Trade Forum Features

A journey through a fellowship at ITC

7 March 2016
ITC News
A fellowship winner offers a first-person reflection on her time in Geneva

The Mo Ibrahim Fellowship has been described as a programme designed to mentor future African leaders. For example, fellows receive mentoring from the current leaders of key multilateral institutions: the International Trade Centre (ITC), the African Development Bank (AfDB) and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

The Mo Ibrahim Leadership Fellowship Programme prepares the next generation of African leaders by providing them with unique work opportunities in prominent African institutions or multilateral organizations. It allows talented individuals to increase and enhance their professional capacity with the intention of contributing to the governance and development of their countries.

I somehow landed a fellowship at the ITC and to date I can confirm that, like many things in life, what you get out of an event or opportunity is not determined by others but by what you put into it. If you want to grow you must seek growth opportunities. Being part of the Cabinet of the Executive Director (ED) has indeed been such a growth opportunity.
I recall my participation at the World Trade Organization’s Ministerial Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, and can only smile with fond and rich memories. Running around like a headless chicken, I became a protocol officer at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, which provided some unusual experiences.

For example, I enjoyed a wild taxi ride which ended with a burst tire on the way to a surprise birthday dinner. Instead of telling the driver he drove recklessly, an everso- eloquent colleague said: ‘It is not your driving that we are concerned about, but that of the other driver whose driving skills we are not familiar with.’


The flexibility of my supervisors, allowing me to work in the operational departments of ITC, has been a great advantage. It has allowed me to learn more about the work of ITC while getting my hands dirty doing the actual work. Accomplishing tasks ranging from working with teams developing project proposals at national and regional level to items specifically geared towards executing the mandate of the ED has surely enriched my networking and stakeholder engagement skills.

Schedule allowing, I have been able to engage in one-on-one mentoring sessions with the ED, the deputy ED, chief adviser to the ED and the heads of various ITC divisions. Here again, curiosity in asking for advice or probing has helped me gain the most from limited opportunities.
I can only say that I have a broad spectrum of knowledge on the past, current and future work of ITC. What is most valuable to me is the institution’s ability to adapt its agenda to focus on current world issues or challenges. That makes ITC engagements unique and extraordinary. They’re always geared towards finding solutions to real and current world issues impacting small and medium-sized enterprises the world over.


It has been both a privilege and a journey of many sacrifices, which to date I have no regrets about. However, like any human being there are those things which one wishes were not part of the package. The greatest of them all is to leave your offspring in a faraway land believing that what you are doing is worth the sacrifices they must make.
There is also the interruption in your career development, especially where you practice a certain profession and the work you do on the fellowship is not directly related to your area of expertise. The gift though is that you get to learn what you did not know and you can also improve on a certain skill set you thought you already possessed.

As I approach the end of my time at ITC I am certain I will dedicate the rest of this period to participate in leadership enhancing activities which I have not had the opportunity to experience during the first part of my time here. I pause to say ‘thank you’ to all and continue on my journey, determined to grow to the extent possible.