Researchers seek global ties to plug economic planning data gaps

Economies around Africa are grappling with poor access to timely, reliable, and credible economic data, a challenge that is frustrating economic policymakers in coming up with development plans.

At this year’s African Econometric Society (AFES) forum led by Kenya’s Treasury Cabinet Secretary Prof Njuguna Ndung’u and the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) Executive Director Prof Théophile Azomahou, speakers called for reliable economic statistics from econometric professionals to inform sound development planning in Africa.

Econometrics is an application of statistical methods that uses economic theory, mathematics, and statistical inference to quantify economic phenomena; effectively turning theoretical economic models into useful tools that inform a country’s economic policymaking.

The AFES meeting organised in partnership with the AERC brought together top economic policy leaders, including presidential and cabinet-level special advisors, eminent professors and members of the diplomatic community to Nairobi to discuss the best way forward for Africa to recover from economic shocks.

Prof Ndung’u decried the frustration that economic planning and management technocrats continue to face due to unreliable data. He called for concerted efforts among policymakers internationally to address the challenge of current, credible and reliable data access to drive credible planning of economies.

“The need for adequate economists, statisticians, and econometricians, who are dependable, and available on a timely basis is widespread regionally, and internationally. In many of our African countries, National Accounts Statistics and Monetary Statistics are usually in arrears. And as a policymaker, I know how frustrating it is to work with scanty or stale data and evidence. So, challenges are enormous in this field,” he said.

As a leading economic policy, research and planning capacity building institution in the continent the AERC is set to play a key role in advancing the role of econometry in the country to boost economic resilience. 

AERC Executive Director Prof Azomahou acknowledged the role that research plays in economic development and the need for AERC to transition to quality and excellence in research.  

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“This is a regional conference for Africa and integrating the world just the same way AERC is geared to move from regional levels in the Sub-Saharan African region to continental levels and on the world map. While AERC will continue strengthening the capacity of researchers and graduate students in Africa, the consortium will gradually change its face towards knowledge generation in economics and policy impact and advocacy. I am happy that this week prefigures the future of AERC: global knowledge, excellence by putting our feet into those of these giants and being ambitious. AERC wants to dream big. Therefore, this hosting could not have been organized at a better time,” said Prof Azomahou.

The Royal Danish Embassy Ambassador to Kenya Ole Thonke, emphasised on the need for better research to unleash Africa’s growth potential.

“I am a firm believer that Kenya and Africa have abundance of skilled manpower and natural resources that when put to good use via better research and policies, we will unleash more opportunities in Africa,” said the Danish Ambassador.

Prof. Rosa Matzkin (University of California), President of The Econometrics Society expressed the need for Africa to be part of the society as part of their contribution to participate in research for economic measurements. She also acknowledged the need to promote well designed economic proposals.

“Africa now has a seat in the committee, a clear indication of its frontier in research and the good work that the continent and its researchers are doing. Any national policy, be it in infrastructure, health, education, fiscal, incomes or monetary policy, in order to be an informed one and most likely to succeed, would require sufficient, reliable, and fresh evidence,” said Rosa.

The AFES will also be marking the 300th Anniversary of the pioneering father of modern economics, Adam Smith, best known for his influential book “The Wealth of Nations,” which was published in 1776. The commemoration, which will be held as a plenary session, will provide an opportunity for policy makers and scholars to reflect on the challenges facing the global economy today and consider how Smith’s insights might be applied to address them.

The AFES 2023 Meeting organized by a Committee chaired by Prof. Théophile Azomahou, lined up keynote presentations by AERC Chairperson and University of Ghana, Prof. Ernest Aryeetey,  Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Prof. Daron Acemoglu, Nobel Laureate and Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics at MIT Prof. Esther Duflo.

Other keynote presenters include the African Development Bank, Chief Economist and Vice President for Economic Governance and Knowledge Management Complex, Prof. Kevin Chika Urama, Prof. Nathan Nunn (University of British Columbia), Prof. James Robinson (University of Chicago) and Prof. Leonard Wantchekon (Princeton University).

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