Honourable Mr. Thabiso Molapo, Minister of Trade and Industry,
Your Excellency, Mr. Thabang Matjama, Permanent Representative of Lesotho to the WTO,
Ms. Hortense Nesseler, Sustainable Trade Advisor, Permanent Delegation of France to the WTO,
Prof. Olusola Isaac Fajana, Vice Chancellor of the National University of Lesotho,
Mr. Stephen Karingi, WCP Advisory Board Member,
Representatives of the WTO Chairs Network,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to join you today at the official launch of our new Chair at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) and welcome NUL to the WCP network.

The WTO Chairs Programme aims to support and promote trade-related academic activities by universities and research institutions in developing countries including least-developed countries. In the previous two phases of the Programme, 21 institutions were selected as WTO Chairs for a four-year term. 

In 2020, the WTO launched the selection of new Chairs under the 3rd phase. This expansion of the Programme came after a thorough evaluation of its effectiveness conducted in 2019. The external review recommended a larger network — which would then be able to reach countries in every region — as well as greater representation of LDCs within this network.

As a result and following a competitive selection process involving 126 applications 54 countries across the globe, the team at NUL, led by Prof. Motlamelle Kapa and Prof. Tsotang Tsietsi, has emerged as one of the 17 new institutions selected to join the third cohort of the WTO Chairs Programme. This global network now comprises 36 academic Chairs, among which 7 are from LDCs.

I am heartened to see the African region now strongly represented within the Programme by

  • the new Chairs in Cameroon, Ethiopia, Egypt, Lesotho, Rwanda, and Tanzania; and
  • previous Chairs in Benin, Kenya, Mauritius, Morocco, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia.

Chairs from this continent now account for over one-third of the total membership of the Network.

This expansion of the WCP would of course not be possible without the valuable contributions of our donors.

I welcome Ms. Hortense Nesseler from France, our lead donor on this project, who is here today. I would like to express our sincere thanks to them for the support they continue to provide to the programme, and I look forward to enhancing our partnership.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

One of the Chairs Programme's goals is to create a network of global trade experts and enlarge knowledge frontiers on WTO related issues. The WCP Network gives governments access to expert assistance and research within their own countries and in collaboration with other academics who ensure that regional and cross-regional perspectives are included in the knowledge produced.

I would like to stress that this kind of cooperation is the backbone of the work done at the WTO.

Three weeks ago, at the WTO 12th Ministerial Conference, Members delivered a historical package of outcomes on topics which are important to the multilateral trading system. The package includes a major Ministerial Decision on a waiver of IPR-related obligations for the manufacturing and export of COVID-19 vaccines, which addresses developing countries' constraints in their accessibility to these vaccines. African countries will be the major beneficiaries of this Decision. The Conference also delivered an important Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies that prohibits subsidies to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. This is the first time that the WTO reached a deal to address environmental concerns. The package also includes WTO's responses to emergencies, such as food insecurity, World Food Programme's food purchases and COVID 19 and future pandemics. Ministers also agreed on a process for addressing longstanding calls for WTO reform.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, on the heels of these important developments, technical support would be at the centre for developing country governments, especially those of LDCs to fully understand and effectively implement the outcomes. They should have access to better data, customized information and applied knowledge on these topics.

The idea of the WTO Chairs Programme is that through the identification of the specific needs of national stakeholders, Chairs can develop applied research and advise trade policy makers.

The team at NUL is unique in terms of their contribution to the international trade discourse, which involves perspectives from a landlocked least developed country and the challenges confronting such states.

Technical support within Lesotho has also been a part of the Enhanced Integrated Framework through a number of projects which were conducted by the Government of Lesotho in collaboration with various organizations such as the UNDP, USAID, ITC and UNCTAD. These projects spanned areas such as sustainable development, national economic development strategy, trade policies, agricultural productivity and E-commerce.

I am confident that the successful implementation of NUL's activities in some of these areas — in particular the formulation of Lesotho's Industrial Policy in collaboration with the Ministry of Trade and Industry — will generate valuable research that will enhance policymaking in the country, and further boost Lesotho's participation in the multilateral trading system.

I am particularly pleased to note that under Prof. Kapa's and Prof. Tsietsi's able stewardship, NUL's activities in these areas will be done in consultation with ministries, industry associations, businesses and civil society. The work will certainly build upon regional integration under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and further strengthen the linkages between regional integration and the multilateral trading system at the WTO.

Let me end by once again extending a warm welcome to Prof. Kapa, Prof. Tsietsi and the WTO Chair team at NUL. I have every confidence that your participation in this Programme will contribute to the development of Lesotho's trade policies and indeed, the development of an inclusive multilateral trading system. The WTO Secretariat stands ready to support your Chair. I wish the team all the best!

Thank you!




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