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Senbet to Head Top African Economic Development Research Organization

Aug 01, 2012
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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 Africa.” (Economist, Dec 2011)

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 summer.

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, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, MS in business, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

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About the University of Maryland's 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, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty masters, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.