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The stage is set for the establishment of a COMESA Virtual University that will work with a network of universities in a collaborative initiative aimed at enhancing the generation and dissemination of research related to regional integration. The institution will incorporate an Academy of Science, Technology and Innovation as well as Research Networks.

The decision was made yesterday by the COMESA Council of Ministers in its 34th Meeting at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Abeba. The Council directed the operationalization of the plan for the establishment of the virtual university which will progressively transform into a permanent autonomous University to be launched in October 2015.

The move to establish the COMESA University of Regional Integration will actualize an earlier decision of the Council made in 2010 that proposed the setting up of a professional or graduate school of regional integration. The Council of Ministers noted that no institution on the continent had graduated students with a degree in regional integration.

“Regional integration is a complex process and to navigate this important process requires expertise for: policy formulation and analysis; managing the process; negotiating treaties, protocols and other regulations/policies; understanding the process; participation in the process – to exploit opportunities; and training/teaching about the process,” the Council said in a statement.

The Ministers noted that at the regional level, a lack of appreciation of regional interests was reflected during negotiations whereby negotiators tended to take a national rather than a regional approach to regional integration.

“This has the potential to produce programs that are merely a reflection of the interests of a few Member States and not a reflection of the Region,” the Minister noted in their report.

At the national level, there was there was apparent need for capacity building for the coordinating units in Member States to enhance their effectiveness in fulfilling their mandate in facilitating and implementing regional integration programmes.

“There seems to be inadequate appreciation and lack of prioritization of regional integration policy and implementation issues by some government officials primarily involved in policy making and implementation,” the Ministers noted.

The Council adopted the implementation plan of the COMESA Virtual University that will culminate with the formal launch and the inaugural guest lecture and launch of a Masters’ Programme in October 2015.

 
The plan will include the recruitment of a management team, the signing of Memoranda of Understanding/Host Agreements with partner universities and the main hub, the establishment of a mentorship and fellowship scheme, design and establishment of online e-learning knowledge and training platform, establishment of resource centre/library and Research Network and finalisation of curricula design and development.

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