Knowledge is crucial to development — Kayizzi-Mugerwa

Dr Steve Kayizzi-Mugerwa is Director of Development Research at the African Development Bank (AfDB).

Prior to his current role at the Bank, Dr Kayizzi-Mugerwa served as Director for Policy and for East Africa. He also worked as Senior Economist at the IMF and Project Director at UN-WIDER, Helsinki. Born and raised in Uganda, and also a Swedish citizen, he obtained his PhD from Gothenburg University and became Associate Professor in 1994.

 How would you assess the Development Research Department since its creation in 2007 as a part of the Bank’s reform process?

We have the Economic complex, which actually is a think tank under the guidance of Prof. Mthuli Ncube.  It consists of the Department of Statistics, the African Development Institute and the Development Research Department, which I head.

We have three flagship products namely: African Economic Outlook (AEO), published in conjunction with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA); African Development Report (ADR) and African Competitiveness Report (ACR) in partnership with the World Bank and the World Economic Forum (WEF).  These are taken on road shows to Europe and the United States and have a very wide reach.  We are working on a study on illicit financing and having talks on leaking funds, that is, funds moving out of Africa. 

Basically, we are involved in the African debate.  We can’t just leave it for others.  For its own sake and credibility, the African debate needs to be driven by Africans.  If we say we have funds to put into roads, for instance, we must know how to use such funds to produce substance and where they may be most beneficial.

Recently, we had a seminar in Mozambique in which we discussed the management of natural resources.  The country is said to have the biggest natural gas find in the world and would need all the knowledge and data it can get to be able to exploit it sustainably for the benefit of its people.

To what extent has the EDRE enhanced the Bank’s policy advice to Regional Member-Countries?

We are not operations per se, but actually accompany operations, supply knowledge and technical support.  This arrangement is consistent with our “One Bank” approach.

As a research department, we spend some time in our regional offices but cannot do much of that because of the nature of our job.  We have to be at the headquarters to be close to our main resources and each other, unlike people in projects.  However we now have someone in Pretoria, South Africa doing energy policy research. 

At our January EDRE seminar/retreat themed “Towards Results that Resonate”, we discussed how our staff can work to achieve results that resonate within ECON and the rest of the Bank and, of course, impact of the Bank’s goal on the development of Africa.

The AfDB sees itself as a knowledge institution.  What does this mean?

Knowledge is a crucial aspect of business.  If you don’t have knowledge of the business you are in, you are nowhere and will only be throwing money away.  There are two types of knowledge or better still, we need knowledge for two reasons.  First, we need it to present ideas to our clients and assure them that we understand their problems or their requirements.  Second, we also have to create knowledge among the recipients of our assistance so they may gain the most benefits from the facilities or projects.

Knowledge expands and through economies of scale, what we tell or teach is sent down the line, becoming even more useful and beneficial to others.

 How well are your activities in generating and disseminating knowledge for enriching Regional Member Countries?

The Chief Economist has launched the Knowledge Management Committee to ensure that the Bank’s products, some of which I mentioned earlier, are well documented and disseminated.

Regional Member Countries have access to them and find in them incredible opportunities for their economies.  The Bank’s activities, releases and sponsored programmes generate interest in the continent and beyond, as we strive to be as visible as possible.

 Given that many African countries are faced with deficits and ever-growing expenses, which sectors would you want them to focus on to attain growth?

Africa’s extractive sector and commodities have been booming and producing a lot of resources in the past decade.  The good growth figures attest to this just as the Asian figures show that their economies are booming.

However, while the Asians have used the resources from the boom well, Africans have generally not done the same.  Things have improved a little though.  For example, Nigeria’s risk rating is slightly up.

My advice is that we should use the boom to give our people decent livelihoods, such as education, sewage, infrastructure and so forth.  If this happens, we will start improving marginally, and over time we will be on the path of sustainable development.  A super city or million dollar homes on bad sewage system is worthless.  If we don’t know where we are going, we will not get to where we are headed.

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