AERC virtual 53rd Plenary Session: The COVID-19 Pandemic & Public Finance in Africa – Challenges and Opportunities

Tuesday, 8 December 2020 – The African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) hosted its 53rd Plenary Session on the theme: The COVID-19 Pandemic & Public Finance in Africa – Challenges and Opportunities. The virtual event, held on 7 December 2020, attracted over 300 researchers, economists, academics, policymakers, and non-state actors; convening to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on public finance in Africa.

During the event, the expert panel and attendees analyzed the effects and challenges of COVID-19 on African public finance systems. Also discussed were the appropriate courses of actions that African governments can pursue to manage these negative effects and drive economic recovery following the global socio-economic crisis. Additionally, plenary participants outlined the opportunities to be harnessed by Africa post-crisis that could assist with positive transformation within the African public finance sphere.

The official event opening was led by Hon. Dr Thapelo C Matsheka (Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Botswana), and an insightful keynote speech on COVID-19 Impact on Public Finance in Africa: Challenges and Opportunities for African Economies was delivered by Dr Rabah Arezki (Chief Economist and Vice President for African Development Bank). The Policy Panel was led and chaired by Hon. Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed (Minister of Finance of Nigeria), and comprised the following esteemed panelists:

The Policy Panel:

  • H.E. Dr. Eyob Tekalign, State Minister of Finance, Ethiopia
  • H.E. Dr. Ernest Addison, Governor of Central Bank, Ghana
  • H.E. Commissioner General Gathii Mburu, Kenya Revenue Authority
  • H.E. Aziz Gueye, Deputy Director of the Senegal Tax Office

Informative and thought-provoking presentations were delivered by lead academics and experts, with featured presentations including the following:

  • The Political Economy of State Capacity to Mobilize Taxes in Africa by Prof. James Robinson, University of Chicago
  • Taxation and State Building in Africa: Agenda for Action by Dr. Catherine Pattillo, Assistant Director, IMF
  • Information Technology and Tax Mobilization in Times of Covid-19 by Dr. Oyebola Okunogbe, World Bank
  • Fiscal Sustainability in Africa: Accelerating the Post-COVID-19 Recovery through Improved Public Finances by Dr Edward Sennoga, African Development Bank

Commenting on 53rd Plenary Session, Professor Njuguna Ndung’u (AERC Executive Director), stated: “The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about an increase in prevalence of poverty and inequality, as well as poor health, thus negating significant gains made in the past two decades. Millions of people are now without jobs and livelihoods, and the cost of living has gone up. There is, however, an opportunity to institute strong social protection programs in Africa to ensure support for the poorest and cushion against future negative shocks”.

Preceding the plenary, AERC hosted virtual Biannual Research Workshop Concurrent Sessions on parallel Thematic Groups that cover the five vocal areas of AERC’s Thematic Research Programme (the pillar for AERC’s capacity building through research), namely:

  • Group A: Poverty, Labour Markets and Income Distribution
  • Group B: Macroeconomic Policy and Growth
  • Group C: Finance and Resource Mobilization
  • Group D: Production, Trade and Economic Integration
  • Group E: Agriculture, Climate Change and Natural Resource Management

In addition to the expert panel and participants, the plenary event drew a high number of attendees including academics, economists, researchers, media and the public. Presentations were well received by attendees, with vigorous engagement taking place throughout the virtual event.

About African Economic Research Consortium (AERC)

The AERC was established in 1988 and has become a premier capacity building institution in the advancement of research and training to inform economic policies in sub-Saharan Africa. The AERC’s mission rests on two premises: first, that development is more likely to occur where there is sustained sound management of the economy; second, that such management is more likely to happen where there is an active, well-informed cohort of locally based professional economists to conduct policy-relevant research.

The AERC is a network that builds capacity through three primary components: research, graduate training in economics, and communications and policy outreach. The organization integrates high-quality economic policy research, postgraduate training, and policy outreach within a vast network of researchers, universities, and policy makers across Africa and beyond. In the current five years strategy, the AERC has emphasized the themes of raising its quality for research and graduate training outputs that will develop a momentum of its own sustainability that will become important for policy influence across SSA economies. Learn more at and follow us on Twitter @aercafrica .


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