Research: What we learned at the UNCTAD Virtual Institute research seminar Reply

Two weeks ago staff from the School of Economics and TRADE research niche area presented a paper at the UNCTAD Virtual Institute’s research seminar in Geneva, Switzerland.

The team at UNCTAD

The team at UNCTAD

The title of our paper was “Identifying new product and service export opportunities for South Africa using a decision support model”. We argue that:

One of the challenges in designing and implementing effective export promotion strategies is identifying the right markets, given South Africa’s ever-fluid skills, capacity and trading relationships.  The Decision Support Model (DSM) is an export market selection tool that makes use of a sophisticated filtering process to sift through an extensive range of product-/service- and country-related data to reveal those product-/service-country combinations (‘export opportunities’) that are the most realistic and sustainable.  The DSM, which has been applied for Belgium, Thailand and South Africa, not only brings greater precision to the export market selection process, but also unveils opportunities that may not have been contemplated before – thus supporting the quest for export diversification.

But what other work do you find at a VI seminar?

The seminar is different from a regular academic conference. There were five sessions over three days and every paper was allotted an hour for the presentation, comments by the discussant and engagement from the floor. The five sessions were on:

  • Development strategies: e.g. diversification from energy exports (Russia), more trade in services (Jordan).
  • International economic regimes: e.g. country and regional experiences of the WTO dispute settlement system.
  • Enhancing export performance: e.g. an trade extension in the Caribbean, proximity and trade in Africa, our DSM approach.
  • Regional and bilateral trade agreements: e.g. the impact of and gains from trade agreements, specifically in Latin America
  • The creative economy: e.g. services and tourism, specifically the role of cultural and arts industries.

The participants are all members of the Virtual Institute and everyone received the opportunity to introduce their university. In South Africa we don’t often have the opportunity to meet colleagues from countries in Latin America or from Russia and it was interesting to hear that they are working on similar issues in resource-based economies that are far from world markets. Everyone is also seeking to cooperate and internationalise.

In addition to the seminar Vlasta and the VI team also arranged some meetings for us with UNCTAD researchers that we hope will lead to successful collaboration in the future.

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