Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) has signed a memorandum of understating (MoU) with six universities from the region to roll out programmes that support innovation and promote regional integration.
The organisation has also awarded 18 scholarships worth US$50 000 to students from the bloc, who are supposed to pursue a master’s degree programme in regional integration at Kenyatta University of Kenya and the University of Mauritius.
Under the agreement, the participating universities will offer training and undertake researches to address development challenges in the region. In a statement this week, comesa said it had signed a MOU with Open University of Mauritius, ISGE (Burundi), University of Zambia and University of Zimbabwe.
“The two-year Masters of Regional Integration programme is a unique multi-disciplinary professional course designed to build the capacity of public sector officials working on trade, economic integration and international cooperation issues,” said comesa.
“In addition, the programme is relevant to private sector stakeholders, including private firms/organisations, media practitioners; chambers of commerce, manufacturer and consumer associations.”
According to the organisation, the scholarships’ sponsorship was facilitated through the support from the European Union and the Organisation of the African, Caribbean and Pacific States under the TradeCom II capacity building programme.
In 2010, the 28th comesa Council of Ministers meeting decided to establish a professional or graduate school on Regional Integration to foster cooperation in research and development in the comesa region, in line with Articles 127 and 128 of the treaty.
“Following this decision, Comesa signed a Memorandum of Understanding with participating Universities to offer training and undertake conventional researches as tools for analysing impacts and supporting innovations to address development challenges in the region,” said comesa. “The programme offers tailor-made courses best suited to provide sound conceptual, policy and practical training to foster all areas of integration in comesa, including economic, social and political integration.”
By expanding the pool of experts, the programme is expected to address capacity constraints and strengthen implementation of commitments, including legal, economic, social and political areas in member states.
“Commencement of this programme could not have taken place at a better time than when member states are engaged in multiple negotiations e.g. the Tripartite Free Trade Area and the African Continental Free Trade Area,” read part of the statement.
According to comesa, Kenyatta University received 13 students in the inaugural scholarships, while the University of Mauritius received five out of a total of 30 students who have commenced learning under the programme.
The students undertaking the virtual studies with the two universities are drawn from DRC, Kenya, Mauritius, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia, Ghana, and South Africa.
comesa is a regional economic community established in 1994.
It brings together 21 African member states with a population of 560 million into a cooperative framework for sustainable economic growth and prosperity through regional integration.