Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Policy in Praxis: CIPI Fellows work on East African economic development in Tanzania
How did you spend your summer vacation? This past June, two Heinz public policy students embarked on an unforgettable journey as CIPI EAC Fellows working in Tanzania with a regional intergovernmental organization! The Center for International Policy and Innovation (CIPI) partnered with the East African Community (EAC) to give two students the opportunity to expand their skill set through an overseas internship inaugurated through this partnership. Dilana Martinez and Dmitry Spitsberg, Master of Science in Public Policy and Management candidates at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College, were selected through a competitive application process and awarded grants to support their travel and work in Arusha, Tanzania, at the EAC Secretariat’s headquarters for a ten-week internship.
The EAC Secretariat, where Dmitry and Dilana served as fellows, is the executive body of the five-member regional intergovernmental organization of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. Both fellows worked on projects related to the EAC’s regional economic integration mandate. As such, they were tasked with providing information, research, and analysis to support the development of common economic policies in the region.
The Fellows shared their experiences with CIPI Research Associate Dorian Adeyemi, describing their summer internships, what they learned working in the field on economic development and what they enjoyed about living in Tanzania.
The CIPI-EAC Fellows spent their summer in Arusha, Tanzania, at the
headquarters of the East African Community (EAC) Secretariat
CIPI: What attracted you to the CIPI-EAC summer internship?
- Dmitry: I have studied, volunteered and traveled abroad before and when I was given the opportunity to actually go abroad for a real working experience, it was difficult to pass up. Given my background, I did not think I was well prepared for a career with an international focus, as I have not done Peace Corps or worked at an embassy abroad. But I realized that with this opportunity I had a great chance to do something engaging while also broadening my professional horizons. Ultimately, that is what interested me in the internship opportunity through CIPI.
- Dilana: I welcomed the opportunity offered to me by CIPI to extend my international experience to a new region and culture. Before this internship I had only worked in Latin America. Therefore, this experience has expanded my knowledge on both a professional and personal level. Moreover, my work in the Peace Corps focused mainly on micro-grass roots level; at the EAC I was exposed to macro-regional work, so the two experiences complement one another. It has been important for me to see how policy is made at the local level for developing countries, how that policy is implemented, and the effects and impacts the policy has on various countries.
CIPI: Of the projects you participated in, which one interested you the most?
- Dmitry: Because the Financial Sector Development and Regionalization team at the East Africa Community, which I was a part of, works closely with the World Bank and receives much of its funding from them, I was engaged in a series of meetings and ongoing discussions with the World Bank. Working with the World Bank was an exciting experience because I had the opportunity to meet senior officials at one of the world's best known organizations and also got a taste of the strategies used in negotiating with such a big-time player. There have been, of course, many other aspects of my work that were more engaging from a technical point of view, but to me, coming face to face with high-level World Bank operations was a real eye-opener.
- Dilana: The most interesting project I worked on was the opportunity to see and take part in the implementation of an initiative at the EAC. Given my background in economic development and small to medium (SME) business creation, the EAC decided that the Investment and Private Sector Development department was a good fit for me. Since there are only two full time employees in the department, there was plenty of work to do. I observed that most initiatives start with the identification of a need or a treaty mandate. This need or mandate is then expressed through a Terms of Reference (ToR) document. The ToR is where the background on the initiative is explained, such as the rationale behind the initiative, the objectives, the deliverables and any other critical information necessary to communicate what the Secretariat hopes to achieve with the initiative. Ultimately, the ToR guides the contractors or assignees in the completion of the initiative. I had the opportunity to create a funding proposal for my department, a ToR from scratch, revise a ToR that had already been written, and even defend a ToR alongside my boss at a Council of Ministers meeting for approval and implementation. It was a really amazing experience to see how an idea can go from a meeting, to paper, to a council, and then on to implementation on a regional level.
Dmitry Spitsberg (left) and Dilana Martinez (center) collaborate with a colleague
at the East African Community (EAC) Secretariat during their summer fellowship
CIPI: Please describe a unique experience you enjoyed in Tanzania that you may not have had the opportunity to experience otherwise.
- Dmitry: I find it difficult to name only one unique experience. Overall, living in Tanzania was different from living in any other place in the world and I enjoyed immersing myself into the environment for 10 weeks. I ate at the local restaurants, made local friends and took long walks home after nightfall every evening, getting to know the town. The internship gave me new confidence in myself as an individual and I will treasure this experience for my entire life.
- Dilana: It is very difficult to enumerate all of the wonderful experiences I had this summer, but my most unique experience has been the realization of how valuable my experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer is. Although I knew that living and working in a developing country is valuable and applicable anywhere, I didn’t understand how I would apply those skills elsewhere until I was actually doing it. It was amazing how much easier it was for me to adapt to the country, work within the culture as well as manage the various barriers and obstacles; I even applied much of what I learned in the Peace Corps to my daily tasks in Tanzania. This is particularly important for me because I want to work internationally and now I know that what I have learned is transferable and applicable anywhere.
On a more personal level, the experience was also invaluable for me as a Black American. Africa is the motherland for black people all over the world and this has been my first chance to really see and experience the continent in the only way you really can--by living there. I had the opportunity to share my culture, my stories, and my country with the people there and they shared their culture, perceptions, and country with me. One of the great aspects of being in Arusha at the EAC is that I didn’t only experience a Tanzanian point of view. I experienced the culture, perceptions, and working world from Kenyans, Burundians, Rwandese, and Ugandans as well! Living in Africa was definitely one of my dreams and I am so happy to have had the opportunity to experience not just one country, but five. I especially enjoyed learning about our similarities and appreciating our differences.
CIPI: Please describe your experiences interacting with local stakeholders and policymakers and what you gained from the experience.
- Dmitry: I interacted with stakeholders and policymakers frequently. In fact, not only did I work at the East African Community, itself a regional policy maker, but I also had the chance to take part in interactions with other governments, non-profits, international donor organizations and businesses. As a result, I have gained a wealth of knowledge regarding diverse business cultures. I was accustomed to cultural and business norms of the United States, so I had to adapt to a different business culture in Arusha. Although this was at times a challenge, it was also one of the most valuable lessons I learned. One of my local friends encapsulated my experience best as "learning the art of patience."
- Dilana: One of the many experiences in which I had direct interaction with stakeholders and policymakers was at a Regional Council Meeting of Ministers that lasted an entire week. I was asked to help with the logistics of the meeting and I saw first-hand how the policy process works between all of among the Partner States. At this meeting one of the Terms of Reference (ToR) I was asked to revise was to come before the Council. My boss asked that I assist him in the presentation and defense of this document and initiative. We were asking Council to approve a ToR for a Study on the Costs and Benefits of the East African Community. This ToR had been in the making for a year and a half and six months prior the Partner States gave us feedback on aspects of the ToR they wanted to see changed. My supervisor and I worked on incorporating those suggestions, revisions, and comments into an improved version. In the end, the Permanent Secretaries suggested that the ministers approve the ToR. Although they still suggested further revisions, this was a huge triumph for our department as they had been waiting almost two years for its approval.
CIPI-EAC Fellow Dilana Martinez discusses a facet of her team’s presentation with her department colleagues
CIPI: Please describe what you enjoyed most about being an intern in Tanzania this summer.
- Dmitry: I believe the value of anything in life is measured by its capacity to genuinely alter a person's way of thinking and acting for the better. For me, spending the summer in Tanzania opened a window towards a new way of looking at life, and a new way of understanding myself as a part of it.
- Dilana: I most appreciated the hands on learning experience that CIPI and EAC afforded me. I have always found learning by doing more practical as compared to classroom learning. I know that I have really been able to make an impact in the work my department is completing. My skills and contributions are valuable and desirable. My boss even asked me to extend for a couple more months! I consider it a great opportunity to be able to experience everything first hand: the food, the clothes, the language, the work, the culture, and the people! I now have a favorite food and East African attire; I can speak enough Kiswahili to buy things in the local market, I understand many aspects of the various cultures and have absolutely fallen in love with the people.
Martinez dons Masai attire during visit to Masai village
CIPI is proud to have partnered with the EAC for this important educational initiative and to have provided the interns with a unique experience and new skills that the students may not have acquired otherwise. In keeping with its vision, CIPI has once more leveraged its social capital to enhance the capacity of governments, multilateral organizations and public and private institutions to transform governance and socio-economic development.