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NUL joins WTO network

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Bereng Mpaki

THE National University of Lesotho (NUL) has joined the World Trade Organisation Chairs Programme (WCP), which aims to promote trade-related academic activities by universities and research institutions in developing countries.

Although the NUL joined the WCP in December 2021, the official ceremony was only held in Maseru recently.

Launched in 2010, the WCP aims to improve knowledge and understanding of the trading system among academics and policy makers in developing countries through curriculum development, research and outreach activities.

Speaking during the launch ceremony, WTO deputy director general, Xiangchen Zhang, said the WCP was a key component of the WTO’s technical assistance activities.

“One of the programme’s goals is to create a network of global trade experts and enlarge knowledge frontiers on WTO related issues,” Mr Zhang said.

He said the WCP network gave governments access to expert assistance and research within their own countries to ensure that regional and cross-regional perspectives are included in the knowledge produced.

The network also affords opportunities for mutual learning given that the WTO and the chairs look at the same issues from different perspectives.

Mr Zhang said NUL was selected from a competitive process involving 126 applications from 54 countries across the globe.

“NUL is one of 17 new institutions selected to join the third cohort of the WCP. This global network now comprises 36 academic chairs, among which seven are from least developed countries.”

Academic institutions awarded the WTO chair receive support in the areas of research, curriculum development, and outreach activities.

Chair holders are appointed through a competitive selection process involving multiple divisions of the secretariat as well as the WTO Academic Advisory Board, Mr Zhang said.

On his part, NUL WTO chair holder, Associate Professor Motlamelle Kapa said being part of the WCP network would help Lesotho tackle its pressing challenge of food insecurity, among other interventions.

“The chair takes cognisance of the outcomes of WTO 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12). Plans are already underway to incorporate these developments into our activities, for instance, by having dedicated research and seminars on food security, which is a pressing challenge for Lesotho as a net-food importing land-locked least developed country. Close to 25 percent of the country’s population face acute food insecurity challenges,” Mr Kapa said.

The WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference took place from 12 to 17 June 2022 in Geneva.

The conference agreed to waiver intellectual property rights (IPR) for the manufacturing and export of Covid-19 vaccines. This is expected to address developing countries’ constraints in accessing vaccines. African countries are set to be the major beneficiaries of this decision, according to Mr Zhang.

The conference also agreed on subsidies to prevent illegal and unregulated fishing.