Build­ing ca­pac­ity on trade

Lesotho Times - - Big Interview -

Na­tional Trade Ad­vi­sor of the Com­mon­wealth Hub & Spokes II Pro­gramme in Le­sotho, Sa­muel Ato Ye­boah, has a very im­por­tant role to play in the coun­try’s trade and de­vel­op­ment agenda. Mr Ye­boah sup­ports Le­sotho with tech­ni­cal ad­vice on trade and trade-re­lated is­sues, and speaks with Le­sotho Times (LT) re­porter Bereng Mpaki about the full man­date of his of­fice.

LT: Could you please ex­plain to us WHAT YOUR OF­FICE DOES IN LE­SOTHO.

Ye­boah: Let me first take a few min­utes to shed some lights on what the Hubs and Spokes Pro­gram is all about. It is a Trade Ca­pac­ity Build­ing Pro­gramme which is be­ing im­ple­mented in An­glo­phone coun­tries (English-speak­ing na­tions) by the Com­mon­wealth Sec­re­tariat, and in Fran­co­phone na­tions (French-speak­ing) by L’or­gan­i­sa­tion In­ter­na­tionale de la Fran­co­phonie.

The pro­gramme is be­ing funded by the Eu­ro­pean Union (EU), with the African, Caribbean and Pa­cific (ACP) Group Sec­re­tariat as the global part­ner. In terms of man­age­ment and im­ple­men­ta­tion, the pro­gramme man­age­ment team at the Com­mon­wealth Sec­re­tariat works with a pro­gramme steer­ing com­mit­tee com­pris­ing of of­fi­cials from the ACP and EU sec­re­tar­iats in Brus­sels.

So un­der the Pro­gramme, you have trade ex­perts work­ing in re­gional in­te­gra­tion or­ga­ni­za­tions such as SADC in South­ern Africa, CAR­I­FO­RUM in the Caribbeans, etc. which in this case are known as the HUB, as well as ex­perts who are de­ployed in trade and trade re­lated min­istries in in­di­vid­ual ACP coun­tries my case for Le­sotho who are also known as SPOKES.

My key re­spon­si­bil­ity here is to pro­vide trade pol­icy ad­vi­sory sup­port to of­fi­cials work­ing in the min­istry of Trade and In­dus­try, par­tic­u­larly the depart­ment of trade to carry out rel­e­vant an­a­lyt­i­cal work to iden­tify coun­try po­si­tions and par­tic­i­pate more ef­fec­tively in in­ter­na­tional trade ne­go­ti­a­tions, de­velop and im­ple­ment rel­e­vant trade poli­cies, pro­grams and projects. The goal is to sup­ports Le­sotho’s ef­forts in in­te­grat­ing into the global trad­ing sys­tem.

Ac­tu­ally, the first phase of the Hub & Spokes Pro­gramme op­er­ated from 2004 to 2012, so we are cur­rently in the sec­ond phase which runs from 2012 to De­cem­ber 2016.

LT: HOW DO YOU CARRY-OUT YOUR WORK IN Le­sotho?

Ye­boah: There are five ar­eas in which the pro­gramme op­er­ates. The first one is to pro­vide ca­pac­ity build­ing on trade pol­icy is­sues to key pub­lic, pri­vate and civil so­ci­ety stake­hold­ers.

An­other area the pro­gramme is in­volved in is as­sist­ing coun­tries to de­velop ef­fec­tive trade poli­cies as well as suc­cess­fully ne­go­ti­ate and im­ple­ment trade agree­ments. For ex­am­ple, as I said ear­lier, one of the things I do at the Min­istry of Trade and In­dus­try is to as­sist of­fi­cials un­der­take tech­ni­cal anal­y­sis to be able to iden­tify Le­sotho’s po­si­tion in the var­i­ous ne­go­ti­a­tions that are go­ing on at the SADC, SACU, and the Tri-parte FTA ne­go­ti­a­tions.

The third area we op­er­ate is to as­sist with the es­tab­lish­ment and strength­en­ing of trade-re­lated net­works and as­so­ci­a­tions. For ex­am­ple, in June 2015 we col­lab­o­rated with the In­ter­na­tional Trade Cen­ter (ITC) in Geneva, Switzer­land and held a Mar­ket Anal­y­sis Train­ing for Trade Pro­mo­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the LNDC, BEDCO, and Pri­vate sec­tor as­so­ci­a­tions such as PSFL, LCCI, as well as pri­vate sec­tor op­er­a­tors. The ob­jec­tive was to en­hance the mar­ket in­tel­li­gence skills of of­fi­cials of such or­ga­ni­za­tions to be able to pro­vide mar­ket ac­cess in­for­ma­tion to ex­porters, and busi­ness op­er­a­tors.

An­other area in which this pro­gramme op­er­ates is to en­hance ef­fec­tive iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and use of Aid for trade ini­tia­tives. Within the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WTO), one area which has been high­lighted is for de­vel­oped coun­tries to be able to pro­vide tech­ni­cal and fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance to de­vel­op­ing and least-de­vel­oped coun­tries to build their ca­pac­ity to take ad­van­tage of the global mar­ket op­por­tu­ni­ties that have been cre­ated since 1994 at both in­ter­na­tional and re­gional lev­els

How­ever, in-spite of the ex­ist­ing mar­ket op­por­tu­ni­ties, de­vel­op­ing coun­tries are not able to take max­i­mum ad­van­tage of these mar­ket ac­cess op­por­tu­ni­ties. This is be­cause they are still con­strained by a lot of fac­tors in pro­duc­tion such as stan­dards, cum­ber­some cus­toms and out­dated pro­ce­dures, such that ex­porters find it dif­fi­cult to trade their prod­ucts be­yond the bor­ders. So we build a net­work with de­vel­op­ment part­ners or donor-agen­cies in order to tap into the re­sources they are will­ing to give in this re­gard to deal with such con­straints. For ex­am­ple we are cur­rently work­ing to de­velop a na­tional trade pol­icy for Le­sotho, and through a pro­posal that we sent to USAID South­ern Africa Trade Hub we were able to se­cure fund­ing to hold a na­tional stake­hold­ers work­shop in Septem­ber 2015 to de­fine the way for­ward for the for­mu­la­tion of a Na­tional Trade Pol­icy for Le­sotho.

The last one is pro­mot­ing in­tra-acp col­lab­o­ra­tions amongst mem­ber-states.

LT: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE AC­TIV­I­TIES THE PROJECT HAS DONE TO DATE IN LE­SOTHO?

Ye­boah:

Again let me first ex­plain how the pro­gram im­ple­men­ta­tion works. At the be­gin­ning of ev­ery fi­nan­cial year, we con­duct a needs as­sess­ment with the Min­istry of Trade and In­dus­try to iden­tify spe­cific ar­eas where the min­istry might re­quire some tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance. On the ba­sis of that as­sess­ment, we agree on a num­ber of ac­tiv­i­ties to be im­ple­mented within the year, and then we de­velop a bud­get for them. The bud­get is then sub­mit­ted to the Pro­gramme Man­age­ment Team at the Com­mon­wealth Sec­re­tariat, which in turn meet with the Pro­gram Steer­ing Com­mit­tee in Brus­sels for con­sid­er­a­tion and ap­proval. Once ap­proval is given we un­der­take prepa­ra­tions for im­ple­men­ta­tion. You will note that I have al­ready men­tioned some of the things that we have done so far.

Other things we have re­ceived fund­ing for is that in De­cem­ber 2015, we pro­vided train­ing to 25 pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor lab­o­ra­tory tech­ni­cians to equip them to pre­pare for ISO 17025 ac­cred­i­ta­tion. Be­fore a test re­sult can be ac­knowl­edged from any lab­o­ra­tory, that lab­o­ra­tory must have been ac­cred­ited. That is very crit­i­cal be­cause if I want to man­u­fac­ture and sell water for ex­am­ple, it must be proven to the peo­ple who con­sume the water that it is clean and safe to drink.

This means the water must be tested, and it is the lab­o­ra­to­ries that do that. Now how does the world agree that the lab­o­ra­tory that has tested the water has the tech­ni­cal com­pe­tence, knowl­edge, as well as ap­pro­pri­ate equip­ment to carry-out the test­ing? The process through which this is done is called ac­cred­i­ta­tion. Un­for­tu­nately, there is cur­rently a chal­lenge in the coun­try in terms of Ac­cred­ited Lab­o­ra­to­ries to do such test­ing.

As a re­sult, ex­porters in Le­sotho find it very dif­fi­cult to do so. Their costs of pro­duc­tion in­crease be­cause they have to carry their prod­uct to South Africa to be tested.

So in order to as­sist in the de­vel­op­ment of Qual­ity Stan­dards In­fra­struc­ture in the coun­try, we de­cided to have that kind of train­ing for lab­o­ra­tory tech­ni­cians. The South African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity Ac­cred­i­ta­tion Ser­vice (SADCAS) was hired as the in­sti­tu­tion with such spe­cial­ized knowl­edge to con­duct the train­ing. At the end of the train­ing, the trainees were is­sued with cer­tifi­cates.

The fol­low-up work­shop for man­agers that took place re­cently in Mpilo Ho­tel on May 30th 2016 came up dur­ing the tech­ni­cians’ meet­ing, where it was agreed that it would be ap­pro­pri­ate to hold a Sen­si­ti­za­tion Work­shop for Ex­ec­u­tive Man­agers to en­able them ap­pre­ci­ate the is­sues so they can fully sup­port rec­om­men­da­tions that the tech­ni­cians would make to­wards im­prov­ing lab­o­ra­tory man­age­ment prac­tices. In that re­gard, the man­ager’s work­shop also be­came part of this year’s ac­tiv­i­ties.

LT: WHAT FU­TURE AC­TIV­I­TIES HAVE BEEN lined up un­der the pro­gramme?

Ye­boah: We will be work­ing more on help­ing Le­sotho with Qual­ity Stan­dards In­fra­struc­ture as we are very keen on fa­cil­i­tat­ing Le­sotho’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in in­ter­na­tional trade.

One of the things we want to be in­volved in this year is to con­trib­ute to fi­nal­ize a Food Safety Pol­icy for the coun­try. The food safety sys­tem in the coun­try needs to com­ply with in­ter­na­tional best prac­tice, and we are go­ing to be in­volved in the pro­cesses. At the mo­ment, a lot of ac­tiv­i­ties are needed for that to hap­pen although I must em­pha­size that the Depart­ment of Stan­dards and Qual­ity As­sur­ance in the Min­istry of Trade and In­dus­try has al­ready done a lot of work to draft the pol­icy. We have an ap­proved ac­tiv­ity of hold­ing a Work­shop to bring the stake­hold­ers to­gether to agree on who will han­dle what as­pect of the food safety chain within the frame­work of best prac­tice.

Lastly, we are also go­ing to or­gan­ise a me­dia train­ing work­shop in Le­sotho as part of the pro­gramme’s ac­tiv­i­ties for this year. Jour­nal­ists from dif­fer­ent me­dia houses will be trained to have some knowl­edge about in­ter­na­tional trade is­sues, in­clud­ing what is cur­rently go­ing in var­i­ous trade ne­go­ti­a­tions at the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion, South African Cus­toms Union, South­ern Africa De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity, and the cur­rent Tri­par­tite Free-trade Area ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the Com­mon Mar­ket for East­ern and South­ern Africa (COMESA), the South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) and East African Com­mu­nity (EAC).

Com­mon­wealth hub & Spokes II Pro­gramme trade ad­vi­sor in le­sotho ato Ye­boah.

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