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AERC Celebrating 25 Years of Excellence in Capacity Building in Economic Policy Research

For the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC), the year 2013 has been a period of reflection on its history and prospects – and its impact on the economic management of sub-Saharan Africa countries in the past 25 years. To commemorate this, AERC lined up a number of activities including a round-table on the theme Growth, Employment and Poverty Reduction in Africa: Lessons and Policy Implications. The meeting which was scheduled for November 30, 2013 at the Safari Park Hotel, Nairobi, Kenya focused on strides made in economic performance in sub-Saharan Africa in the years spanning the turn of the 21st century. The Chief Guest during the official opening of this event was Hon. William Ruto, Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya.  

“African growth is as a result of among other things, years of financial sector reforms and capacity built within the region for research and policy analysis, and AERC has been at the centre of this,” says Prof. Lemma Senbet, Executive Director, African Economic Research Consortium. 

Over 300 economists, policy makers and other dignitaries from the continent and around the world participated through presentation of a synthesis paper and discussion. The AERC story is one of a small project that was the brainchild of a few visionary Africans and Africanists, which has become the major producer in sub-Saharan Africa of central bank and ministry of finance officials, top economic advisers in government, private sector practitioners, and hundreds of academics.

In its 25-year history AERC has supported: Over 3,300 researchers, from over 41 countries; over 2,000 masters graduates, working in government ministries, central banks, national policy research institutes, universities etc; over 400 through the PhD programme, nearly all retained in Africa, majority (71%) of whom have become faculty members in universities, and over 1,200 senior African policy makers, who are members of AERC’s high-level policy network.

Following this anniversary event is the AERC Biannual Research Workshop whose theme is Financial Inclusion and Innovation in Africa. This was the 38th plenary session. It opened at 9:00 am on Sunday December 2, 2013 at the Safari Park Hotel. The session was chaired by Dr. Anthony Muruping, Leading Partner of Mkoba (a Private Equity Firm for Africa), and Former Executive Secretary, African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF).

The plenary session featured four presentations by distinguished economists. Thorsten Beck, Professor of Banking and Finance, Tilburg University, The Netherlands and Cass Business School, London; Research Fellow, CEPR, started off the proceedings with a look at Cross-border Banking and Financial Deepening: The African Experience. Next was Financial Inclusion in Africa: The Role of Informality by Leora Klapper and Dorothe Singer, Finance and Private Sector Development Group, The World Bank, USA. The third paper, Promoting Financial Inclusion in Africa: Innovation, Challenges and the Road Ahead was Peter Ondiege, Chief Research Economist, and Steve Kayizzi-Mugerwa, Director of Research African Development Bank, Tunis and the last paper on Financial Innovations and Monetary Policy in Kenya was presented by Lydia Ndirangu, Assistant Director and Head of Research at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies and Esman Nyamongo, Central Bank of Kenya. 

Discussions on these papers was led by Victor Murinde, Director, African Development Institute, African Development Bank (AfDB), Issouf Soumare, Director – Laboratory for Financial Engineering of Laval University, Canada, and Janvier Nkurunziza, Chief, Commodity Research and Analysis Section, UNCTAD Genève, Switzerland. Thereafter, lively discussions by the participants made up of eminent economists from all over the world and researchers from Africa and beyond followed. 

The concurrent sessions of the biannual research workshop started on Monday, December 2, 2013 and featured 90 presentations of research proposals, work in progress, final reports and PhD theses proposals. These covered a wide range of topics that fit into the focal areas of AERC’s thematic research programme: poverty, income distribution and food security; macroeconomic policies, investment and growth; finance and resource mobilization; trade and regional integration; political economy, natural resource management and agricultural policy issues. 

The AERC also played host to one other workshop during this period at the same venue: This was the AERC/GDNet Policy Brief Training Workshop. This workshop was held on December,  6-8, 2013 with 24 participants and three policy makers taking part. The objective of the workshop was to build capacity and skills in communicating research to maximize uptake of research outputs and impact.

In addition there were special sessions conducted on various topics on different days:

  • African Economic Outlook by Abebe Shimeles and Anthony Simpasa, AfDB, Tunis on December 2, 2013.
  • Institutions and Service Delivery by Gail Martine and Wally Wane,World Bank and Youth Employment in Sub-Saharan Africa by Deon Filmer, Wrold Bank on December 3, 2012.
  • Proposal Writing and Presentation Skills by Anke Hoeffler, CSAE, UK on December 4, 2013. 

Each of AERC’s biannual research workshops attract around 200 researchers, academics, policy makers and other economists who participate in the Research Programme. The workshops provide a forum in which the participants can meet each other within a worldwide network of professionals, and deal with issues relevant to Africa’s economic development. They also provide an opportunity for monitoring the progress and quality of the various research projects sponsored by AERC, thereby fulfilling one of its major mandates – to strengthen local capacity for conducting independent, rigorous inquiry into problems facing the management of economies in sub-Saharan Africa.

AERC is a leader in policy-oriented economic research in the continent, and its biannual research workshops have become the largest gatherings of professional economists in sub-Saharan Africa. The Consortium was established in 1988 as a public not-for-profit organization devoted to building capacity for economic policy research into problems pertinent to the management of economies in sub-Saharan Africa. This is carried out through two main programmes: research and training. In response to the special needs of the region, the AERC Research Programme uses a flexible approach to improve the technical skills of local researchers, allow for regional determination of research priorities, strengthen national institutions concerned with economic policy research, and facilitate closer ties between researchers and policy makers. The Training Programme augments the pool of economic researchers in sub-Saharan Africa by supporting collaborative graduate programmes in economics – at both master’s and PhD levels – as well as improving the capacities of departments of economics  and agricultural and applied economics in public universities. AERC is supported by donor governments, private foundations and international organizations.

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For more information about this workshop or AERC, please contact:

The Executive Director

African Economic Research Consortium (AERC)

Middle East Bank Towers, 3rd Floor, Milimani Road, 

Tel: (254-20) 273-4150 / 273-4157

Fax: (254-20) 273-4173

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