Log in
Updated an hour ago

EPRC marks 30 years of impactful policy research

United Nations Resident Coordinator in Uganda Susan Namondo (2nd R) and other guests cut cake during dinner to celebrate EPRC’s 30 years anniversary

United Nations Resident Coordinator in Uganda Susan Namondo (2nd R) and other guests cut cake during dinner to celebrate EPRC’s 30 years anniversary

In three decades, the Makerere University-based Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) has been at the forefront of generating policy-oriented research and analysis to guide decision-making on socio-economic development in Uganda, writes YUDAYA NANGONZI.

At its 30th anniversary dinner held at Serena Hotel gardens last week, EPRC reflected on its journey of collaboration and societal impact as well as presenting accolades and certificates to its active and fallen partners.

Established in 1993 as an autonomous not-for-profit organization, the EPRC aimed to build national capacity to support the policymaking work of government.

Speaking as chief guest at the anniversary gala, the UN Resident Coordinator in Uganda, Susan Ngongi Namondo, applauded EPRC for leaving an indelible mark on the landscape of research. She was gratified with the fact that the center has maintained its independence regardless of its strong support from the government.

“EPRC has produced high-quality publications that have benefited all of us. This is commendable because most of the evidence that we depend on to support the different projects of Uganda’s development agenda resonates from their findings,” Namondo said.

She emphasized that EPRC’s future success will largely depend on it being able to adapt to the evolving environment within which it operates today. Government supports at least 70% of the EPRC budget while other resources are sourced from donors.

Reflecting on the journey thus far, EPRC’s director of research, Ibrahim Kasirye, who represented the executive director expressed profound gratitude to the countless researchers, and partners who have contributed to the organization’s success.

“Over the last three decades, our timely evidence-based and user-responsive research has contributed to informing various government policy, regulatory and programming processes and actions geared towards delivering its commitments to sustained economic growth and transformation,” Kasirye said.

“We have learned from our experiences to design better-focused strategic plans, seize research and financing opportunities, and strengthen governance and financial systems as well as, leadership and in-house research capacities.”

In its first decade, 1993-2002, EPRC researched Poverty Reduction and Structural Adjustments. It focused on the efficient implementation of structural adjustment programmes, considering prudent macroeconomic policies, private sector investment, and modernisation of agriculture.

This research was followed by another from 2003 to 2012 on how the country could attain the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), focusing on the effects of structural adjustment programmes on poverty, social protection, employment, and growth; service delivery in education and agriculture; public expenditure tracking, among others.

In the third decade, 2013 -to date, the center supported the government in its goal of stimulating inclusive renewed growth, particularly for the youth and women. Kasirye explained that this involved addressing the constraints on domestic revenue mobilisation and public finance management amidst declining donor support; renewed focus on social protection; service delivery mechanisms; and labour markets with a focus on addressing poverty inequality and food insecurity.

“Unlike the previous decades, we emphasized evidence to boost private sector development and competitiveness through research on agro-industrialisation; micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs); productive employment; access to financial services; informality, and domestic and external trade,” he said.

RESEARCH IMPACTS

In collaboration with the Finance Ministry, the center developed an Agro- industrialisation agenda for Uganda and a Public Investment Management Strategy for the Agro-industry.

“We have conducted extensive analytical work on poverty trends, pro-poor growth, poverty-inequality- growth nexus, and chronic poverty which have greatly informed the design, implementation, and review of Poverty Reduction Strategies, and the regular monitoring of poverty trends in Uganda,” Kasirye noted.

The EPRC findings have also supported the peace restoration process in Northern Uganda and conducted research that enabled the rescinding of a government decision in 2014/15 FY to impose value-added tax on agricultural inputs, among others.

They also spearheaded the development of the National Fertiliser Policy, Strategy, and Regulations; and offered technical support and oversight towards the development of the Agricultural Finance Policy and Strategy, National Industrial Development Policy, and the National Tea Development Policy. The center also extensively contributed to the review of the Sugarcane Policy 2010 and the Sugar Act 2020.

In his remarks, Prof William Bazeyo, who represented the chairman Board of directors at EPRC, commended the board’s executive director, Dr Sarah Ssewanyana, in absentia for a job well done. Ssewanyana lost a child last week and the burial coincided with the 30th celebration dinner.

“EPRC has had executive directors but at the most difficult time of COVID-19, Dr Sarah stood strong. At one time, there was no money from the Finance ministry but she managed to raise resources from partners to run the institution.”

CORDIAL RELATIONS WITH MAKERERE

Meanwhile, Makerere University Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Finance and Administration, Prof Henry Alinaitwe, noted that EPRC has maintained a cordial relationship with the university for the past 30 years.

Annually, EPRC, in collaboration with the College of Business and Management Sciences awards the best performing MA Economics students with a cash prize and a two- year professional career development opportunity that allows the awardee to have a six-month rotational training in each of the four EPRC research departments.

“Some of the beneficiaries have gone on to secure employment in international and credible organisations. EPRC also provides a three-month renewable internship opportunity to both undergraduate and postgraduate students of Makerere University,” Alinaitwe said.

This is in addition to granting students free access to all EPRC staff, research findings, and publications to complement their research. Going forward, he proposed that the two institutions can jointly produce policy analyses and peer-reviewed publications as well as mobilise funding for collaborative research leading to enhanced credibility and better policymaking.

FUTURE PLANS

To make its research and policy work more influential, the EPRC looks forwards to aggressive resource mobilisation to ensure the continuity of its mandate besides having a bigger home or office premise.

There are also plans to consider a paradigm shift from focusing predominantly on economic dimensions of policy to a blend of socioeconomic and political economy.

“We shall reposition the trade and regional integration department to continue undertaking research at the local level, but with a focus on informing and influencing the continental and global trade policies and development programmes,” reads the plans.

The EPRC intends to re-purpose its stakeholder engagements to focus on building the trust of citizens to own government policies and programmes. On broadening and improving capacity building, EPRC proposes developing a sustainable post-doctoral training programme targeting fresh PhDs to prepare them for the job market and the policy world.

This will be attached with re-instituting its international fellowship programme to attract international scholars to work with EPRC, to cross- fertilize ideas, skills, methodologies, and technologies in doing research.

As the UN’s Namondo stated, the center is also keen on maintaining its independence as a non-profit policy think tank in Uganda.

nangonzi@observer.ug

Comments are now closed for this entry