The World Trade Organization (WTO) Young Professionals Programme was launched in 2016 as an opportunity for qualified young professionals from developing and least-developed countries that are members of the WTO to enhance their knowledge regarding WTO and international trade issues.
The programme attracts professionals from under-represented countries who can consequently improve their chances of being recruited by the WTO and/or other regional and international organizations.
Thabo Moea and 11 other participants in the Young Professionals Programme will spend a year in the WTO Secretariat based in Geneva, Switzerland to learn about the organization’s work and contribute to its activities.
The WTO has many roles: it operates a global system of trade rules, it acts as a forum for negotiating trade agreements, it settles trade disputes between its members and it supports the needs of developing countries
The group this year is formed by young professionals from: Albania, Bahrain, Cuba, Dominica, Fiji, Guyana, Israel, Lesotho, Mali, Mozambique, North Macedonia and Singapore. The 12 participants were selected from more than 1,200 candidates from developing and least-developed countries following a competitive selection process.
The selected young professionals are allocated to a specific division of the WTO Secretariat in accordance with the needs and priorities of the organization and based on the areas of interest of the young professional.
The areas of work may include accessions, agriculture, dispute settlement, intellectual property rights, market access, rules, trade and development, trade and environment, trade in services and investment, trade facilitation, trade policy analysis and trade-related technical assistance.
Thabo graduated with BSc. Agriculture from NUL and went further to graduate with a Master’s degree in Environmental Management from Aberystwyth University, Wales.
Before embarking on his masters degree, he worked as interim coordinator at ESAFF (Eastern and Southern Africa Farmers Forum), the organisation focused on helping small scale farmers across the continent.
He also served as a board member for various youth organisations including African Youth Movement (AYM). In 2018, he was appointed as the country coordinator for African Youth in Livestock, Fisheries and Aquaculture Incubation Network (AYL_FAIN).
We had a chat with Thabo about getting into the programme and his new role and the transcript is below.
I remember quite well that you’re a Chevening fellow. What were your hopes after your master’s degree? What did you want to achieve?
After Chevening and on completing my master’s degree, I was more enthusiastic to work at organisations which focus on providing a meaningful contribution in people’s lives. Hence, I volunteered at a newly found organisation called Aiders Development Foundation (ADF) working as a regional coordinator at that time, January to December 2019. The organisation was addressing youth issues across the continent.
Besides that, based on my experience, I have always wanted to represent my country at international platforms, as I observed that we are normally underrepresented.
How’s Switzerland? And how’s the work environment?
Switzerland is indeed a good place to live in, beautiful landscapes but more similar to Lesotho. It hosts various international organisations. The work environment is compelling as we work with various stakeholders including ministers, ambassadors and researchers among others. We are fortunate to observe how negotiations on trade are undertaken by nations.
How did you hear about WTO and their fellowship program?
I did not know much about WTO, I only knew that it is an organisation which deals with the rules of trade between nations. While searching on youth opportunities online, I came across the organisation’s advertised Young Professionals Programme.
How was the application process?
To tell the truth, the application was long and challenging as it required several essays, which were basically on experience and leadership.
And what about the interview process?
The interview was interesting. It was via Skype and there were about 6 panelists. They all asked their questions at a go, so I had to remember everything in my answers, but they were friendly.
What role are you assigned on the program? And how long?
I am assigned under agriculture and commodity division, working as an assistant project coordinator. We focus on least developed countries (Africa) to improve their agricultural value chain, improve food security and job opportunities for the vulnerable communities especially small scale farmers.
We are here for 1 year. The aim of the programme is to improve our experience so that we could be more employable to WTO, our governments or even other organisations with related objectives.
On a statement from WTO website, Thabo shared more about his aspirations, “I hope to gain greater awareness of the work of the WTO and how least-developed countries can take advantage of the service offered to enhance economic development. I expect to build strong professional capacities working alongside experienced staff members.”