African Economic Conference has contributed to bringing a smile to the faces of Africans: William Lyakurwa, Executive Director of the African Economic Research Consortium

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“Parliamentarians, civil society organizations and journalists are the key players who can contribute to good governance… These groups can play a significant part in combatting corruption and capital flight in particular… Capital flight drains the resources of a nation and hence, retards economic growth.”

These views were expressed by Dr. William Lyakurwa, Executive Director of the African Economic Research Consortium, in an interview on the sidelines of a networking meeting with African think tanks on Monday, October 29 in Kigali, a day prior to the opening of the African Economic Conference.  

He touched numerous development-related issues at the heart of the ongoing African Economic Conference. He particularly featured Africa’s economic performance in the last decade in terms of economic growth and poverty reduction, and the role AEC has played in promoting good governance and inclusive growth. He also touched on the link between inclusive growth and democracy in an evolving continent.

To the question: “How can we achieve inclusive growth at national level in countries where there is lack of democracy?” Mr. Lyakurwa explained that democracy in its broad sense can lead to good governance, growth and equitable distribution of wealth. He said: “Democracy is a necessary condition for economic development, but it is not sufficient. It has to be coupled with macroeconomic stability, and a conscious effort to address the needs of the poor through various channels: national health insurance, cash transfers, schools feeding systems and scholarships targeting the very poor in the society, because education has been found to be positively correlated with high incomes and growth.”

At the same time, he cited countries that have achieved high economic growth, relative distribution of wealth and reduction poverty without democracy. “There are countries that have achieved relatively high rate of economic growth, and have lifted a large part of their populations out of poverty and relatively equitable distribution of incomes, without democracy,” Mr. Lyakurwa said.

As commonly argued, Africa has immense natural resources that have been grotesquely mismanaged. Having participated in the various past AEC conferences, Mr. Lyakurwa acknowledged that significant economic progress have been made, both in the area of research and on linkages between growth and poverty; health and poverty; and the linkage between health-growth. “We have seen a surge in research on the subject of resilient growth and unemployment, particularly youth unemployment and climate change,” he underscored, adding that a research that was relevant for African policy-making was climate change adaptation. “That is the research I have seen conducted in Africa, by Africans and non-Africans alike, over the last five years,” Mr. Lyakurwa further affirmed.

What can African researchers and think tanks do to promote good governance and inclusive growth, to put smile in the face of some Africans? Mr. Lyakurwa pointed to the influence of African think tanks in contributing to the promotion of inclusive growth. Within the framework of the Bank’s decentralization strategy, he said researchers could position themselves, in collaboration with think tanks, to play a bigger role.

“In addition to contributing to knowledge generation, think tanks play a key role in linking researchers with policy-makers in an objective and non-partisan framework,” he said.  For him, policy-making is at the national level and national think tanks are best placed to carry on continuous dialogue with policy-makers. African Development Bank researchers, for their part, continue to produce high-quality research output that can be disseminated optimally at the national level.

“It will be best to collaborate with national think tanks in the dissemination process. Overall, even though there is still room for improvement, the African Economic Conference has, in one way or the other, contributed to bringing a smile to the face of Africans over the past six years,” he concluded.