African economists inspire growth, reduce poverty

October 25, 2010
IDRC Communications
Talk to an economist in Africa and there's a good chance you'll be talking to a graduate of the African Economic Research Consortium’s (AERC) training program. Founded in 1988 with support from IDRC and other international donor agencies, AERC has trained over 1,800 students at the Master’s level and 300 PhDs. This critical mass of experts has helped to steer economies toward sustainable growth in sub-Saharan Africa.
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AERC awards research grants on issues such as poverty, trade and finance and manages collaborative Master’s and PhD programs in economics with dozens of African universities.

“Within the first 10 years of AERC  support for economic policy research, many African countries began to see growth rates turn around and go from negative to positive,” says William Lyakurwa, AERC’s executive director. His own country, Tanzania, is one example where AERC support has built capacity and strengthened the management of the Tanzanian economy.

"AERC alumni are in key government decision-making positions across Africa. They include central bank governors and ministers of finance," Lyakurwa says. "They are using the knowledge that they obtained from AERC, but also from their interactions with each other."

In addition to such key topics as industrialization and agricultural development, AERC has recently grappled with fallout from the global economic crisis, which resulted in substantially higher food prices in many African countries. In two workshops, over 200 economic researchers and policymakers from across the continent discussed how to reinforce the agricultural sector’s development and food security.

By supporting post-graduate studies in economics and by strengthening departments of economics in regional universities, the consortium is slowing the "brain drain" and building capacity for economic policy research across Africa.