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E-Learning Course: Standards and Trade: Challenges and Opportunities for Africa Agro-Food Trade

Sponsor: Office of the Vice President (WBIVP)


In recent years, governments and development agencies have sought to promote the diversification of African agro-food exports in order to accelerate economic growth, expand employment opportunities, and reduce rural poverty. Particular attention has been given to facilitating the exports of higher value foods - including fruits and vegetables, fish, spices, meat, and natural products - these being categories of products for which international trade has exhibited considerable growth in recent decades. A number of African countries have had some notable success in such export diversification. However, for African producers, processors, and exporters the challenges of international competitiveness in higher value food trade has become increasingly linked to the development of capacity to manage food safety, plant health, and or animal health risks. In Africa’s main destination markets, especially, in the European Union, official food safety and agricultural health requirements are becoming more stringent, while new standards are being applied to address previously unknown or unregulated hazards. In parallel with changes in official standards and public oversight have been accelerated moves by the private sector to address food safety risks and otherwise address the (environmental and social) concerns and preferences of consumers and civil society organizations. 

This proliferation and enhanced stringency of food safety and related standards represent potential barriers to African farmers and firms seeking to expand their trade in higher value foods. Yet, they may also represent a catalyst for the upgrading of production and manufacturing operations, and for improved collaboration between the public and private sectors. In this regulatory and competitive context, it is essential to understand the current status and likely trajectory of agro-food standards, the feasible range of commercial, administrative and technical options available to African farmers, firms, and governments, and the underlying economics of such responses. 
In recent years, the World Bank and other partner organizations have increased their level of technical assistance and other capacity-building support related to food safety and agricultural health management.  One component of this work relates to raising awareness and facilitating dialogue among key stakeholders in developing countries.  On-line Standards and Trade courses, delivered in 2005 and 2006 have provided one platform to facilitate this dialogue and the exchange of experiences among stakeholders from different regions.  In 2007, the Standards and Trade course will be delivered with a regional basis, with participants being predominantly from sub-Saharan Africa.
Course objectives
This on-line learning program intends to increase the awareness and dialogue among policy makers, regulatory agencies, NGOs, private companies and other stakeholders pertaining to the challenges and opportunities, costs and benefits, and strategies and institutional arrangements needed in applying internationally recognized food safety, quality and related standards.  The e-learning program will examine:

  1. core principles and institutions related to standards and trade;
  2. the emerging dynamics in the setting, implementation, and enforcement of food safety, quality, and related public and private standards, within the context of high-value agro-food products;
  3. the status, strategies, and experiences of developing countries in influencing and implementing these standards and;
  4. the costs and benefits associated with standard compliance, and their distributional impacts, with a focus on the set of public and private initiatives and interventions attempting to facilitate standards compliance, particularly among small-scale producers and enterprises.

Over 400 participants from 80 countries have taken part in the previous versions of this course.  Past participants have reported that the acquired new information has been directly applicable to their on-going policy, technical, or commercial work.  They especially valued the discussion forum component of the course where varied perspectives on emerging issues were shared and specific examples of technical and institutional approaches to national- or industry-level challenges were illustrated. The 2007 version of the course is targeted to African stakeholders and aims to strengthen regional and local platforms for dialogue and consensus-building on the pertinent issues.

Target audience

The course will be open to participants from throughout sub-Saharan Africa. However, if the course is over-subscribed, priority will be given to applicants from the following countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Malawi, Mozambique, Mauritius, Nigeria, Niger, Uganda, Tanzania, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, and Zambia. Participants are expected to include policy-makers and technical specialists from pertinent Ministries and agencies of government, representatives from private industry, farm and consumer organizations, academia, representatives from NGOs active in this field, and selected development agency staff. Total expected time commitment from participants is about 45-50 hours, or approximately eight to ten hours per week over the 5-week course period.

Course contents and methods

The course will be offered by the World Bank Institute (WBI) in English and will use e-learning delivered via the Web Course Tools (WebCT) learning platform. The course will use thematic papers, presentations, case studies and other selected materials.  Ensuing e-discussions will be available on the Internet using a WebCT Interface.  The Virtual Classroom Site will allow external participants to register and log into the course platform.  A broader range of resource persons—from the World Bank and other international organizations, the private sector, academia, and NGOs—will moderate and facilitate e-discussions to ensure a productive and educational dialogue on relevant issues.

Participants’ selection will be based on the relevance of the candidates’ background and job responsibilities in line with the objectives of the course. Proficiency in English and Internet connectivity are pre-requisites to participate in this course.

The course will be delivered in two phases, the first of which will comprise a two-week reviewing period, dedicated to participants viewing and reading the course materials.  No interaction among participants and moderators is expected during this phase.  The second phase comprises a three-week period for online discussions among participants, guided by each module’s moderator.  Additional reading materials may be provided during this second phase of the course. The first phase of the course is expected to begin on May 14, 2007.  The on-line discussion phase will begin on May 28, 2007.

This on-line learning program comprises four (4) modules on the following topics:

Module Title and Main Topics 


General Principles: Economics and institutions of standards & trade

  • Changing composition of developing country trade
  • Economic concepts in relation to standards
  • Standards setting process at the international and national level
  • Food safety and trade implications: an overview 

Dynamics and implications of emerging food-safety, quality and related regulations and standards 

  • Emerging food safety regulatory trends
  • Private sector standards: approaches and implications on supply chain management

Strategic options and experiences in responding to emerging regulations and standards

  • Developing country strategy options
  • Conformity assessment needs and approaches
  • Case studies 


Costs, benefits and distributional dimensions of trade-related agro-food standards

  • Concepts and evidence
  • Building Small-holder and SME capacities and standards compliance
  • Case studies: public and private interventions

To successfully complete the course, each participant is required to view and read all the mandatory materials and to substantively participate in the online discussion. In order to assess their understanding of the critical issues analyzed and discussed during the course, participants will be asked to take a short quiz at the end of the course.  Also, participants are required to provide feedback on the quality and relevance of the course and areas for improvement, by completing an end-of-course evaluation form.  A Certificate will be issued and a CD that has all the materials for this course will be delivered to each participant.

Registration and Fee
No fee will be assessed for participants in this course.  For electronic registration click here. Deadline for application is 30 April, 2007. For more information, please contact Ms. Luz Berania Diaz Rios at or via phone at (1) 202- 458-7337.

Last updated on Apr 12, 2007

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