The government has been urged to support local economists to develop capacity in research that is crucial to spur economic growth.
Experts attending the first Economic Policy Analysis and Research Network Conference, organised by the Institute of Policy Analysis and Research (IPAR) Rwanda, said building local capacity in economic research would help fast-track economic growth and spur development.
The move would also accelerate the country’s move to a knowledge-based economy as outlined in Vision 2020, they said.
Dr Hermann Van Boemmel, programme manager of German International Cooperation, said research and innovation should be prioritised by any resource-poor country like Rwanda.
“Embracing innovation through knowledge-based evidence is critical for Rwanda to sustain economic growth,” Boemmel said.
“Rwanda has a lot of capacity that needs to be developed to become a knowledge based economy; It’s, therefore, about innovation and applying new methods to find solutions that were not there before; that’s how you will be able to succeed.”
According to Eugenia Kayitesi, IPAR executive director, Rwanda’s scope of evidence-based research is limited by lack of capacity across all institutions.
“There is, therefore, a need to invest in both economic and policy research to be able to make informed policies which will propel national economic agenda,” Kayitesi said.
Central bank governor John Rwangombwa challenged economists to use economic research towards supporting the development of the country.
“Mentoring young economists while building economic research capacities is the right direction the country must take,” Rwangombwa said.
“We have to agree that our economic research capacity is still in its young stages despite the urge to transform the country economically.”
He said is not possible to sustain the economy without building capacity in research.
“We should also strive to do better than what is being done to be able to impact on economic development.
Economic transformation is about doing new things. We have the capacity to present our research papers at the international stage,” the governor said.
“Economic research should be linked with other sectors to be able to create resounding impact; the good thing is that the political side is supporting these initiatives, now the challenge is on the technicians.”
Rwangombwa urged academic institutions to play a leading role in supporting the country’s young economists for the future of the Rwanda.
Sujeev Shakya, the chief economist of Nepal Economic Forum, said Rwanda needs to learn from countries with similar economic situation that have succeeded.
“That’s how you will be able to develop models and programmes based on reality and consequently impact on economic growth,” Shakya said, ading that the private sector should get involved with the economic research production and analysis.
“That’s how investors will be guided on how and where to invest,” he added.
Capacity gaps exposed
Meanwhile, a survey on capacity needs assessment for economic policy research in the country, conducted by IPAR, cites shortage of skills in policy and research analysis in most institutions.
It also revealed that most public and private institutions never discuss or even publish their research findings, thus affecting policy implementation.
“At the policy level, we observed some gaps despite providing clear evidence, especially in terms of the linkages between the research findings and the end users. Moreover, most of the research findings are not published, which affects the way the policies are incorporated and implemented,” Birasa Nyamulinda, IPAR’s research consultant, economist and lecturer at the University of Rwanda, said.
Nyamulinda added that there are still gaps in terms of human and physical capacities to assist researchers conduct their work.