Training the next generation of trade negotiators in Zambia

You may not expect a graduate of an arts degree to say that a trade policy course was their favourite subject, but if you ask Zondwayo Duma from Zambia, that’s exactly what he’ll tell you

After four years studying at the University of Zambia, this final year course was the one that cemented his career path.

“The Trade Policy and Development course is a rich and practical course. It empowered me with skills I treasure so much,” Duma says.

Soon after graduating, Duma took a number of internships where he could directly apply the knowledge and skills he gained – from trade data retrieval and analysis to competition law.

“I have been able to teach colleagues at my previous organization and at the Zambia Association of Manufacturers where I am currently handling several trade issues as an intern. In fact, the acting CEO is a former student of the course,” he says.

Duma is one of the 103 alumni who have graduated since the course began in 2013. The course was instigated when the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry realised that Zambia had insufficient experts on trade negotiations, trade law and competition law.

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With support from the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), which is helping Zambia reduce poverty and promote sustainable development by integrating into the international trading system, the Ministry approached the University of Zambia to collaborate on a different kind of training program.

“Our aim was to create a university course that equipped graduates to contribute to the formulation of trade policy and provide input in trade negotiations,” says Griffin Nyirongo, EIF Project Manager at Zambia’s Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry.

A DIFFERENT APPROACH

Offered under the Department of Development Studies, the course takes a different approach to traditional university subjects, which are often criticised for being largely theoretical.

“We designed this course to teach real world skills to students so they are able to work efficiently and be able to champion the development of Zambia,” says Wisdom Kaleng’a, head of the Department of Development Studies at the University of Zambia and one of the key designers of the course.

“The new course is very practical — with guest lectures from trade policy practitioners. The students have responded well to this approach.”

The course has attracted a number of partners from government, the private sector and civil society who are supporting the course by giving guest lectures, providing internships to students and training the university lecturers.

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The National Board of Trade of Sweden has also sent 12 of its experts as guest lecturers in the course since 2015. 

“Students are so happy that they are able to learn something very different and very new from experts who are involved in the field of trade policy and development,” added Kaleng’a

Kaleng’a recalls Isabelle Ahlström from the National Board of Trade delivering the first guest lecture on an introduction to trade policy. The first guest lecture exposed the inadequacy of the UNZA lecture facilities, as the IT facilities were not up to scratch, and a different lecture theatre was required.

“We were lucky to have the Swedish embassy in Lusaka offer us a venue for these guest lectures and they provided transport and lunch to students so their welfare was cared for,” Kaleng’a says.

Each guest lecture has been a learning experience for Kaleng’a.

“I’ve learnt so much about trade policy as well as different teaching methodologies,” he says.

TRAINING-OF-TRAINERS

Seeing the success of the course, two other universities in Zambia — Mulungushi and Copperbelt Universities — have been keen to introduce a similar course in their programs.

“Each university is given the freedom to design its own program,” says Nyirongo.

The National Board of Trade offered to train lecturers from these universities through a training-of-trainers program. Lecturers participated in a program focusing on both teaching methodologies and concepts of learning as well as on trade policy through an advanced trade policy course, called “Trade Academy,” held in Stockholm each year. The Academy provides comprehensive knowledge of modern trade and trade regulations, as well as skills in analysing, formulating and implementing trade policy. This training program is intended to equip local teaching staff with the skills, confidence and knowledge to spearhead the teaching process independently of external ‘experts.’

Kaleng’a attended the training in October 2017 and says that the experience was, “hard to describe in a single sentence.”

“The knowledge we acquired was so vast. We left with tools, methods and information and the confidence to transfer this to our students. This will go a long way in teaching at the University of Zambia but also in my interactions in society,” he says.

REAL WORLD OPPORTUNITIES

Students are strongly encouraged to undertake internships during the course and the course partner organisations provide a good link to the real world opportunities that await them. 

“One alumnus is working at the Centre for Trade, Policy and Development. He was an intern initially and is now a full time employee. The director and other colleagues are very excited the knowledge and skills he already had before he got oriented to the mandate of the organisation. He is a key resource for them,” Kaleng’a says.

Cementing its leadership, the University of Zambia is now considering offering a shorter night course as professional development for people already in the workforce looking to brush up on their trade policy knowledge.

“Universities have a real role to play in trade and we will continue to spearhead trade policy education for Zambia’s national development,” Kaleng’a says. 

Building on this momentum, the EIF is supporting efforts to secure globally recognised accreditation for these courses providing increased linkages to firms and trade partners across the world. With the need to diversify Zambia's economy, provide more jobs and economic opportunities this new generation of trade professionals ensures that Zambia has the depth of skills to grow and tap into dynamic regional and global trade possibilities.