Regional Integration: Reaching out to defence forces

Lusaka, Monday, February 25, 2019: As part of COMESA stakeholders’ outreach programme, members of the defence forces from the region were conducted on a public lecture aimed at deepening their understanding of regional integration and the role of peace and security.

The lecture was conducted by the Director of Trade and Customs, COMESA, Dr Francis Mangeni, February 20, 2019 at the Zambia Defence Forces Staff Training College in Lusaka. The military officers, drawn from various African countries, were attending a Masters programme at the college.

Acknowledging the security forces interest in regional integration, Dr Mangeni observed that the task of educating people on such matters was not a preserve of COMESA alone.

“It should be a responsibility of all Member States to include the integration agenda in their curriculum to help build skills that will help address the challenges each country is facing especially in domesticating and implementing regional commitments,” he said.

He cited the COMESA Virtual University hosted at the Kenyatta University in Kenya as one outstanding project which will greatly contribute to knowledge on regional integration. Under this project, officials from governments and the private sector dealing with trade, integration and international cooperation issues will be enrolled for a Masters degree programme on regional integration.

“This programme is also intended to bring together world class academics, researchers and practitioners from leading institutions around the world through an e-learning platform,” Dr Mangeni added. Twenty-two universities in COMESA Member States are participating in the project.

The Director implored participants to lobby for inclusion of regional integration issues in the national curriculum from basic schools’ level to inculcate understanding of the subject at an early age. This would help to change the mindsets of many people in Africa regarding issues of integration.

He said: “Through an entrepreneurial approach to education, human capital is built that will spark change and create individuals who shall not only graduate but also come up with bankable innovative projects that will produce new products needed for trade across our region.”

He advised that education systems in the Member States should develop partnerships between industries and students so that the latter can do practical lessons in the subjects they learn thereby perfecting their skills.

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