Interview with Dr Selma Karuaihe from the African Association of Environmental and Resource Economists (AFAERE)

Posted on August 27, 2021

The African Association of Environmental and Resource Economists (AFAERE)


1. Who or what is AFAERE?

The African Association of Environmental and Resource Economists (AFAERE) is an international scientific association that was established in 2018. The first AFAERE Council was elected in 2018 and commenced its work in 2019 for two years until December 2020. The current Council took over in January 2021 under the leadership of Selma Karuaihe from the University of Pretoria as President. The Council governs the Association and consists of eight members. The Council consists of the following members: Dr Selma Karuaihe, South Africa (President); Prof Margaret Chitiga-Mabugu, South Africa (Vice-President); Prof Wisdom Akpalu, Ghana (Former President); Dr Charles Nhemachena, Kenya (Secretary General); Dr Nnaemeka Chukwuone, Nigeria (President-Elect); Dr Mary Karumba, Kenya (Council Member); Dr Byela Tibesigwa, Tanzania (Council Member); and Dr Lufeyo Mbanda, Zambia (Council Member).


2. What is the main goal of the Association?

The main purpose of AFAERE is to promote research; capacity building and development; collaboration; information sharing; visibility and impact of environmental and natural resource economics on the African continent. The aim is to contribute to the development and application of environmental and resource economics as a science in Africa through evidence-based research.

AFAERE’s mission is to contribute towards poverty reduction and sustainable development in Africa based on three strategic goals: policy research; capacity building and development; and collaboration. Associations such as the AFAERE are important because as Prof Sheryl Hendriks argues, they help amplify the voices of African economists who best understand the context of the issues faced on the continent.


3. What would you say is the main goal for the association for the next year and how will this be achieved?

The goal for AFAERE in 2021-2022 is to promote visibility of the Association, increase membership of the Association, build networks and establish collaborations. The activities to promote visibility are hosting of relevant events such as webinars, training workshops, and conferences among others. Active and potential members of the Association, relevant stakeholders in academia, policy and civil society are invited to participate in AFAERE events. Since its inception in 2019, the Association has hosted ten webinars on topical issues and its inaugural conference in August 2021.


4. As the president, what is your main role in the association?

Provide leadership and strategic direction of the Association through the establishment of collaborations and networks to make research on environmental and resource economics by African scholars effective for the Africa’s development policy agenda.

When I came I office, my goal was to develop a strategic plan for the Association and identify key priority areas. To date, AFAERE has a draft strategy with the goal of contributing towards poverty reduction and sustainable development in Africa through policy research, capacity development and collaboration. Hosting of the inaugural conference and the collaboration with AfJARE on the special issue are some of the outcomes of the draft strategy.


5. Why should people get involved in the association and register as a member?

AFAERE is the first continental Scientific Association on environmental and resource economics as a field of specialisation. The Association is an important platform for the African continent given its high natural resource endowment. AFAERE serves as a platform, not only for networking, but also for building strong collaborations among members and relevant institutions that can strengthen policy research to support Africa’s sustainable development agenda.

The Association offers members a platform to share their work and exchange ideas, offer training and capacity development not only to members, but also to policy makers who need retooling on relevant topics to effectively implement their governments’ programs and policies. 

In addition, members also get opportunities to contribute papers to special issues (based on relevant topics for environmental and resource economics) and get access to information that comes through AFAERE.


6. What are the main events for AFAERE and what can we expect in the near future as part of the association?

AFAERE held its inaugural conference on 2-4 August 2021. The three-day virtual conference was a great success and featured topical issues that were presented by world-renowned speakers and panellists. The conference started with a plenary session and four parallel sessions on each day. Presenters joined virtually from all over the world, with the majority from Africa.

Prof Rashid Sumaila, from the University of British Columbia who presented on universal basic income (UBI) in support of just and sustainable futures. Prof Elizabeth Robinson, from the University of Reading talked about food security and human health in a climate-insecure world. Prof Suresh Babu, a Co-editor of African Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics (AfJARE) from IFPRI and Extraordinary Professor with Agricultural Economics at UP, moderated a panel on building resilient food systems using case studies from Malawi, Nigeria, Mali and Zimbabwe. Dr Elias T. Ayuk – former Senior Strategic Advisor and Sub-Regional Director at the SDG Center for Africa talked about managing the extractive sector in the 21st century towards a sustainable development license to operate. In addition to the technical speakers, Dr Ayub Macharia, from Kenya and Dr Salisu Dahiru from Nigeria shared their governments’ policy and program efforts on environmental policy implementation.

The inaugural conference for AFAERE came at the time when most institutions had cancelled or rescheduled their annual conferences due to the travel restrictions of COVID-19. This inaugural conference, therefore, closed the gap for experts in the field of resource and environmental economics. For the President, Dr Selma Karuaihe at UP, this conference was not only a great success, but also a great contribution to the celebration of Women’s month of August 2021 during the global pandemic.

AFAERE will continue to organise events like webinars, training workshops, policy dialogues, etc. The aim is to develop a calendar of events for the association for the remainder of our term.


7. What do you think was the main message that came out of the conference?

In addition to the plenary sessions where the keynote speakers delivered their addresses for the three days, the conference also displayed four parallel sessions on each day, which covered among others the following topics:

Climate variability and impact; adaption, agricultural risk and productivity; institutions and policy; environmental valuation and behavioural economics; natural resource management and conservation; energy and regional economic growth; food and water security and; municipal services and water use; health and human capital; and investment, research and development.

The key message that came from the conference is around climate change impacts and building resilience, food security, resource management, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the need for social safety net in the form of universal basic income (UBI).


8. What are the type of networks, outcomes or future collaborations you foresee from the inaugural conference?

The conference brought together experts on resource and environmental economics from Africa and beyond. This created a good opportunity for people to connect at a personal and academic level and some of those have already borne results of establishing networks.

The most important outcome of the conference is the submission of selected papers from the conference to a special issue of the African Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics (AfJARE). This is a collaboration established between AFAERE and the editorial Board of AfJARE.


9. How does AFAERE contribute to the Department of Agricultural Economics, Extension and Rural Development at the University of Pretoria (UP)?

The department of Agricultural Economics, Extension and Rural Development (AEERD) at the University of Pretoria (UP) runs a program in Environmental Economics, founded by its Extra Ordinary Professor Rashid Hassan over 20 years ago. Through the offering of the Masters and PhD programs in Environmental Economics, the department has produced a large number of African scholars in the field, either directly or indirectly through capacity building. AFAERE’s former President, Prof Wisdom Akpalu and the current President, Dr Selma Karuaihe did their post-docs at the department which helped them build their career in the field of environmental economics. The Secretary General, Dr Charles Nhemachena, graduated from the department under the leadership of Prof Hassan. This shows that the department has a historical link with environmental economics and AFAERE can take this further.

In view of these linkages, the Association can be seen as an extension of the department’s goal on environmental economics and policy in Africa. One of AFAERE’s goals is to build networks and strengthen collaboration among African scholars in environmental and resource economics. This would not only assist the department (through the President and the Council) to reach out to the continent, but it would also help the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences (NAS) to strengthen collaboration with other relevant faculties and centers at UP. The aim is to drive the environmental issues and the global challenges such as climate change, poverty and food security, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the presence of the global COVID-19 pandemic, through policy research and outreach towards the achievement of UP’s Vision 2025 and Africa’s Agenda 2063.

Selma Karuaihe, PhD

AFAERE President: 2021-2022

Senior Lecturer: Department of Agricultural Economics, Extension and Rural Development (AEERD)

- Author Selma Karuaihe
Published by Andrea du Toit

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