SPS XXV Seminar Papers
Behrman, Jere R.
African Economic Research Consortium
The African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) convenes Senior policy seminars to provide 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 based on topicality and contemporary interest to African policy-making. AERC Senior policy seminars are forums where policy makers and researchers engage in uninterrupted deliberations on a set of important issues considered significant to policy-making in Africa. 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 crucial to transforming Africa. They also improve prospects for policy involvement of the researchers and enhance AERC’s visibility in the policy community. Consequently, serving to highlight the growing capacity in the region for policy research and, overall, 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. AERC is hugely indebted to Hon. Eliud Owalo, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Information Communications & Digital Economy, Kenya, who was the Guest of Honour at the official opening of the Seminar and delivered a keynote speech. The welcoming remarks were by Prof. Théophile Azomahou, Ag. Executive Director, AERC. The conference was also graced by Hon. Prof. Njuguna Ndung’u, EGH, Cabinet Secretary, National Treasury & Economic Planning, Kenya; Hon. Bangasi J. Bakosoo, Minister for Public Service & Human Resource Development, South Sudan; Hon. Kobygda Larba Issa, Ministere de l'Economie, des Finances et du Developpement, Burkina Faso; Dr. Wilson T. Banda, Governor, Reserve Bank of Malawi; Hon. Issa-Toure Salahaddine, Speaker of the National Assembly, Togo; H. E. Dr. Kerfalla Yansane, Ambassador of Guinea to the USA & Former Minister for Mining & Geology; and H.E. Dr. Kheswar Jankee, Ambassador of Mauritius in Russia. Other specials guests were Dr. Donald Kaberuka, former President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Her Royal Highness (HRH), Queen Nozizwe Mulela, Kingdom of Eswatini, among other high level policy makers including five (5) ministers, three (3) Ambassadors, a Governor of Central Bank, a Permanent Secretary, a Queen, and four (4) former ministers. This hybrid conference attracted a total of 598 participants (131 physical participants and 467 online participants) drawn from 43 countries across Africa. A total number of 1,909 registered online to participate in the event. The conference featured four presentations by thought leaders on the theme “Human Capital Development in Africa”. Human capital—the education, skills, and health of people — plays a pivotal role in the transformation of African economies. Sub-Saharan Africa scores the lowest of all the world’s regions on the World Bank’s Human Capital Index of about 0.40, a measurement of how well countries invest in the next generation of workers. This is despite the fact that access to sources of human capital in Africa, although still low, has increased significantly over the past two decades. Session One was on “A Lifecyle, Economy-Wide Framework for Human Capital in Africa”, presented by Prof. Lant Pritchett, Harvard University, USA. This session was chaired by Hon. Bangasi J. Bakosoo, Minister for Public Service & Human Resource Development, South Sudan. The paper was discussed by Dr. Adam Mugume, Executive Director, Bank of Uganda. Session Two was on “Human Capital Investments and Economic Growth in Africa” presented by Prof. Jere R. Behrman, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania, USA. This session chair was H. E. Dr. Kheswar Jankee, Ambassador, Embassy of Mauritius in Russia and the paper was discussed by Dr. Sherillyn Raga, Overseas Development Institute (ODI), UK. The Third Session was on “Human Capital Accumulation in Africa: Drivers, Consequences, and Way forward”. This session was chaired by Hon. Kobygda Larba Issa, Ministere de l'Economie, des Finances et du Developpement, Burkina Faso. The paper was presented by Prof. Germano Mwabu, Department of Economics, University of Nairobi, Kenya. The discussant for the paper was Prof. Olu Ajakaiye, African Centre for Shared Development Capacity Building, Nigeria. The fourth paper was on “Education in Africa: Career Progressions, Gaps in Learning Outcomes and Responding to the Learning Crisis”. This session was chaired by Dr. Wilson T. Banda, Governor, Reserve Bank of Malawi. The paper was presented by Prof. Adrienne Lucas & Dr. Gerald Ipapa, Lerner College of Business & Economics, University of Delaware, USA. This paper was discussed by Dr. Elizabeth Nanziri, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa. The presenters produced high-quality papers, and the participants were very active, thus enabling us to produce the seminar’s policy recommendations that were shared as a communiqué with other African policy makers who did not find time to take part in this important event. We are grateful to all those who made the seminar a great success. Dr. Dianah Muchai, Manager, Research, Dr. Scholastica Odhiambo, Prof. Théophile Azomahou, Director of Training, who made valuable inputs into the preparation and implementation of the seminar. In equal measure, AERC very much appreciates the hard work of Senvy Maistry, Chief Communications Officer, Dr. Charles Owino, Publications Manager, Joel Mathia, ICT Administrator, and Lancer Wao, Communications and Publications Assistant in organizing the event. AERC also acknowledges with gratitude Dr. Tom Kimani, Lead Manager, Training and Dr. Mark Korir, Manager Training for their role as rapporteurs, as well as Pamela Kilwake, Sheila Lyaga, Hellen Muthoni, Margaret Mwangi, Natalie Chaponda and Jackson Ng’ang’a, who assisted with logistics. To these individuals, and the many others who were involved in one way or another, AERC extends its heartfelt appreciation.