The African Development Bank (AfDB, ) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA, ) have a critical role to play in helping Africa sustain the growth momentum through providing support and capacity-building assistance in research and policy formulation. Against this background, the AfDB launched the annual African Economic Conference (AEC) in November 2006. The AEC aims at providing a forum for the exchange of ideas among economists and policymakers with the view of improving access to information and research on economic issues and, as a consequence, the quality of economic policy-making in Africa.

The first AEC focused on the theme "Accelerating Africa's Development Five Years into the 21st Century" and gathered 300 economists. Since 2007, the AEC has been jointly organized by the AfDB and the UNECA. The 2007 AEC was held under the theme "Opportunities and Challenges of Development for Africa in the Global Arena". It brought together more than 400 economists, researchers, and policy-makers from around the world. More than 60 papers, which reflected on various challenges and opportunities facing Africa , were presented during 31 break-out sessions. The theme of the 2008 AEC was "Globalization, Institutions and Economic Development of Africa". About 500 participants, from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas , drawn from government officials, the academia, the private sector and non-governmental organizations, the AfDB's executive directors as well as staff and management, attended the Conference.