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Researchers root for international collaboration to curb economic planning data availability challenges

Access to reliable, credible and up-to-date economic data has been cited as a frustrating challenge facing economic policy makers in their quest to chart favourable development plans in Africa.

Speakers at the 2023 African Econometric Society (AFES) conference led by Kenya’s National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Prof Njuguna Ndung’u and the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) Executive Director Prof. Théophile Azomahou highlighted the need for reliable economic statistics and related data provided by econometric professionals to aid development planning in the continent.

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Econometrics uses economic theory, mathematics, and statistical inference to quantify economic phenomena; effectively turning theoretical economic models into useful tools for economic policymaking.

The African Econometric Society (AFES) meeting organized in partnership with the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) brought together high-ranking 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.

While presenting his keynote address at the 2023 AFES meeting at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Nairobi, the National Treasury and Economic Planning Cabinet Secretary Prof. Njuguna Ndung’u decried the frustration that economic planning and management technocrats continue to face due to unreliable data and called for concerted efforts among policymakers in Africa and beyond to address the challenge of current, credible and reliable data access in economic planning.

“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 African Economic Research Consortium (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.

“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,” he said.

The Royal Danish Embassy Ambassador to Kenya Ole Thonke, who also spoke during the opening ceremony emphasized the need for better research to unleash the continent’s potential and address structural issues and challenges.

“Despite all this growth and moving the continent forward, a lot of fundamental and economic issues are still the same. Many African countries are still struggling with imports and exports. 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 for a better future and this forum by AFES and AERC is one of the platforms that we need to drive our economy forward,” 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, who is also the Executive Director, AERC has 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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