MIASA Policy Conferences: Sustainable economic transformation and shared prosperity in Africa

MIASA CC-BY-4.0: 1st MIASA Policy Conference, poster presentation, June 2022

Which role are rural transformations playing for Africa’s economic transformation? What are the driving forces for Africa’s economic transformation? And how shared prosperity and sustainability can be achieved in practice? Africa’s economic development is at the cross-roads. For the majority of African countries, the twenty pre-pandemic years have been the most transformative since independence. Yet, there are many open questions in how to increase productivity, income and living standards more sustainably, how to distribute prosperity more equally, and how to tackle environmental problems and climate change.

MIASA’s past two policy conferences in June 2022 and November 2023 raised these questions. This event format offers the framework for addressing policy-relevant issues and offering a space for discussion between researchers, policy-makers and other stakeholders. The MIASA policy conferences in 2022 and 2023 focused on key economic dimensions of the sustainability transformation. The conferences are conceptualized and implemented in close cooperation between MIASA’s partner, the German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA), and the Institute of Statistical Social and Economic Research (ISSER) at the University of Ghana.

“Policies for a sustainable rural transformation in Africa” (June 22-23, 2022)

MIASA CC-BY-4.0: 1st MIASA Policy Conference, June 2022

The first MIASA policy conference on “Policies for a Sustainable Rural Transformation in Africa” examined rural land-labour relations, small-holder farming, large-scale investments, commercialisation, and supply chains. It showed that there are no one-size fits all transformation pathways or patterns. The conference drew on almost 100 submissions that allowed to put together a program 28 presented papers. The conference featured organized sessions, two keynotes (by Prof. Awudu Abdulai, University of Kiel, and Prof. Eva-Marie Meemken, ETH Zürich), a poster session, and a high-level policy panel that discussed some of the key elements of and perspectives on a sustainable rural transformation.

Partly building on the results of MIASA’s Interdisciplinary Fellow Group on “Sustainable Rural Transformation” (IFG 3), the conference highlighted five key findings:

  1. The centrality of smallholders (as key agents of transformation, going beyond linking smallholders to international markets or large-scale farms, towards “endogenous smallholder-focused agricultural development”).
  2. The acknowledgement that demographic change in rural areas is more complex than the typical account of population pressure on land and resources suggests and that a sustainable transformation needs to factor in income and risk diversification as well as (changes in) gender roles.
  3. Trade in more sustainably produced commodities and sustainability standards in global food systems (as stressed by Eva Marie Meemken in her keynote).
  4. Accounting for the environmental footprint of agricultural development: Both land-based investments and trade can have very important adverse environmental impacts. Agricultural expansion – smallholder cocoa farms as well as large oil palm or rubber estates – are threatening forests, in particular in Central Africa.
  5. Public policies shape patterns of rural transformation (as argued by Awudu Abdulai in his keynote).

The scientific committee of the conference was comprised of Prof. Robert Darko Osei (ISSER), Dr. Fred Dzanku (ISSER), Prof. Jann Lay (GIGA), Prof. Joseph Yaro and Prof. Charlotte Wrigley-Asante (Dept. of Geography and Resource Development).

“Accelerating Africa’s economic transformation towards shared prosperity and sustainability” (November 21-22, 2023)

MIASA CC-BY-4.0: 2nd MIASA Policy Conference, Nov. 2023

MIASA CC-BY-4.0: 2nd MIASA Policy Conference, poster presentation, Nov. 2023

The second MIASA policy conference on “Accelerating Africa’s economic transformation towards shared prosperity and sustainability” comprised formats similar to the first edition and included twenty presented papers and four keynotes by Prof. Kevin Chika Urama (African Development Bank Group), Prof. Stefan Dercon (University of Oxford), Dr. Asiedu, Dr. Owoo. The conference set out to link issues of sustainable transformation and (in)equality. It addressed the issue of how to rethink industrial policies in Africa by ensuring a climate-smart approach and how African countries may take the global green transition as an opportunity to enhance their economic prosperity. The policy panel with a senior economist from the Accra-based African Centre for Economic Transformation (ACET), Dr. Edward K. Brown, and a Senior Research Fellow from the Institute for Statistical Social and Economic Research (ISSER), Dr. Ama Fenny, discussed how economic policy implementation in Ghana rather needs to increase productivity than consumption. Some of the main insights of the included the following:

  1. It was acknowledged at the conference that Africa’s transformation patterns must turn more inclusive to ensure that the potential gains from development are shared more equally. This is all the more the urgent that the pandemic and its economic repercussions have reversed some of the sizeable poverty reduction seen since the mid-1990s. Stefan Dercon demonstrated in his keynote that the success of “development bargains” cannot be achieved through preformulated recipes, but it highly depends on how committed to development the political and entrepreneurial elites of a country are and how willing they are to learn.
  2. Growth alone is not enough. A sustainable economic transformation in Africa needs to address global as well as local environmental problems, from climate change to deforestation and biodiversity loss. There are tremendous and very concrete challenges to be tackled, big threats but also huge opportunities, from the threatened forests of the Congo basin to the endowments with minerals that are critical to the world’s energy transition.
  3. More sustainable commodity and mineral sectors should remain high on the agenda, as outlined by Kevin Chika Urama in his keynote. Endowments with minerals that are critical to the world’s energy transition should become the basis for green industrialization.
  4. Development strategies will have to adjust to and be compatible with global changes, including the geo-political tensions and their implications for international trade and investment. Making the right choices about the right international partners and the right terms of engagement has not become easier.
  5. Economic integration – both regionally and globally – has to turn into a major driver of sustainable development. While achieving higher – and probably regional – value addition is an important element of integration strategies.

The scientific committee of the conference included Prof. Charles Ackah (ISSER), Prof. Jann Lay (GIGA), Prof. Abena Oduro (Department of Economics, University of Ghana) and Prof. Rainer Thiele (Kiel Institute for the World Economy).

MIASA CC-BY-4.0: 2nd Policy Conference, opening, Nov. 2023

This report was written by Prof. Jann Lay.

Cite this blog post
teammiasa (2024, January 29). MIASA Policy Conferences: Sustainable economic transformation and shared prosperity in Africa. Merian Institute for Advanced Studies in Africa - Blog. Retrieved May 18, 2024, from https://miasa.hypotheses.org/2174

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