The African Policy Voice in Washington: Annual Report 2011

AGI scholars contribute to the development of effective policies in two ways: first, by providing economic analysis through long-term research; and second, by delivering timely and relevant commentary and policy advice oriented toward the changing needs of policymakers. During the past 12 months, AGI scholars have effectively informed policy in both realms. Fellows have published working papers and op-eds as well as articles in academic journals and books. They have also presented their research and expertise to policymakers and stakeholders interested in African issues, thereby strengthening AGI’s brand and presence in the Washington policy community. This past January, AGI released Foresight Africa: The Continent’s Greatest Challenges and Opportunities for 2011, which identified the biggest obstacles and potential areas for growth in Africa. In the report, AGI scholars provided policy recommendations for African governments and development partners to leverage opportunities for growth and development across the continent.

In addition, Mwangi Kimenyi published an article on “Africa and South Korea’s Leadership of the G-20” in Korea’s Economy 2011, a journal published by the Korea Economic Institute. Kimenyi’s article provided the African perspective on the debate surrounding the Group of Twenty in light of the global economic crisis and identified opportunities for engagement with South Korea. The impact of the global economic crisis and the ongoing recovery on Africa’s growth has been an important area of research and engagement for AGI. Research Fellow Anne Kamau, in collaboration with Research Assistant Zenia Lewis, published “Combating African Currency Volatility from the West’s Debt Crisis” to explain how the global economic downturn is creating challenges for macroeconomic management in many African countries. Kamau also answered questions online video on the implications of the eurozone debt crisis on African economies, which later appeared on BBC Africa. Through these and other activities, AGI was able to provide thorough policy analysis and enhance its presence as an informed voice for Africa in U.S. and international policy debates.

AGI’s fellows have also maintained a strong presence in regional research networks and academic institutions. At this year’s biannual meeting of the African Economic Research Consortium in Nairobi, Senior Fellow John Page chaired the plenary session on “Industrialization and Economic Transformation in Africa,” where he presented in a Brookings a paper entitled “Can Africa Industrialize?” This work will be published in the Journal of African Economies. Writing alongside international development experts such as Paul Collier and William Easterly, Mwangi Kimenyi, Senior Fellow John Mukum Mbaku, and Research Analyst Nelipher Moyo published “Reconstituting Africa’s Failed States: The Case of Somalia” in the Winter 2010 issue of Social Research. Highlighting the complex challenges to development in weak and failed states with little governing power or institutions for social protection, Kimenyi, Mbaku and Moyo explored Somalia as a case study and the consequences of instability.

When drought and famine began to ravage Somalia and other countries in the Horn of Africa, AGI scholars promptly responded with a series of web editorials that expanded on the famine’s implications for governance, security and policy. Research Fellow Julius Agbor wrote about the devastating effects of drought on children and how malnutrition can be detrimental to school attendance and learning. Mwangi Kimenyi, Nelipher Moyo and Jessica Smith released a timely piece offering concrete policy advice to manage food shocks, suggesting that a regional approach could provide more effective management of resources and avoid food insecurity.

In the past year, AGI has engaged in current events by providing their expertise and analysis, and by maintaining its voice in the debates as they evolve. For example, in November 2010, Mwangi Kimenyi wrote an op-ed on “The Long Road to Sudan’s Secession Vote” in the Los Angeles Times. Kimenyi’s op-ed established AGI’s insight and expertise on the issue, and the initiative has continued to publish analysis on the Brookings website as South Sudan has moved toward and achieved independence over this past year.