24 October 2017: On October 24, 2017, the African School of Economics (ASE) hosted a workshop on “The New National Planning for Sustainable Development in the South”, an international research project involving researchers from Benin, Togo, Ghana, Lithuania, and numerous other countries around the world. Funded by the Global Fund for Research, the research project is based at the University of Manchester’s Global Development Institute and has been implemented in partnership with the University of Ottawa and ASE. Academic papers dedicated to national development planning have seen a reemergence over the past 5 years, as developing countries strive to capitalize on economic globalization for sustainable development projects. The National Planning project is aimed at tracking and examining such policies in the Global South, to determine effective and accountable development planning procedures.

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The workshop focused on new development planning projects in Benin, examining new planning trends, as well as the Benin’s national planning history, to highlight potential implementation strategies and results of current development policies. Organized by the African School of Economics, the workshop was attended by numerous actors involved in national planning, including academics, local authorities, public administrative leaders, and civil servants.

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ASE’s research team, represented by Dr. David Gbaguidi (Assistant Professor, ASE), and Professor Munro Lauchlan (University of Ottawa) presented their preliminary work surrounding Benin’s national planning history and contemporary situation. After this presentation, the researchers opened up the floor for questions, comments, and discussion.

Several weeks ago, 20 representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, and Fishing (MAEP) benefitted from an intensive 30 day training in Impact Evaluation of Public Policies. The training was given by the African School of Economics and took place from July 24 to September 8, 2017. The activity was financed by the Belgian Technical Cooperation (BTC) through its Project to Support Beninese Organizations through the Reinforcement of Competencies (PAORC). Yannick Kouakanou, national technical assistant at PAORC, has granted us an interview on the subject.

 

ASE: Hello, Mr. Kouakanou!

Y. Kouakanou: Hello!

ASE: Why did the BTC agree to support the MAEP in the context of this training in Impact Evaluation?

Y. Kouakanou: It’s an activity that was not initially entered in our budget. However, MAEP requested our assistance to accompany their efforts on the impact evaluation of public policies, notably of agricultural policies. In light of the relevance and need, and after having consulted the different primary and strategic partners of the ministry, we agreed to support this initiative. We  that found that public administrators abilities in the field of impact evaluation of policies in general—and of public policies—are weak or nonexistent. Thus for us, it was an opportunity that was really necessary to seize to support the efforts of the ministry in matters of evaluation. We therefore accepted. We have had a lot of discussions with the African School of Economics training school, with the beneficiaries, and finally this all became concrete.

ASE: What motivated you to validate the MAEP’s choice of ASE to give this training?

Y. Kouakanou: When the MAEP brought the matter forward in proposing ASE, we asked ourselves: Why would we choose this school and not another?

You know, according to the procedures of the BTC, it is always necessary to issue a competitive call before selecting a provider. But the fact of the matter was that, according to our investigations, ASE was the only in the national territory to deliver a certificate in the field of impact evaluation of public policy. There are other schools that give trainings related to project evaluation, project management, or even at times the evaluation of public policies, but not impact evaluation. So for us, it was really the only valid offer on the market. We did research on the credibility of the school, on its reputation at the regional level, and we were reassured, having understood that we could place our confidence in this school.

ASE: You have finished financing the MAEP in the context of reinforcing its representatives’ capacities. What is the next objective of PAORC?

Y. Kouakanou: We strongly hope that the same process will take place at the level of the Ministry of Health. Because the CTB intervenes globally in two domains: the agricultural sector and the health sector. If we have a budget, and the Ministry of Health expresses the need to undergo training in impact evaluation, I believe that it would be a great experience for us.

Furthermore, at the level of the Minsitry of Agriculture, this activity is not yet finished, according to us. Because the assistance that we provided to the MAEP does not stop with certification. Outside of the certification of the representatives who were trained, we want ASE to accompany them in the effective implementation, the applications in the field of evaluation of a policy, of a program that will have retained a common accord with them. After the training phase, we will arrange that the school, and as a function of the available budget for accompanying the application of all that has been learned. The final goal is to have a document of impact evaluation produced by the learners themselves with the coaching of the trainers. So that’s the next step.

ASE: What is the budget that served to finance the training that just took place with the MAEP?

Y. Kouakanou: The budget, it must be noted that this was among the things that impressed us favorably on the subject of ASE with regard to PAORC. Extremely affordable! And what is also interesting is that the budget enabled us to cover the entire process. What was a bit difficult for us and what we could not take on, was the choice of participants to relocate the training and organize it in an intensive manner. They preferred not to do three sessions a week, but to do it through seminars relocated from Cotonou. The budget, we couldn’t support it, but fortunately, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), another technical partner took charge of that.

On October 19, 2017, ASE’s bimonthly Academic Research Seminar was hosted by Professor Romain Houssa (University of Namur). Professor Houssa also serves as the Academic Coordinator of Belgian Financial Research Group on Financing for Development (BeFind), and is a current ASE visiting professor teaching ‘International Economics’.

Professor Houssa presented “Domestic Resource Mobilization and Economic Development: VAT and Institutional Quality’’, a joint collaboration between himself and researchers from the BeFind network. In the presentation, he underlined that developing countries must improve their domestic revenue mobilization (DRM) to close their huge financing gaps. This outcome can be achieved through the effective application of the Value-Added-Tax (VAT), a critical tax instrument that has improved tax revenue collection in many countries. Professor Houssa also stressed the quality of institutions in enhancing DRM, calling their roles “catalytic”. The presentation concluded with a photo and question-and-answer session, where students took advantage of the opportunity to learn more about Professor Houssa’s past and ongoing research.

 

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After four weeks of training in Impact Evaluation of Public Policies, representatives of the Beninese Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, and Fishing give us their impressions. Innocent Togla, Assistant Secretary-General of the Ministry, is the first to respond to our questions.

ASE : My first question is very simple: Why did you solicit this information in impact evaluation given that you have internal structures at the ministry that have already been working in this field for a longtime?

Innocent Togla: We often say, “We finish growing up, but we never finish learning!” We wanted to reinforce our capacities to better do what we are accustomed to doing. Impact Evaluation makes it possible to know what you have already done and to better orient yourself to know what should be done later; considering that we at the ministry have many projects that we manage, it is very important to deepen our knowledge of Impact Evaluation. That will help to better orient our actions in the direction of the target population.

ASE : How many total agents of the ministry were sent to the training?

Innocent Togla: There were 20 of us total! Even if some of them had occasional scheduling conflicts, everyone participated in the training. This group was resolved to undergo training to enhance the image of the ministry.

ASE : What inspired you to choose the African School of Economics to provide you with this type of training?

Innocent Togla: You know, there are some schools that have made themselves a name, right? Everyone is a little familiar with the African School of Economics results in this field. The school is growing more renowned all over at the moment. They have distinguished themselves on several occasions, and as soon as we were given the opportunity to have this training, we did not hesitate to turn to this school, taking into account the quality of its instructors and the renown of the school.

ASE : After this training, what concrete elements will determine its’ impact on your ministry?

Innocent Togla: That everyone at his post will be able to reflect on what he has learned during his participation in the various evaluation teams. Throughout the elaboration of the projects, it will be necessary henceforth to apply everything that we have learned, the base evaluations, the reference inquiries, the theory of change, etcetera.

ASE : Thank you.

 

Monday, October 16, 2017. Earlier this week, ASE had the honor of hosting Mrs. Carolyn Logan, deputy director of Afrobarometer, for a guest lecture on trust and political parties. Afrobarometer is a Pan-African, non-partisan research network that conducts public attitude surveys on democracy, governance, economic conditions, and related issues across over 30 African countries.

Since 2005, ASE’s flagship institute, IREEP, has been Afrobarometer’s core partner for studies conducted in Francophone Africa. Mrs Logan visited ASE with Afrobarometer’s executive director, Professor Emmanuel Gyimah-Boadi, with the goal of improving the Afrobarometer process and interests for survey rounds 7 and 8 through collaboration with the ASE-IREEP team.

Prior to her departure, Mrs. Logan held a presentation for students on the ASE Campus. She first spoke about Afrobarometer, the organization’s history, methodologies, and results. Subsequently, she presented her working paper on citizens’ attitudes toward opposition parties in Africa. Her main finding was that while the trust gap for opposition parties has decreased in past years, gaps remain large in countries with volatile political situations and conflict. After the presentation, ASE students asked a variety of questions, ranging from the purpose of the opposition party, to the role of freedom of speech in determining trust, to whether the sample size was representative of the population. One student inquired about challenges Afrobarometer had faced, and how they overcame them. The discussion concluded with a question about the role of gender in politics, and whether the gender of the party leader affects public perception and trust.