COMESA Virtual University Programme to Begin in Two Months

Lusaka, Monday,  March 19, 2018: Admission of the pioneer students of the COMESA Virtual University will commence in May 2018 at the Kenyatta University in Kenya. The admission was planned to kick off in September 2017 but was delayed to allow the conclusion of administrative procedures of the university education regulatory authority in Kenya.

Kenyatta University was selected to host the first Masters Degree program in regional integration during a consultative forum of the 22 collaborating universities from COMESA Member States. At the forum, it was agreed to commence a collaborative masters’ degree programme in regional integration in the medium term, with an objective of establishing a fully-fledged university in the long run.

The COMESA Virtual University Masters Degree is a multi-disciplinary program intended to bring together world-class academics, researchers and practitioners from leading institutions around the world to learning centres in participating universities through a virtual platform. The course is a professional course designed for government officials working in departments dealing with trade, integration and cooperation issues and students intending to work as trade officers, trade policy analysts, advisers, researchers and trade attaches.

It also targets the private sector trade practitioners and economic operators; journalists covering trade issues; chambers of commerce, manufacturer and consumer associations, diplomatic missions, development organizations dealing with trade and integration issues, among others. It is also suitable for middle level trade researchers and consultants.

The teaching modules for 30 courses have been developed with financial support from the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF). The review process was done by academic experts across the world to ensure good quality of the material and knowledge to be passed to the students. To obtain the degree, students will be required to take and pass 10 core courses and five electives, and complete a dissertation and an internship, over a two-year period.

The program will provide a sound conceptual, policy and practical training on regional integration, but will also help extend access to research opportunities and higher education on regional integration within and outside the COMESA region. The program covers economics, trade, law, political economy, trade and finance, IT and innovation, among others.

Last week, a COMESA Secretariat team led by the Director of Trade and Customs, Dr Francis Mangeni met stakeholders in Kenya, among them, the State Department of International Trade, the Kenyan Commission of University Education and the Kenyatta University to fast-track the remaining steps towards kickstarting the first semester.

Dr Chris Kiptoo, the Principal Secretary in the State Department of International Trade pledged Kenya’s commitment in ensuring the implementation of the programme begins as planned.

The Vice Chancellor of Kenyatta University, Prof Paul Wainaina confirmed its readiness to offer the unique masters programme. The University Senate approved the Programme in 2017 and submitted it to Kenya Commission of University Education (KCUE) for final approval in October 2017. It was confirmed that the KCUE had now accredited the programme and given Kenyatta University the go ahead to advertise for admission of students to commence learning in May 2018 when it next trimester begins.

“The Kenyatta University Digital School is also working round the clock to ensure that the first trimester modules are sunk into the tablets to be distributed to students and the e-tutors are trained by April 2018 so that in May the teaching commences,” Dr Mangeni reported.

In the first Trimester, five core courses will be taught: Economic Research Methodology; Microeconomic Foundations for Trade; International Trade Theory and Policy; International Trade Law and Theory of Regional Integration.

The programme was launched in October 2016 during the COMESA Heads of State Summit in Madagascar as a response to some of the challenges facing regional integration not only in COMESA but Africa at large.

“A critical cause of the slow progress in regional integration is the inability of governments to implement the numerous obligations and programs, due to the apparent lack of institutional and human capital and related support mechanisms,” Dr Mangeni said. “Regional integration programs are not always woven into or operationalised as part of the domestic policy processes.”

It is believed that the small number of continental institutions offering appropriate, flexible and affordable Regional Integration programs is a contributing factor. The COMESA Virtual University is therefore a response to this situation.

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