By Adiella Lewis
As a Barbadian national, interning at the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) in Cairo Egypt following the completion of my Master’s in International Trade Policy at the University of the West Indies was undoubtedly, a career defining experience. This once in a lifetime opportunity allowed me to travel and experience the histories and cultures of a number of African countries, witness historical milestones in trade between the African continent and Caribbean region, and acquire valuable skills which will benefit me in my career as a trade professional.
In this SRC Trading Thoughts, I recount the experience, highlighting my key takeaways and the reasons why future students should take full advantage of this opportunity, and share how the internship has influenced my professional trajectory.
Master’s in International Trade Policy Program
Graduation from the Master’s in International Trade Policy (MITP) Programme at the Shridath Ramphal Centre for International Trade Policy, Law, and Services (SRC) requires the successful completion of an internship with an established trade or trade-related organization.
Throughout the programme, students are encouraged, particularly in the Trade and Regional Integration and Negotiations and Advocacy courses, to create and consider unique and innovative solutions to the current trade and development challenges facing countries within the Caribbean region. We found that a number of these challenges could be addressed through the diversification of the region’s trade partners through forging new and strengthening existing relationships with other developing countries, many of which face similar obstacles, such as those comprising the African continent.
The programme’s Study Tour to Geneva, Switzerland – during which we as students visited and attended meetings at several international organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), United Nations (UN), and the International Trade Centre (ITC) – helped to reinforce these lessons. While there, Caribbean ambassadors and representatives from, and advocating for, several developing, and least-developed countries emphasized the need for increased collaboration and cooperation to achieve simultaneous economic growth and development for their countries.
My Experience Participating in the Afreximbank Internship Program
These themes greatly inspired my decision to complete a six-month internship with the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) – founded in 1993 to finance, facilitate, and promote intra and extra-African Trade – at their headquarters in Cairo, Egypt. Following the African Union’s designation of the Caribbean as the sixth region of Africa and the subsequent development and implementation of Afreximbank’s Diaspora Strategy, the Bank’s mandate now extends to Caribbean countries. As a result of the Bank’s Diaspora Strategy, students from the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, were encouraged to apply for and join the 2022 cohort of Afreximbank interns. The internship program, designed to provide participants with a holistic understanding of the Bank’s mandate and subsequent product offerings and interventions, spans a three to sixth-month period and requires the interns to rotate between several of the Bank’s core departments.
Consequently, following the completion of the introduction assignments – which required the review of several documents such as the Bank’s Charter, Feasibility Study, and Strategy plan – and induction process, the Human Resources Department provided me with a timetable which outlined each of the departments with which I would work during my time with the Bank. Overall, my schedule included interning with eight departments such as Intra-African Trade Initiative, Export Development, and the department responsible for the Bank’s Data Repository Platform (MANSA).
My stint with each department often began with an introductory session with a departmental head or manager intended to provide me with the background and knowledge necessary to perform within the departments. The sessions, which taught me about each department’s function and role in actualizing the Bank’s mandate, informed my approach to the projects I was assigned. The assignments were extensive and varied in scope, responsibilities, and discipline. They included conducting economic research and analyzing statistical data, creating financial models to assist with the automation of various reports in Tableau (a Business Intelligence Software), company valuations, vetting potential customers in accordance with the Bank’s Know Your Customer (KYC) and Customer Due Diligence (CDD) Protocols, and the preparation of Pre-Assessment Memorandums and other documents used in their decision-making processes. In addition to the departments to which I was assigned, I also worked with the Research and International Corporation (RICO) department on their outreach to various institutions within the Caribbean region, including the University of the West Indies.
These assignments not only increased my knowledge of the bank but also provided me with technical skills and competencies, such as proficiency in new software, which will have been beneficial in my career as a trade professional.
One of the most significant experiences during my internship at Afreximbank was the privilege of attending and working with the Bank on the organization and execution of the 2022 AfriCaribbean Trade and Investment Forum held in Bridgetown, Barbados. The conference – attended by African and Caribbean Heads of State, businesspeople, and representatives from several trade and investment organizations – marked a significant shift in Africa-CARICOM relations and resulted in many commitments from the President of Afreximbank, Professor Benedict Oramah, and the Honourable Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados and was, therefore, one of my most impactful assignments during the internship.
Another career-defining experience occurred towards the end of my internship when I was given the opportunity to visit two of the Bank’s regional offices in Abuja, Nigeria and Harare, Zimbabwe. These visits allowed me to learn about and experience the history and culture of each country and gain invaluable insight into the work being done by the teams at each branch to finance, facilitate, and promote intra and extra-African trade in each of the regions they represent.
Key Takeaways and Next Steps
Being able to participate in the internship program was an incredibly transformative experience which I continue to be deeply appreciative of and encourage Caribbean students to take full advantage of. Through its internship program, the Bank provides an environment which is conducive to learning and developing as a trade professional and therefore encourages tremendous personal growth. Furthermore, the opportunity to significantly contribute to the accomplishment of the Bank’s mandate gives students an incredibly unique perspective and understanding of not only the challenges but the multitude of possibilities for growth and development available to developing and least developed countries within the African and Caribbean regions.
As evidenced by the Bank’s partnerships with a number of Caribbean organizations and commitments to the region which include the establishment of a regional office in Barbados, the intensification of Africa-CARICOM relations presents numerous opportunities for practising and aspiring trade professionals.
Consequently, since completing the internship program, I have had the opportunity to work with the SRC, where I am a trade researcher on a number of projects and initiatives. These include efforts to deepen Africa-CARICOM relations through research and the development of academic programs geared towards building capacity to facilitate increased economic integration between the regions in the interest of their simultaneous development.
Adiella Lewis is a Research Assistant with the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies’ Shridath Ramphal Centre for International Trade Policy Law and Services.