It is with great pleasure that I present to you the African Economic Research Consortium’s (AERC) Annual Report 2015/16 for the fiscal year ending March 2016. I hope you will find this report both informative and that it will give you a greater appreciation of this highly integrated knowledge and capacity building organization for the service of sustained African development. In this Annual Report, AERC renders accountability for the key developments in 2015/16. Even more than in previous years, we want the Annual Report to meet the information needs of all our stakeholders: longstanding and newer funding partners, researchers, graduate students, educators, universities and other governmental and non-governmental institutions.
The year 2015/16 marks the first year of the implementation of the Strategic Plan 2015-2020. More than 27 years since its inception, AERC has fostered an enduring, integrated capacity building framework anchored in three pillars: research, collaborative graduate training and policy outreach. These are complemented by a vast network of institutions, researchers, educators, graduate students, international resource persons, and policy makers. The novel features of the current strategy are inclusive capacity building and quality enhancement, global linkages and private sector engagement, enhanced visibility and policy impact, as well as promoting African stakeholder-ship and long-term sustainability of AERC.
It has been an exciting and yet quite a busy year for myself, the staff and management of AERC. Looking back at the activities and programmes running through the year reminds me of just how dynamic we are as a seasoned organization. Despite a busy schedule, we have remained true to our core value – a premier capacity building institution in the advancement of research and training to inform economic policies in sub-Saharan Africa.
This period saw a flurry of activities under programmes for thematic and collaborative research, collaborative graduate training, policy outreach and institutional collaboration. The biannual research workshops featured plenary, concurrent and technical sessions, along with side presentations by our flagship institutional partners, such as AfDB, UNECA and AUC. The core biannual workshops are our enduring delivery mechanisms for capacity building for policy-oriented research involving peer review of early career researchers from around the continent. The peer review mechanism is monitored by international resource persons for greater clarity of the deliverable and clear expectations for the next advanced round of research. You may know that many of those who have been nurtured over the years through the AERC capacity building framework occupy senior positions around the continent. Two biannual research workshops were convened during this period, each featuring a plenary session and a policy roundtable - Arusha, Tanzania (June 2015) and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, December (2015).
Under the AERC training programme, 71 Collaborative Master’s Programme (CMAP) students, including 30 (42%) women, participated in the 2015 Joint Facility for Electives (JFE) held in Arusha, Tanzania, from 29 June–18 September 2015. As for the Collaborative PhD Programme (CPP), 19 students, including 8 (42%) women, attended the 2015 JFE held at the same venue from 29 June–30 October 2015. The Collaborative Master’s Programme in Agricultural and Applied Economics (CMAAE) Shared Facility for Specialization and Electives (SFSE) began on 3 August 2015 at the University of Pretoria and ended on 30 November 2015. Eighty-two 82 students attended the SFSE, 38 (46%) of whom were women.
As outlined in the strategic plan 2015-2020, AERC has for the first time, developed a free standing bridge programme to foster inclusive capacity building by addressing under-representation by virtue of gender, language barrier, and fragile and post conflict states. It is worth noting that we have began implementing the bridge programme by tapping into new support by our key institutional partners who share AERC’s vision for inclusive capacity building.
In order to enhance best global practice and generate high quality economic policy research and graduate training, focus has been placed on seeking to strengthen national, regional and global linkages with leading policy research institutions, universities and multilateral institutions during the current strategy period. This provides an opportunity for AERC to be mentored and mentor fledgling research and training institutions in sub-Saharan Africa. Several activities were undertaken during the reporting period towards realizing the stipulated strategic objective and associated outcomes. In particular, these activities pertain to collaborative research and institutional collaboration.
Among the collaborative research activities are financial sector development project, understanding growth in fragile and post conflict states, the completion and launch of the book volume on capital flight from Africa. A new collaborative research on regional integration is underway inspired by the new AfDB grant. The activities under institutional collaboration included implementation of the Service Delivery Indicators in health and education (in partnership with the World Bank) through training workshops in Nigeria, Tanzania and Kenya; the Knowledge Platform for Inclusive Development (in partnership with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and AERC Scholar Visitors Programmes (IMF, AfDB, and Oxford - CSAE).
A relatively unchartered area in the AERC Strategic Plan 2015-2020, is engagement with the private sector. The private sector has increasingly been recognized as a key driver of economic growth and development in Africa. During the current strategic plan period, more prominence will be given to private sector linkages so as to enhance development impact of activities of AERC in mutually beneficial areas of interest. In order to achieve the outcomes under this objective, numerous activities were undertaken during the reporting period. Leveraging strategic partnerships for transformative action is a key plank in our programmes. A growing share of our strategic partnerships are now starting to take root in the private sector as we work together on fostering these relationships. I am also pleased to inform you that PTA Bank has just become an institutional member of the Consortium in accordance with the AERC bylaws with a seat on the Board. This follows an exciting development of the Livingstone Resolution of African Central Banks with eleven signatories to become members of the Consortium effective March 2015.
On the policy front, where research meets policy, the eighteenth senior policy seminar that was held in Nairobi, Kenya on March 22-23, 2016 brought together 100 participants, primarily African policy-makers and advisors drawn from the highest levels of government representing 24 countries on the continent. The policy seminar was a timely opportunity to share the lessons emerging from financial inclusion initiatives in Africa and the rest of the world, with relevant policy makers and private sector actors in the continent, inspired by dissemination of AERC Collaborative research and other commissioned papers from thought leaders on the subject. The longstanding AERC senior policy seminar is a forum for promotion of informed policy making based on rigor and evidence through intense dialogue between policy makers and researchers, and among policy makers as well. The forum is also intended to inform AERC in keeping abreast of policy imperatives for its research and training programmes.
During the reporting period, a number of strategies were employed in an effort to sustain, or even increase the resources available for implementation of programme activities under the new Strategic Plan 2015-2020. These include deepening and sustaining strong relationships with current funding partners; re-engaging with previous funders, engaging with non-traditional partners and cultivating sustainability through enhanced African stakeholder-ship of AERC. However, our resource challenges remain substantial and this is the time for our longstanding funders to continue to partner with us in an aggressive strategy to put AERC in a more sustainable path.
Finally, we are gratified again to maintain our enduring unqualified audit reports. Together we can usher in a new era that is more sustainable, resilient, and inclusive for AERC. I wish to convey deep gratitude to the AERC management and staff who continue to demonstrate high performance and devotion to AERC and to Africa. The AERC Board and key advisory organs, including the Programme Committee and academic advisory boards have been vigilant in their monitoring and evaluation throughout the reporting period. Huge compliments to the longstanding and new members of the Consortium, and non-member partners as well as our vast network, without whom AERC ceases to exist.
Prof. Lemma W. Senbet,
African Economic Research Consortium