Rethinking Regional Integration in Africa

The African Economic Research Consortium (AERC), established in 1988, is one of the most robust Research and Capacity Building Institutions in the world, with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa. The Consortium’s mission is to strengthen local capacity for conducting independent, rigorous inquiry into the problems facing the management of economies in sub-Saharan Africa. AERC achieves its mission and objectives through a long-standing collaborative and networking framework of its research and training programmes, with the support of an interactive communications and outreach programme and backed by a comprehensive management and administration component.

At the core of AERC is a platform for networking of individuals (researchers, resource persons, faculty, students and policy makers) and institutions from across Africa and other parts of the world to bring synergies for enhanced developmental outcomes.  For 30 years now, AERC has built a solid core of highly credible research and a cadre of well-trained economists that has enhanced the professional stature of the network, both locally and internationally, and that has focused attention on issues critical to African development, bringing rigour and evidence to policy making.

AERC Senior Policy Seminars

One of AERC’s major activities is bridging the gap between economic research and economic policy. The gap is not only in implementation of policy; it frequently arises in translating research findings into policy. AERC addresses these concerns through a variety of forums, the flagship of which is the Senior Policy Seminar. These seminars are intended to bring together the economic policy researchers and the policy makers, along with high level private sector and non-state actors, to discuss key policy research issues in sub-Saharan Africa. A typical seminar features about 100 policy makers and private and non-state sector actors discussing AERC collaborative research findings and research of other thought leaders presented for dialogue between researchers and policy makers.

The AERC Senior Policy Seminar provides an opportunity for policy makers and researchers to engage in uninterrupted deliberations on a set of important issues considered significant to policy. The seminar format insulates the policy makers from pressures related to their responsibilities and, thus, creates an environment for lively professional discourse on the selected issue.

Aside from the specific aims of bringing researchers and policy makers together, the seminars are directly useful to AERC because they help identify research imperatives facing a transforming Africa to be considered a network of researchers and educators.  They also improve prospects for policy involvement of the researchers and enhance AERC’s visibility in the policy community. Thus, they serve to highlight the growing capacity in the region for policy research and, on the whole, provide important feedback to AERC for its research and training programs.

Exchange of country-specific experiences is particularly important in these seminars. The policy makers are normally identified for their interest in policy research issues and the level of seniority of the policy makers is generally right, leading to detailed discussions. Researchers are reasonably well balanced between anglophone and francophone, and attendance by francophone policy makers is always encouraged.

Policy makers report that they have found their experiences in the seminars very useful. The information exchanged helps them update their knowledge on current research and sieve out issues that are relevant to their duties. Some have even been embarrassed to find that during negotiations with international financial institutions, they have agreed to certain policies without understanding the full implications of the policy package. Seminars of this kind, while not intended or able to make the policy maker an economist, nevertheless afford the opportunity of considering the wider ramifications of their policy decisions.

Nurturing Research and Policy Relationship

Because they give a human face to the practitioners of the respective trades, these seminars are extremely useful for their potential to promote cooperation between policy maker and researcher. Most participants, therefore, carry the message of success to policy research institutions in their respective countries. By sharing country experiences, interacting with researchers, and discussing problems and solutions in policy implementation, the participants discover a great deal that can be used in future planning.

The seminars also provide thoughts on how policy makers and researchers can maintain a more effective interaction at the national level. Among these ideas are: making policy makers more aware of research issues and the applicability of research techniques; involving researchers in analysing technical policy proposals; exchanging information on best practices in other countries; and improving researchers’ access to policy makers.

Policy making in Africa is a particularly difficult task, and AERC strives to provide policy makers with the information they need to do their jobs well. Research should not simply concentrate on the identification of problems, rather, it should provide concrete suggestions as to how to overcome the problems. And Africa has the human resources to be able to effect a change for the better.

The Consortium supports a variety of research efforts that respond to policy concerns of wide application to the region. Although AERC’s operations are region-wide, much of the research it supports is country-specific in nature through commissioned country case studies that provide a wide cross-section of experiences. This approach lends itself easily to compilation of experiences on best practices and avoidable mishaps in the policy sphere.  In all these instances care is taken to ensure that research being pursued has policy value and addresses issues that are pertinent to current and prospective policy concerns, and these are then synthesized and shared in the senior policy seminars and other forums. Thus, with the commitment and partnership between policy makers and researchers, Africa can overcome most of her problems

AERC Senior Policy Seminar (SPS XX)

The African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) will host a senior policy seminar, the twentieth in the series with a broad theme as Regional Integration in Africa.  The dates for this conference have been set as follows: March 12-13, 2018. The venue will be Kampala, Uganda. It has been resolved that four papers will be presented followed by a policy roundtable. The roundtable will be a mix of policy makers, paper presenters, and private sector actors.

The four main objectives of the Senior Policy Seminars are:

  • To identify possible areas of policy-oriented research for AERC-funded researchers to consider.
  • To improve prospects for policy involvement by AERC-funded researchers.
  • To increase AERC visibility in the policy community, highlighting the growing capacity in the region for policy research.
  • To provide an opportunity for policy makers and researchers to exchange their experiences and views on macroeconomic policy.

These are achieved in four ways:

  • By synthesizing and disseminating the results of AERC-funded research to senior policy makers.
  • By generating an interaction between the policy makers and AERC-funded researchers on the results of existing AERC research.
  • By encouraging sharing of experiences among policy makers, on the lessons and details of macroeconomic policies.
  • By receiving feedback from policy makers on the key current policy-related research issues in Africa.

The concrete outputs of the seminar are expected to be:

 Major input into AERC’s policy-oriented research agenda, in the form of suggestions for key priorities in each of the policy areas examined.

  • Ideas for methods and structures to promote closer collaboration among policy makers and researchers, both within individual countries and collaboratively across the continent.
  • Wider dissemination of AERC materials to policy makers, and ideas for forms and methods of dissemination most convenient to them.
  • Proposals for how to follow-up the seminar.

Expected Outcome of the senior policy seminar (SPSXX)

  • Raised awareness and knowledge among senior policy makers, private sector and non-state actors on the role of Regional Integration in Africa through evidence-based research.
  • Identification of enabling government policies for regional integration, and exchange of country-specific experiences through a roundtable discussion.
  • Enhanced relationship between researchers and policy makers by bringing them together to discuss key policy research issues in regional integration.
  • Provide an opportunity to policy makers and researchers, along with the private sector and non-state actors, for uninterrupted dialogue on a set of key regional integration issues considered significant to policy.
  • Equip African policy makers in decision making using up-to-date research findings.


Four papers addressing issues on regional integration in Africa will be presented.

  • In the senior policy seminar (SPSXX): The Four papers will emanate from AERC research and one will be presented by an AERC partner.
  • A roundtable discussion of senior policy makers and other stakeholders will be held.
  • There will be a robust discussion and exchange of ideas.

Themes of Previous AERC Senior Policy Seminars


Economic Research and Policy Making in Sub-Saharan Africa

March 1995Nairobi, Kenya40
Financial Sector Reforms, Domestic Resource Mobilization and Investment in AfricaNovember 1996Abidjan, Cote d’ Ivoire48
Fiscal Policy in AfricaOctober 1997Accra, Ghana52
Revenue Mobilization in Sub-Saharan AfricaFebruary 2000Gaborone, Botswana56
Macroeconomic Policy and Poverty Reduction in AfricaFebruary 2002Dar es Salaam, Tanzania60
Financing Pro-Poor Growth in AfricaMarch 2004Kampala, Uganda63
Poverty, Growth and InstitutionsMarch  2005Cape Town, South Africa66
Governance and Pro-poor Growth in sub-Saharan AfricaMarch 2006Dakar, Senegal72
Managing Commodity Booms in Sub-Saharan AfricaFebruary 2007Yaoundé, Cameroon78
Climate Change and Economic Development in Sub-Saharan AfricaApril 2008Addis Ababa, Ethiopia80
The Global Financial Crisis and Its Implications for the African EconomiesApril 2009Lusaka, Zambia92
Bank Regulatory Reforms in Africa: Enhancing Bank Competition and Intermediation EfficiencyMarch 2010Mombasa, Kenya72
Natural Resource Management in sub-Saharan AfricaMarch 2011Maputo, Mozambique103

 (a) Health, Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction in sub-Saharan Africa

(b) Challenges Associated with the   Development of Oil Sector in Uganda (Special Policy Seminar)

March 2012

February  2012

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Kampala, Uganda



Youth and Unemployment in AfricaMarch 2013Kigali, Rwanda113
Capital Flight from AfricaApril 2014Addis Ababa, Ethiopia101
Agriculture in Africa’s Transformation: The Role of Smallholder FarmersMarch 2015Maputo, Mozambique90
Financial Inclusion in AfricaMarch 2016Nairobi, Kenya100
Industrialization in AfricaMarch 2017Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire121
Regional Integration in AfricaMarch 2018Kampala, Uganda