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Economics Education in Africa: Opportunities and Challenges

14 July 2018. During the last day of the Africa Meeting of the Econometric Society, a panel featuring three graduates of the African School of Economics, Wilfried Adohinzin (class of 2017), Caroline Tossou (class of 2017) and Patrice Yedomiffi (class of 2016) gathered participants around issues related to economics education in Africa. After a short introduction by Prof. Leonard Wantchekon, the panelists discussed some opportunities and challenges that the continent faces as far as the education of economics is concerned.

As highlighted by Caroline Tossou, challenges include the late insertion of economics in the curriculum and the fact that modern economics involving mathematics and quantitative methods are not taught in many countries. Patrice pointed out that on the demand side, quite a lot of institutions are still unaware of the usefulness of economists. The market therefore fails to absorb the high number of economists that graduate each year from higher education institutions in Africa.

Caroline argued that despite the challenges, a strong emphasis in mathematics and science in the curriculum means that Africans should have a comparative advantage for learning economics. Patrice added that a lot of higher education institutions teaching cutting edge economics are on the rise on the continent. One example is the African School of Economics in Benin, the institution from which he graduated before joining the PhD program in economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. After presenting ASE’s emphasis on mathematics, statistics and econometrics, he took the opportunity to praise the institution, saluting the strong commitment of the faculty and their willingness to come back to Africa after studying in North America. In addition, Patrice insisted on the fact that the program gave him the tools and the endurance necessary to pass his first year comprehensive exams in the US. He finished his talk by pointing out that there is room from improvement on the side of the program at ASE. In fact, the lack of faculty in many subfields, as he said, gives more relevance to partnerships with other schools and similar programs on the continent.

After these discussions, Wilfried gave the opportunity to the audience to comment on the discussions and share their experiences. For example, Professor Patrizio Piraino gave a quick tour of the economics program offered at his institution, the University of Cape Town in South Africa. He emphasized the centrality of mathematics and the diversity of the student body. The panel opened space for participants to discuss the important topic of economics education in Africa and contributed to the ongoing dialogue even after the Africa Meeting of the Econometrics Society finished.

Pictured Above (From left to right): Patrice, Caroline, and Wilfried present as panelists.