A valuable trade policy training centre located in Arusha, Tanzania and originally set up the Swedish aid agency Sida, can no longer rely on funding from that source. But the management is determined to find other ways to fund this vital organisation. Report by Pär Krause
In order to guarantee the survival of the pan-African trade training centre Trapca, the management of the institution is now trying to get the private sector on board. If successful, the former aid-dependent institution will turn into a private-financed business- and trade supporting organisation.
The Trade Policy Training Centre in Africa (Trapca) was established in 2006 by Swedish aid agency Sida in cooperation with Lund University, Sweden, and ESAMI – Eastern and Southern African Management Institute.
The purpose of the institution is to train and empower students from least developed countries (LDCs) and lower income countries in issues related to international trade, in order to strengthen the countries’ capacity in the area of trade policy. Since it started, about 1,800 students from both the public and the private sectors from the whole of Africa have improved their knowledge of trade agreements and their skills in trade negotiating at the centre’s location in Arusha in northern Tanzania.
The managers and the financiers who employ the students are pleased with the results, and a number of follow-up studies shows that former students perform better in their assignments after attending Trapca’s courses. But the centre’s situation will soon change rather dramatically.
“Our biggest challenge for the near future will be funding. According to our business plan, we are looking at different options when it comes to financing our activities,” says David Kalaba, the principal finance and administration officer at Trapca in Arusha.
From 2015, the aid agency Sida will no longer guarantee financing for the courses – in 2012 the aid agency put $4m into Trapca but according to a new contract, fees paid by the students or by students’ employers will be one of the main sources of funding.
“But fees are not a realistic option in a longer perspective,” Kalaba says, adding that despite the fact that the demand for Trapca’s courses is the same, the number of students has dropped by 30% since the fees were introduced. This year, the fees for students from LDCs are $400-800 for the shorter courses and $8,800 for a full master’s programme. These fees are subsidised. Students from low income countries (LICs) receive lower subsidies, and pay double these amounts.
In order to reduce the costs, the institution has already started to organise some of its classes outside not only Arusha but also outside Tanzania. Trapca has been running courses in both Kenya and Botswana, with the hosts being responsible for the charges. Another way of lowering the costs is using the internet, meaning that the students don’t have to come to the centre in Arusha.
“But for the future it is important to get the private sector on board,” says Kalaba, pointing out that it is easy to identify the clear link between the interest of the private sector, in LDCs as well as in lower income countries, and the activities conducted by the training centre.
“If the government of a country in Africa gets a good trade deal, that deal will benefit private businesses in the same country,” argues Kalaba. “At this stage we are trying to convince the business community of the importance of trade and also that sponsoring the negotiators in their own country is not the responsibility of the government alone,” says Kalaba.
One way of getting the private sector involved in order to generate private sponsoring is to invite companies from the whole of Africa to the centre’s annual forums.
“Business people from, for instance, banks and airlines, come here and they meet people also from the public sector. They see that they actually have the same aims,” says Kalaba.
The next step for David Kalaba and his colleagues in Arusha will be to actually target potential private donors, and that will be done according to the market strategy developed by the institution.
“We will be knocking on people’s doors”, he says, adding that he has – despite the new situation for the centre – an optimistic view.
“The board of Trapca have declared that the centre will not end at 2015. But it will continue in a different form,” says Kalaba, indicating that the training centre will be transformed from an aid-financed institution into a private-financed trade-supporting organisation. In a longer perspective, it will probably mean a stronger, and an even more business-friendly African trade-training centre. n