New Partnerships for Growth Research in Africa: Launch Workshop Report

Editor's Note: Africa's economic growth is a source of constant debate and commentary, often driven by Western-based experts and institutions. This workshop report details discussion at a workshop held by the Brookings Africa Growth Initiative on February 25-26, 2010. The workshop gathered some of the top African think tanks and international research networks together with key foundations and multilateral institutions to discuss how to strengthen the voice and deepen the policy impact of African research institutions, and how to increase collaboration among institutions to benefit Africa’s growth and development.

Introduction

The state of economic growth in Africa is a source of constant debate and commentary. Catalysts, constraints, external shocks, internal drivers, sources of innovation, degrees of integration—all are scrutinized, documented and ultimately shaped by some of the world’s best minds. Yet the proliferation of studies and prescriptions—not to mention the abundance of print and airtime devoted to the subject—is as remarkable for the range of voices it excludes as for the volume of material it includes.

Africa remains in the global economic discourse a presence seen, but seldom heard. There is an abiding tendency to speak to or of the region, the speakers consisting primarily of a select handful of Western-based individuals and institutions. Largely absent from the conversation are the Africans themselves—researchers working in Africa, and African researchers based further afield. To overlook the contributions of those at the nerve center of African growth research is to forego the possibility of a richer, more nuanced understanding of the issues facing the continent today.

This was the impetus behind the launch workshop on New Partnerships for Growth Research in Africa, hosted by the Africa Growth Initiative (AGI) at Brookings on February 25 and 26, 2010 in Washington, DC. The workshop gathered some of the top African think tanks and research networks together with key foundations and multilateral institutions that support and benefit from their work. Though some had worked together before, the meeting marked the first time that all these institutions were assembled around a single table.

On that table, a core challenge: How to bring African scholarship into the center of discussions on growth research affecting Africa? How to broaden the reach, strengthen the voice and deepen the policy impact of African research institutions? How to strengthen collaboration among multilaterals, AGI and its partner networks and foundations? And how to make optimal use of finite resources? Like all good research topics, these questions generated many ideas, and even further questions. But they also helped mark the contours for new dimensions and wider scales of partnership. This report is a first attempt to fill in those contours with what is already known, and to take steps forward in pursuit of the rest.