“The Trade Academy provides a holistic learning experience”

Zungaye Phiri is a Principal Economist at Zambia’s Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry. She took the Trade Academy Trade Policy course – and realised that trade is not a zero-sum game.

What is your overall impression of the course?

I find that the Trade Academy provides very in-depth lessons about trade policy, trade regulations and trade in general. But at the same time, it’s delivered in a very light-hearted manner, which makes it very enjoyable.

Can you name one specific thing that you liked about the programme?

It’s the blend of how the lectures are delivered – the combination of classroom presentations and lessons, study tours and the home assignment which gave us a chance to work together as a team and try to identify a trade problem and work out how to solve it. The Trade Academy provides a very holistic learning experience.

You had to deal with the challenges of a fictional country, Algabia. What was that like?

Although it was a fictional country, we could see a lot of our own countries in Algabia. When you look at some of the challenges they had – for instance, low agricultural productivity – that is something that we’re working aggressively to address back home.

Also, when you look at the issues of Algabia’s exports mainly being comprised of primary products, they are looking at how to diversify that product basket as well as having high value-added exports. Those are issues that are very relatable in terms of our country.

What are your key takeaways?

The fact that trade isn’t a zero-sum game. Coming here, I must admit that were times when you felt that as long as you are exporting more than you are importing, you are winning. And if you are importing more than you are exporting, you are losing. As you get through the process of the Trade Academy programme, you realise that focusing on facilitating imports is just as important as promoting exports. That’s my key takeaway.

And then there’s the fact that no problem is new. We share common problems. We share common challenges. The interaction with others gives us a chance to learn from others. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

How will what you learned change the way you work?

I must say, firstly, that the experience that I have gained here is invaluable. I have learned a lot in terms of how to analyse trade policy, trade regulations and the entire international trade regime. It’s going to strengthen how I understand trade-related challenges and in turn, the process of developing policies and regulations to address whatever challenges we might be facing as a country.