The African region entered the new Millennium with a remarkable improvement in economic growth and performance. Relative to the 1980s and early 1990s, the region has witnessed an increase in economic growth in the last five years. This improvement in economic performance is due largely to improvements in economic policies adopted by African governments, high commodity prices, and the cessation of hostilities in a number of countries in the region. Despite these improvements, the continent continues to face serious challenges in several key areas: trade, governance, conflicts, HIV/AIDS as well as tuberculosis and Malaria, food security, regional integration, poverty reduction etc. Furthermore, economic policy formulation is still hampered by the dearth of, and lack of access to, research and information on economic issues of interest to the continent. This constraint on effective policy design and implementation in the region has grave consequences for long-term growth and poverty reduction.
History and empirical evidence have shown that knowledge is critical to dynamic and sustained growth, which is a necessary condition for poverty reduction. In recognition of the important role of knowledge in the quest for enhanced growth in Africa, the new leadership of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) made knowledge management a key pillar in the recently-concluded repositioning and restructuring exercises at the two institutions. The new focus on knowledge management in these institutions has also led to increased and renewed emphasis on technical assistance and capacity building, especially on economic research as an aid to policy formulation and implementation.
The ECA, AfDB, and other institutions provide support and capacity-building assistance to African governments in research and policy formulation. However, the resources of these institutions are limited and so there is the need to find other ways of complementing and enhancing the effectiveness of the support these institutions provide to our Member States in research, policy analyses, and information dissemination. Clearly, making more use of the skills of African academics and researchers, both within and outside the continent, is an inexpensive and sustainable way to accomplish this objective. It is also a reasonable way to build local capacity and reduce the effect of brain drain on the continent. Against this background, the ECA and AfDB, agreed to organize the annual African Economic Conference (AEC) to provide a forum for exchange of ideas among economists and policymakers with a view to improving access to information and research on economic issues and, as a consequence, the quality of economic policy-making in the region. It is expected that the annual conference will be held once every year and will act as a bridge between academics and policymakers.
- To promote knowledge management as an important component of good policy design and implementation;
- To foster dialogue and promote the exchange of ideas among economists and African policymakers;
- To encourage and enhance research on economic issues related to the development of African economies;
- To provide an opportunity for regional and sub-regional organizations to disseminate results of their research as well as share information with African policymakers on the work they do in the region.
It is expected that the conference will lead to
- The establishment of an African Economic Association with a secretariat that will take on the responsibility of organizing the annual conference;
- The publication of a book made up of selected papers presented at the conference.
Organization and Format of the Conference
The conference is organized by the Economic Commission for Africa and the African Development Bank. It will be held over three days and will have plenary as well as break-out sessions. The plenary speakers are outstanding scholars in various fields of economics: Professors Paul Collier, Robert Wade, Tony Venables, and Ernest Aryeetey. Other plenary speakers include Heba Handoussa and Njuguna Ndungu. There will also be about 30 break-out sessions covering various areas of economics.
Venue and Accommodation
The conference will be held at the United Nations Conference Centre (UNCC), which is conveniently located in central Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It is about fifteen minutes drive from the main airport and close to most hotels, restaurants and other tourist attractions. Because of the numerous regional and international institutions based in Addis Ababa, the city has become one of the most attractive conference locations in Africa. The city's new Bole International Airport is a major sub-regional hub with flight connections to over 80 cities worldwide. The city of Addis Ababa is well endowed with several hotels ranging from the five-star Sheraton and Hilton hotels, to other more affordable options. Costs of accommodation range from US$60 to US$140 per night.