1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Special Events (2000 - 2009)

Beyond Macroeconomic Concerns to Development Issues (Draft)

This note, by outlining the research and capacity-building experience of the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC), argues that renewed interest in development economics can be assisted in part by the development of locally-based responsive and empirical knowledge. This process can be substantially aided by international networking and dissemination, which in turn would lead to a broader expansion of knowledge on development. The evolution of AERC beyond a macroeconomic network to embrace wider questions of development policy is seen as rooted in Africa’s own realities of searching for substantially higher growth and ways of reducing widespread poverty.

There is consensus based both on theory and on the development experiences of many countries that on the whole, macroeconomic stability is essential for long-term economic commitments that contribute to a healthy and sustained saving-investment process. The latter is in turn necessary, though by no means sufficient, for the sustained growth needed to underpin significant changes in average well-being. Thus, in situations where reasonable macroeconomic stability cannot be assumed to exist, such stability would be an important concern in respect of promoting development. The African economic crisis of the 1980s—that saw the United Nations General Assembly, for the first time, devoting considerable attention to the economic plight of a particular region, (Sub-Saharan Africa)—was in part reflected in clearly worsening macroeconomic conditions in many countries of the region.

Various things had to be done at various levels to address the many questions posed by that crisis. But one thing was clear; in order to mobilize the requisite domestic and international resources for financing reasonable growth rates in countries, some ‘respectable’ macroeconomic frameworks had to be put in place, as a minimum step. That in turn required political commitments and decisions as well as human and institutional capacities. In the context of Sub-Saharan Africa, the macro-frameworks were to be particularly motivated by the imperative of mobilizing both short-term (stabilization) and long-term (development) resources, which, by definition, implied extensive negotiations with multilateral and bilateral financiers. In these circumstances, the inadequacy of local human and institutional capacities to analyze macroeconomic issues, explore alternative frameworks, and effectively negotiate with external funders quickly became apparent.

The African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) was established in the late 1980s in response to that capacity gap. The motivating belief in establishing the Consortium was that development was more likely to occur where there was sustained sound management of the economy; and where there existed an active, well informed group of locally-based professional economists to conduct policy-relevant research. The mandate of AERC was seen as enhancing the capacity of locally based researchers to conduct policy-relevant economic inquiry, promoting the retention of such capacity, and encouraging its application in the policy context. In implementing this mandate, the generation and sharing of quality knowledge was importantly perceived as having an international dimension. Thus professional networking, though locally driven in the African region, sought to extend beyond the region to include resource persons and other recognized scholars as well as to disseminate research results internationally.

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  • Pub. Date: 22 Jun 2006
    From: UNRISD