The Swaziland Economic Policy Analysis and Research Centre (SEPARC) hosted Trent Scaccia – a student from the University of Arkansas in the United States of America – who was in the country on an internship programme with the Centre.
Trent’s visit was made possible through a working relationship that SEPARC has with the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences, as well as the Sam Walton College of Business, at the University of Arkansas. The Centre has a working relationship with the University of Arkansas’ colleges to take advantage of opportunities availed by the American institution’s graduate internship programme for developing countries, and to explore opportunities for human capital development.
After completion of his six-week internship at SEPARC in July/August, Trent was full of praise for Swaziland, a country he had no knowledge of prior to his visit. “My stay in Swaziland was quite enjoyable. The people I stayed with were fantastic and made sure that I felt at home, and Mbabane offers some really fun things to do on the weekends, such as hiking and safaris,” he said.
While at SEPARC, Trent’s research focus was on renewable energy policy with reference to rural electrification. He toured the country’s solar energy infrastructure and produced a thought piece on the solar plants that have recently been built within the country.
“What is special about SEPARC is that it allows you to explore subjects that you are passionate about. I am very passionate about renewable energy, and so my research was largely in the energy sector of Swaziland. Whether you are interested in poverty, development or energy research, you can pursue it at SEPARC,” he added.
Describing his interactions with staff at SEPARC, Trent noted that the researchers at the Centre were extremely helpful in making sure that he progressed as a research economist.
“I came to SEPARC with theoretical experience in research but learned a tremendous amount through other employees there. Everyone is extremely nice and happy to help.”
Sharing his thoughts, he said “the most valuable lesson I learned is that even the most simple of problems have multiple facets to them. In school it is really easy to view problems with a black and white lens, but this is hardly the case in the real world and especially at a think tank. There are many stakeholders with competing interests, and being able to balance them in effective policy recommendations requires a different way of thinking entirely”.
As a parting shot, Trent had some advice for Swazi youth; “I highly recommend students in Swaziland to pursue studies in the United States. The world is a very big place, and you learn so much about yourself by exploring it. Thank you so much for the opportunity SEPARC.”
Trent is the second University of Arkansas student to join SEPARC as an intern, following Lee Fox who participated in the programme in June/July.