In the late 1980s a small group of African scholars began discussions on the disconnect between economic policy making and economic research in sub-Saharan Africa. Available research results, applied to other economies, did not always seem appropriate to the African context. The scholars envisioned a vehicle for pooling their considerable collective expertise and using it to develop economic policy capacity in sub-Saharan Africa. And thus the African Economic Research Consortium was born in 1988.
AERC is a true African success story. Its achievements over the 25 years have been commendable: an extensive body of research that brings evidence to policy making in Africa; thousands of AERC alumni at key positions in African governments and institutions, multilateral organizations, academic institutions and private sector. Among them are nine governors of central banks and two successive chief economists of the African Development Bank. AERC is a policy-oriented economic research and training institution in the continent and is one of the most active Research and Capacity Building Institutions in the Global Development Network.
Its mission rests on two basic premises: First, that development is more possible where there is sustained sound management of the economy. Second, that such management is more likely to happen where there is an active, well-informed cadre of locally-based professional economists to conduct policy-relevant research. AERC builds that cadre through two core programmes: research and training.
The Research Programme responds to special needs of the region through improving the technical skills of local researchers, allowing for regional determination of research priorities, strengthening national institutions concerned with economic policy research, and facilitating closer ties between researchers and policy makers. On the other hand, the Training Programme augments the pool of economic researchers in sub-Saharan Africa by supporting graduate studies in economics, and improving the capacity of departments of economics in local public universities. The two programmes are backed by a comprehensive communications and outreach strategy.
AERC is supported by donor governments, multilateral organizations, private foundations and international organizations.
It is important to note that AERC enjoys substantial goodwill from African governments and institutions, which have benefitted from AERC’s research and training outputs, and through employment of researchers and post graduates who have gone through its programmes. Evaluations and reviews over the years have underlined the validity of AERC’s approach, the quality of the AERC programme, and the continuing relevance of its mission and agenda.
Why mark the 25th Anniversary?
This anniversary provides us with an opportunity to showcase our achievements over the years and to use past success to connect to pressing current and future policy issues for SSA. In the past 25 years, the Consortium has matured into a reputable institution striving to meet the growing demand for its programmes in a region that remains in dire need of well-trained, locally based professional economists.
The key success factors in AERC’s existence include; networking, collaboration and partnerships, which have been augmented by the synergy between research and the training programme.
Through its Research Programme, AERC has trained and supported more than 3,300 African researchers from 25 countries, while the Training Programme has produced over 2,000 master’s graduates and supported 400 PhD students. Besides the research and training network, AERC has steadily created a high-level policy network of more than 900 senior African policy makers through convening regular regional Senior Policy Seminars that bring together ministers of finance, governors and deputy governors of central banks, and heads of government departments, among other senior government officials. In addition, AERC programmes have generated an extensive body of research results that is directly relevant to African economic policy.
Repositioning of AERC
AERC’s vision is now to reposition itself as the premier institution for capacity building through the advancement of research and training to inform economic policies in sub-Saharan Africa. The repositioning strategies include a variety of institutional linkages and best practices, guided by five key pillars, namely:
- Globalization: To be achieved through concerted efforts to strengthen institutional partnerships between AERC and leading universities and research institutions in Africa and the world. AERC intends to motivate cultural change amongst the next generation of scholars, policy analysts and researchers in the continent, so as to enhance their skills to address the policy needs of the continent, consistent with best global practices.
- Africanization: In line with its mission, AERC will maintain an African perspective and work towards increasing the contribution of African stakeholders. This will be achieved through capitalization of the huge AERC alumni and the substantial goodwill that AERC enjoys from African governments.
- Integration: AERC is making strides towards greater integration of the research and training programmes thus realizing synergy and broadening the outcomes.
- Privatization: AERC will endeavour to reach out to the private sector so as to undertake joint activities that confer mutual benefits to both parties as well as positive outcomes for the continent.
- Technology Integration: This strategy aims at embracing ICT innovations to enhance efficiency and greater outreach. The future will see AERC make concrete progress towards greater adaptation of technology in the delivery of its training and research outputs, including e-learning in teaching of electives.