The oldest of the three components of the AERC programme, the Research Programme has four principal objectives:
- To build a credible local capacity for policy-oriented research
- To generate research results for use by policy analysts and policy makers
- To promote links between research and policy
- To encourage retention of high quality researchers
That it has achieved significant success in realizing these objectives has been attested to by a number of evaluations and reviews. The programme has raised the potential for utilization of the researchers' skills in support of development by expanding professional opportunities through the exposure of their work locally and internationally, and building links with policy makers.
The success of this programme is also demonstrated by the increased adoption of the networking concept in other disciplines as a cost-effective approach to attaining a critical mass of professional activity in the region and applying peer review for professional excellence. A spin-off of sub-networks, often in collaboration with professionals outside the region, has further widened research opportunities and firmed up interest in African research. This has helped create a potential for sustainable funding of such research outside of AERC itself. AERC has long used a flexible but cautious approach to expanding its own thematic coverage in research, moving from strictly macroeconomic issues to longer-term sustainable development issues. Intended also to situate African economic research firmly in the global context, the research agenda and programme of activities respond to the professional and policy needs in the region. At the same time, they ensure accountability to funders.
The Plenary sessions of the biannual workshops serve as platforms for presenting commisioned papers on a designated set of topics, in order to explore new themes and methodological approaches. Renowned specialists in their fields review the state of the art in a particular area of research. Their papers help the network keep abreast of new research or may look more deeply at existing issues within the thematic focus.
The research supported by AERC falls in four main components: Thematic, Comparative and Collaborative Research projects, as well as Special Workshops.