Updates from the AERC Executive Director’s Desk

Dear Network Members and Friends of AERC,

Greetings: I am pleased to share with you the following updates:


1. The AERC December 2017 Biannual Research Workshop

African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) will host the next Biannual Research Workshop on December 3-7, 2017, in Arusha, Tanzania. The 47th Plenary Session will be on “Governance for Development in Africa”. Three commissioned papers will be presented followed by a public-private sector policy roundtable on the same theme. This will then be followed by three days of five concurrent sessions based on five thematic research groups central to Africa’s development. The biannual research workshop uses a unique framework combining learning-by-doing research, peer review, mentoring and networking to build and strengthen the capacity of African researchers. The workshop brings together a large number of economists from Africa and other parts of the world, and provides a forum in which the participants can meet each other within a worldwide network of professionals, and deal with issues relevant to Africa’s sustained development. Moreover, the workshop provides 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.

2. AERC at the High Level Policy Working Group for the AU-EU Summit

The AERC Executive Director was part of the high level working group in preparation for the 5th AU– EU summit in November 2017. The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung together with the European Commission and the German Development Institute (DIE) organized the high level working group and seminar on the state of Africa-EU relations.  The seminar brought together a small group of high-level policy makers from national, regional and continental levels as well as parliamentarians, academia, civil society and the private sector. The topics discussed included: new approaches to the key issues identified in the EU Communication for a renewed impetus of the EU-Africa partnership; getting feedback from African partners; operationalization of the AU Agenda 2063 and possibilities for the creation of synergies between the strategic approaches of the AU and EU; defining the best ways of cooperation and engagement between the two continents linked by proximity, history, culture and economy in addressing mutual and global challenges.

3. Inclusive Capacity Building for Women/Researchers in fragile/Post Conflict States

Efforts at increasing women’s participation in AERC research and training activities are gaining momentum. On the research side, the proportion of women who have been presenting their thematic reports at the June and December biannual research workshops has increased significantly. The percentage of researchers from Francophone countries attending the biannual research workshop remained at about 48% in the last two biannual research workshops, however, this was an increase compared to 35% last year. Meanwhile, nearly 40% of the researchers who participated in the recent biannual research workshops were drawn from fragile and post conflict countries. In terms of thematic research grants to researchers from fragile and post conflict countries, 13 researchers were approved to receive thematic research grants last year.  The enhanced representation of Francophone researchers in AERC research activities is encouraging. Inclusive capacity building is part of the innovative and successful bridge programme which is enshrined in the AERC Strategic Plan, 2015-2020.

4. The AERC/IMF Visiting Scholars Programme

African Economic Research Consortium/International Monetary Fund (AERC/IMF) visiting scholar programme that was inaugurated recently provides AERC researchers an opportunity to work on their work-in-progress or final reports using facilities at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and to interact with IMF staff in their areas of research. Recently, eight researchers visited the IMF. Meanwhile, a call for expression of interest was posted on the AERC website and circulated widely to AERC network members. The list of 15 applicants was reviewed during the AERC-IMF meeting held in Nairobi, Kenya. A list of 11 recommended participants was compiled and forwarded to IMF for final selection of the participants. Following this, five researchers were selected by the IMF. The selected candidates were: Chuku from Nigeria, Kouame Desire from Cote d’Ivoire, Ita Mannathoko from Botswana, Tiriongo Kiplang’at and Peter Wamalwa from Kenya. Furthermore, another call for expression of interest was posted on the AERC website and circulated widely to AERC researchers. Following this, a total of 26 applicants responded to the call and 18 were shortlisted for final selection in consultation with the IMF.

5. The AERC-World Bank (AFRCE) Visiting Scholars Programme

 African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) and The World Bank, Africa Region Chief Economist’s Office (AFRCE), signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for a mutually beneficial collaborative partnership. The newly established AERC-World Bank (AFRCE) visiting scholars programme is central to the collaboration between the two institutions. The objectives of the collaboration are to (i) enhance AERC’s capacity to boost economic policy research in sub-Saharan Africa; (ii) help strengthen AERC’s global linkages in areas of economic policy, academic research, and graduate training; (iii) deepen and broaden the policy impact of both AERC and AFRCE and (iv) to enhance the skills and output (especially publications and courses) of individual African researchers by providing access to wider and better information, network and economic research and data accessible via the World Bank. The visiting scholars programme provides an opportunity for AERC researchers to visit the World Bank for four months, with a total of three researchers visiting every year. Visiting scholars will be selected from among AERC network members based on set guidelines including the World Bank’s policies and procedures.

6. The AERC/African Development Bank Scholars Exchange Programme

The Research Department of the African Development Bank (AfDB) has partnered with AERC in the design of an exchange programme between AfDB and AERC, whereby new graduates under the AERC collaborative training programmes, particularly doctoral programmes, are given an opportunity to spend up to three months at the AfDB headquarters in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, to deepen their research competencies. During this period of the programme, visiting researchers are expected to work on topics arising from their dissertation or research work they would have started working on with a view of gaining practical experience and deriving publishable papers, which are included, where applicable, in the working paper series of the AfDB. Moreover, the research fellows have dedicated mentorship, including from senior management, so as to expose them to the Bank and enhance their skills as they learn a number of practical aspects related to development financing and the challenges of Africa’s transformation. Visiting researchers are supervised by appropriate Bank staff in the Development Research Department.

7. Regional Integration for Sustainable and Inclusive Development in Africa

African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) has launched a new collaborative research project on Regional Integration for Sustainable and Inclusive Development in Africa. Regional integration is a development priority for Africa. Africa’s integration journey towards a more connected, competitive and business-friendly continent is underway, and its roadmap is, in some areas, under construction as evidenced by AERC’s intense research inquiry and policy dialogue on the subject. This project focuses on previously under-researched and new emerging issues. Its emphasis is on five socio-economic dimensions that are fundamental to Africa’s integration, namely: regional infrastructure, trade integration, services integration, free movement of people, and financial and macroeconomic integration. It is important to also note that this will be the subject of the next AERC Senior Policy Seminar slated for March 12–13, 2018 in Kampala, Uganda. This conference is an annual forum that provides high level African policy makers the opportunity to come together to dialogue on the results of research conducted by AERC and its affiliates, exchange policy experiences and interact with the researchers in an atmosphere of peers. The themes of these seminars are selected on the basis of topicality and contemporary interest to African policy making.

8. Healthcare Financing in sub-Saharan Africa

AERC has identified Healthcare Financing in sub-Saharan Africa as a theme of interest to policy making in Africa. Financing of health care is an issue of considerable interest in sub-Saharan Africa, owing to the magnitude of the epidemiologic, demographic, and macroeconomic challenges within the region. Although the health sector generally receives a sizable share of the budget in most countries, funding is inadequate, especially in light of the high disease burden in the continent, and as a result, health outcomes have tended to be poor. Adequate funding of public healthcare is in part constrained by a small taxable formal sector, which contributes to limited domestic resource revenues and challenges pertaining to efficient use of the limited resources available. Africa has been growing robustly in the last two decades, averaging about 5% per annum for an extended period. However, health outcomes have not been as impressive, and many African countries missed on their Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) targets in this area. Despite notable improvements, trends in the health status of the African population are lagging behind other developing regions and considerably lower on most parameters including child mortality, maternal mortality, incidence of new HIV infections, and frequency of outbreaks of other infectious diseases like Ebola.

9. AERC Agriculture and Food Policy Analysis for Nutrition

African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) is in the process of executing a research project that is intended to investigate the linkage between agricultural and food policies and nutrition outcomes in sub Saharan Africa (SSA). The nutrition outcomes of hunger (undernourishment, stunting, and child mortality), inadequate food consumption, food insecurity and volatile food prices have been noted and acknowledged by African policy makers. These challenges have motivated policy makers in sub Saharan Africa (SSA) to put in place various agricultural policies, such as farm input policies, agricultural credit policies, agricultural extension and education policies, land ownership, farm output price policies, food and nutrition policies, agricultural marketing and trade policies, among others, with a view to improving nutrition outcomes. Most of these policies and initiatives, however, tend to focus on agricultural production metrics, and do not directly relate to nutrition or actual food consumption. This has tended to limit the effectiveness of agricultural policies in improving nutrition outcomes. The main objective of this research is to investigate the impact of agricultural, food and nutrition policies on nutrition outcomes, and thus human development and health. It is generously funded by the Gates Foundation.

10. The AERC Join Facility for Electives (JFE)

The 2017 Collaborative Master’s Programme (CMAP) and Collaborative PhD (CPP) Joint Facility for Electives (JFE) was held successfully at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies (KSMS) in Nairobi, Kenya. The event was officially opened by Prof. Lemma W. Senbet, AERC Executive Director, who reaffirmed the organization’s commitment to equip Africa’s young economic researchers’ capacity for conducting independent, rigorous inquiry into the problems pertinent to the management of African economies. There were 63 CMAP students and 22 CPP students – giving a total student population of 85 from 12 African nationalities on the two programmes managed by the AERC. This is usually the largest gathering of graduate students from across the sub Saharan Africa. The JFE presents high quality elective courses that are generally beyond the existing capacity of the participating universities.  Bringing together of students and lecturers of different nationalities in one facility allows the formation of networks among African scholars that become highly valuable long after the students have completed their studies. This is an African Union of its own kind, because when the students leave the facility; they have made an ever-lasting academic and social relationship with their colleagues from other parts of Africa. Moreover, bringing students together in one common location in a mutually enriching environment has the advantage of nurturing pan-African spirit with long-lasting relationships that continue beyond the JFE.

11. The Shared Facility for Specialization and Electives (SFSE)

African Economic Research Consortium’s 2017 Shared Facility for Specialization and Electives (SFSE) took place at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. A total of 80 students drawn from the eight accredited departments took part.  This is a residential programme of the Collaborative Master’s in Agricultural and Applied Economics (CMAAE). The CMAAE is one of three postgraduate programmes of AERC.  Currently, 17 departments of Agricultural Economics of public universities in 12 countries in Eastern, Central and Southern Africa participate in the programme. The students enroll in accredited university departments of Agricultural Economics for the first two semesters to take core courses before the successful ones converge at the Shared Facility for Specialization and Electives to take the specialization and elective courses in the third semester at the University of Pretoria. The SFSE is analogous to the JFE with similar networking value beyond the course content.

12. International Search for Executive Director – AERC

As it has been announced earlier, Professor Lemma W. Senbet, AERC Executive Director, will be returning to the University of Maryland as the William E. Mayer Chair Professor of Finance in August 2018. He has been on leave from the University to serve AERC and Africa. SRI Executive Search has been retained by AERC to assist the Search Committee, which is primarily composed of the officers of the Board. The advertisement has been circulated globally and featured in various channels, as well as AERC and SRI websites. As stated in the advert, the Executive Director is the Chief Executive Officer and has overall responsibility for the implementation of programmes and services of the Consortium, as well as overseeing the Secretariat. He/she reports to the Board and has broad responsibilities for the development and implementation of the Consortium’s strategic goals and the management of its resources.  He/she is responsible for the effective communication of the Consortium’s programmes and results to the AERC network, donors and policymakers as well as ensuring that AERC has a high and positive organizational profile as a premier economics capacity building and knowledge organization in Africa with global reach. This position is expected to be filled by August 2018. AERC network members are encouraged to send nominations to the SRI Executive Search.

If you wish to be considered for this position, you should pay attention to the following SRI message: “Please forward a copy of your CV and a supporting letter in Microsoft Word format, along with any relevant documentation to Mrs. Jamie Strickler-Connellan at jstrickler@sri-executive.com  on or before December 7, 2017. All information will be in the strictest confidence as we pride ourselves on our professional service. We will revert to you as soon as feasible when we have reviewed your application”.


Please feel free to contact us for any clarification on these, and other activities of the Consortium. I encourage you to make regular visits to the AERC website for more updates: http://www.aercafrica.org.

I take this opportunity to once again convey my deepest gratitude for your continued support and partnership, and look forward to our continued engagement.


Prof. Lemma W. Senbet
Executive Director, AERC