Senbet to Head Top African Economic Development Research
Lemma Senbet, the William E. Mayer Chair Professor of Finance, has been
appointed Executive Director of the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC),
a premier economic policy research institution serving Africa. The Nairobi,
Kenya-headquartered not-for-profit corporation is working to build a thriving
community of well-informed economics researchers whose work can shape policies
and boost economic development in sub-Saharan Africa.
“This opportunity showed up when I was already thinking about getting more
directly involved with Africa after years of policy advisory and outreach,”
Senbet said. “This is an even bigger role than I had envisioned, happening at a
time when Africa is experiencing tremendous growth despite the global financial
crisis. Six of the top fastest growing economies in the world are now in
After an extensive international search, the AERC board selected Senbet to
serve as Executive Director. Senbet will be on leave from the Robert H. Smith
School of Business to head the AERC and relocate to Nairobi in Summer 2013.
However, he will travel extensively in Africa and globally as he implements the
organization’s strategic goals, managing its resources, and fundraising. AERC is
supported by numerous global and Africa partners, including the World Bank and
public institutions and private foundations, including the Rockefeller
Foundation and the Gates Foundation.
Senbet said his top goal is to enhance the AERC’s global integration and
visibility. He plans to diversify the organization’s resource base to include
private sector firms that interface with the public sector through risk
management, governance, financial regulation and market development.
A native of Ethiopia, Senbet has been active in policy outreach in Africa.
Senbet has contributed to policy work with the World Bank, the IMF, and the
United Nations. He also lends his professional expertise to projects and policy
outreach in Ethiopia and the rest of Africa with a variety of institutions,
including the African Development Bank and Africa Union Mission in Washington.
Senbet and Franklin Allen, finance and economic professor at the University of
Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, organized a research team on African
finance looking into the continent’s financial development gap and its
resolution. The project is now part of the National Bureau of Economic Research
network funded by the Gates Foundation.
For the past several years, Senbet has been giving back to the village in
Ethiopia where he was born. He provided funding to establish a library in his
hometown, and he actively supports youth educational initiatives, including
starting a college scholarship program for high school graduates. He was
recognized in May 2012 for this work and his policy
work and life-time scholarly achievements by the Society of Ethiopians
Established in Diaspora (SEED).
Senbet joined the University of Maryland in 1990, from the University of
Wisconsin, Madison, where he rapidly moved up to be a world-leading finance
scholar. After joining Maryland, he led the finance department at the Smith
School for eight years and it has emerged among the top in the world for
research in corporate finance and investments. He is the founding director of
the Center for Financial Policy, established in 2009 in response to the global
financial crisis. He has mentored numerous doctoral students and placed them at
major research universities and institutions. Among his former students are
currently Dean of Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business and Chief
Economist of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for Lemma to bring his great skills and
research acumen to bear on some of the most critical issues facing our global
community,” said Vojislav Maksimovic, professor and chair of the finance
department. “I expect that in his role he will touch many lives and open up
great opportunities for researchers working on some of the most challenging
governance and resource questions in economics and finance. At the same time, I
am very conscious of how much we will miss him in the department. Lemma created
the Maryland Finance Department we have now, and his advice and continuing
example are of inestimable value in keeping it great.”
Senbet said it was not an easy decision, but in the end, he felt this as
another big call in his life. He will remain affiliated with the school and will
be looking to create institutional linkages between the AERC and programs at the
university. He said his new role presents a great opportunity for the Smith
School and the University of Maryland to engage with the newly emerging
countries of Africa and he plans to explore those links before leaving next
About the Robert H. Smith School of Business
The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader
in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the
University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate,
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