CHAMBO NG’UNI, Kabwe
TRADE has potential to transform nations from poor to developed ones, and some countries that are poor in natural resources thrive on mastering the knacks of international trade.Regional blocs all over the world are negotiating and rewriting trade deals because international trade has become the currency for development.
However, to reap the real benefits out of such trade treaties as the Continental Free Trade Area, Tripartite Free Trade Area and other regional and bilateral negotiations, a country needs accomplished trade experts.
Being an active player in international trade, Zambia is taking measures to strengthen her capacity in the formulation of trade policies and negotiating of trade deals.
Government realises that without a deliberate move to invest in human capital development, Zambia risks being disadvantaged in international trade.
Transnational trade is an essential part of economic activity all over the world because it guarantees economic growth and development through active participation of various economic agents in the exchange of goods and services.
This is why Zambia wants to build critical masses of trade experts using her tertiary institutions.
These are expected to help propel the country’s institutional capacity in trade by way of formulating trade policies and participating in trade negotiations at regional, continental and global levels
Through a mutually beneficial partnership, the Ministry of Commerce Trade and Industry, in collaboration with Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) programme, is introducing trade policy and economic development courses in universities.
The EIF programme is a global aid programme aimed at helping least developed countries (LDCs) like Zambia to effectively and efficiently build capacity to trade.
EIF supports LDCs to integrate trade into their overall national development strategies and build their capacity to trade so that they can become fully active players and beneficiaries of the multilateral trading system.
The ultimate goal of EIF is to support countries sustain the gains of trade capacity building and mainstreaming trade into their national development plans and strategies.
The public and private sectors, civil society and other organisations in Zambia are said to be experiencing the shortage of critical trade experts.
“It is against this background that my ministry, in collaboration with the Enhanced Integrated Framework programme, initiated discussions in 2011 with the University of Zambia (UNZA) on the possibility of introducing the trade policy and economic development course at the university.
“This culminated in the introduction of the trade policy and economic development (course) in general and trade in particular,” Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry Christopher Yaluma said in Kabwe recently.
As a lead trade negotiator, Mr Yaluma provides strategic leadership in the formulation and implementation of trade policies. Therefore his ministry is expected to benefit immensely from the human capital development that this initiative will bring about because it plays a leading role in trade policy analysis, negotiating trade deals and generally regulating trade in the country.
Tertiary institutions that offer training in courses such as international trade mainly teach theory.
Mr Yaluma, however, is emphasising the need for practical application of the trade policy and development course through the involvement of trade policy practitioners as guest lecturers.
It is important that the academia becomes very active in shaping trade policy and strategies of Zambia, the minister said.
Tertiary education is a critical component of human capital development and necessary multi-purpose vehicle for technological transfer that provides the relevant skills and expertise for the labour market.
UNZA, the trade policy and economic development course was introduced in 2013.
The same programme was also introduced recently at Mulungushi University in Kabwe.
The Zambian government introduced the course at the two universities with the support of the Swedish National Board of Trade.
Hellicy Ng’ambi, vice chancellor at Mulungushi University, says the introduction of the new course is an indication of the confidence Government has in the learning institution.
“The launch of the trade policy and economic development course is premised on its relevance to the industry,” Professor Ng’ambi said.
“Relevance is one of the four pillars of Mulungushi University known as RARE (Responsible, Accountability, Relevant and Ethical).”
At Mulungushi University, trade policy and economic development was approved on May 22, 2017 as a core course in Bachelor of Economics.
Prof Ng’ambi said the university intends to infuse trade policy and economic development in other courses too.
“As a university of excellence, we would like to play a more active role in human capital development in our country,” Prof Ng’ambi said.
“Apart from offering degree programmes, we are planning to offer short courses to the public and private sectors.”
The Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry, in collaboration with the Swedish National Board of Trade, has provided books and equipment to Mulungushi University for use in the course.
Mulungushi University deputy vice chancellor Judith Lungu says the trade policy and economic development course has added value and flavour to the discipline of economics.
“Indeed, our students who are the ultimate beneficiaries of the new course shall be equipped with unique competencies, insights and perspectives to better comprehend the nixus between trade policy and economic development,” Dr Lungu says.
Dr Lungu said the course represents an important step towards elevating the bachelor of economics degree programme into a very prestigious qualification that will be sought after within Zambia’s frontiers and beyond.
And Mr Yaluma is glad that Mulungushi University has become the second university in Zambia to teach trade policy and economic development under the EIF programme.
He hopes the EIF programme will contribute to mainstreaming trade in the education curriculum and building Zambia’s capacity in trade.
“Through the involvement of trade policy practitioners as guest lecturers, the EIF process is contributing to enhancing linkages between institutions of education and industry,” Mr Yaluma said.
Trade is an important component of international relations and having a pool of trade experts will help to make the most of trade deals at regional and international level.
The introduction of trade policy and economic development as a course at university level was therefore, long overdue.
CHAMBO NG’UNI, Kabwe