries, was organized in cooperation with the Centre for Applied Economic Research of the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, a member of the Virtual Institute. It was attended by 21 participants from universities and research institutes of 10 African countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Central African Republic, Senegal, Togo).

The participants particularly appreciated the tailoring of the workshop to the needs of the academic audience, and the inclusion of a simulation exercise on the negotiation of a common external tariff for ECOWAS, which provided them an opportunity to gain an understanding of the international trade negotiation processes. After being exposed to the simulation, they had fully realized the need for a thorough preparation for the negotiation, including the substantiation of arguments, and the need for developing countries to train qualified negotiators defending their national interests. They also better understood the challenges of such negotiations, both for developing country negotiators, and secretariats of regional groupings.

A number of concrete ideas were proposed with regard to the utilization of workshop material in participants' teaching. These include use in graduate and post-graduate courses on Development Economics, Agricultural Economics, Rural Development, Sustainable Development, International Trade, Macroeconomics and others. Two participants envisage developing a specific course dealing with commodities – the University of Dakar that would include it in their Masters on Rural Economics, and the University of Ouagadougou.

Following the workshop, participants also felt more interested and motivated to undertake commodity-related research. Their plans include drafting of articles, such as on Commodities and poverty in Burkina Faso, or research papers, such as on the negotiations strategy for cotton producers at the WTO. Several participants also decided to work together on a research proposal addressing the issue of commodities production and trade and its impact on poverty in their countries. The knowledge from the workshop will serve as input for consultancy work – advice to the association of cocoa and coffee producers in Côte d’Ivoire and the preparation of the second generation of the national poverty reduction strategy in Mali.