September 15th 2017. Last week, ASE organized a professional development seminar entitled “International Relations and Migration: What Development for Africa?” The seminar was led by Jean-Francis R. Zinsou, former ambassador and representative of Benin to the United Nations and former chair of the Global Coordination Bureau of Least Developed Countries.

Mr. Zinsou began the presentation by contextualizing the phenomenon of migration in Africa, the driving factors of migration, and the difference between voluntary and forced migration. He also highlighted the implications of migration on countries of destination, transit, and origin; namely, he highlighted the importance of the migrant remittances and their potential to foster economic development in origin countries. 

Subsequently, Mr. Zinsou discussed his involvement in setting up a Remittances Observatory in Benin as an extension of the International Organization for Migration. He also explained his involvement with the government of Benin in the creation of new policies to enhance the mobility of Africans across the region and continent, and in efforts with financial institutions to channel remittances into concrete development projects. To conclude, the seminar was followed by a Q&A session where students posed a variety of questions about migration and development in Benin and across the continent.    

After a year of internship at the African School of Economics, a Pan-African university based in Abomey-Calavi, Princeton-in-Africa fellow Philile Shongwe recounts her experience in Benin.

Tell us briefly about yourself

My name is Philile Shongwe and I was born and raised in the Kingdom of Swaziland. Before joining ASE as a Princeton-in-Africa fellow, I was studying at Yale University where I obtained my Bachelor’s degree in Global Affairs and French.

What roles have you played at ASE? And in which departments did you work?

My role at ASE was multi-faceted and I had the opportunity to work with different departments. Mainly, I worked on various research projects led by Professor Markus Olapade, assisted in the Communications department with managing the website, and taught a foundational English class for first-year students.

 What did this internship bring you in terms of skills?

Before joining ASE, I had never been involved in extensive research planning and field preparation, so my experiences doing research here have been very helpful moving forward. I also acquired a lot of skills in Communications, particularly in website management and visual design. My experience teaching English at ASE has deepened my understanding of the challenges associated with teaching, and this will definitely influence my career plans in future.

On a cultural level, what did you learn from this trip?

Culturally, I noticed some similarities between Swaziland and Benin – such as the love for music and dance! But living in Benin for a year also opened my eyes to the rich history and culture that I was unaware of. I found Beninese people to be incredibly grateful and passionate and I especially appreciated Beninese cuisine and learning how to dance salsa! 

If you were given a chance to repeat the ASE experience in the future, would you be ready to do so?

Yes, definitely. And I would learn more Fon. (smile)


2017 09 01 Rachel Claire Okani Abengue 2

Thursday August 17, 2017. ASE had the honor of hosting Dr. Rachel-Claire Okani Abengue, a Cameroonian national who studied private law and received her PhD in France.

Dr. Abengue’s presentation relayed the many challenges she encountered as a French speaking Fulbright scholar. “You can get it if you really want it” she claimed, reflecting back on her experience applying for the Fulbright Scholarship. To begin the process, she requested to meet with the director of the American Cultural Center and after four months of follow ups and processing she was finally selected as a Fulbright fellow in Florida, USA.

Dr. Abengue also gave ASE students advice about building a career and studying abroad. She claimed that opportunities such as the Fulbright give us the chance to prove that being African and Francophone are not obstacles but advantages. She also advised students about mainlining a school-social life balance and emphasized focus on education over romantic relationships. In conclusion, Dr. Abengue asked the students “Does money you earn as car washer smell different than what you would make working in a public office”? She further stressed on the importance of entrepreneurship and the notion that no job (even it seems low level or unimportant) should be neglected. 

Students felt that Dr. Abengue is a strong role model who isn’t afraid to learn. One student claimed, “We don’t need to have a lot of money before we start something. We must have high expectations for ourselves and must not be ashamed to try seemingly small or unimportant jobs”.  

African School of Economics (ASE) expertise is well recognized, especially for the management of its projects, like the "Impact Evaluation of the Promotion of Girls' Education in Benin". Find what J-PAL says about this on its website, following this link and also take a look on the spotlight on ASE founder, Prof. Léonard Wantchekon.

2017 08 28 ASE Maths project on J PAL website

2017 08 28 Prof. Léonard Wantchekon on J PAL website

On Thursday, July 17th 2017, the African School of Economics had the honor to welcome Professor Yves Atchade from the University of Michigan, a PhD in statistics with expertise in computational statistics, invited by Prof. Léonard Wantchékon, who introduced him to the audience.

Professor Atchade demonstrated why statistics is not just about graphs and figures, but is relevant and applicable to a wide range of fields. Big data, machine learning, and neuronal network applications are some examples of how statistics is transforming the world. Research has even found that current day, data scientists, statisticians and machine learning experts are globally among the most remunerated professions.

Overall, the presentation and discussion gave ASE students the opportunity to learn about computational statistics, a new subject for many, and its application to a variety of disciplines. Furthermore, students were able to ask their most pressing questions and discuss computational statistics with a highly regarded expert in the field.