August 6 , 2014. Leonard Wantchekon, founder and director of ASE, presented an update on ASE's academic project to a delegation of the government of Benin in a meeting that took place on Wednesday August 6 in Washington DC. The delegation was in DC accompanying President Boni Yayi for the U.S. Africa Leaders Summit. it included Marcel Alain de Souza, Minister of Development; Dorothée Akoko Kinde Gazard, Minister of Health; and, Nassirou Bako Arifari, Minister of Foreign Affairs. Among other topics, Wantchekon explained the mission and vision behind the African School of Economics, with special emphasis to the fact that the school has been conceived according to international academic standards and will train a first cohort of over 90 students enrolled in the MBA and MMES programs. The delegation was very supportive of the project and reitarated their willingness to supporting the initiative. Towards the end of the meeting, they watched a video of ASE's campus architectural design. Wantchekon was accompanied by Diana Davies, Vice Provost for International Initiatives at Princeton University, Shanta Devarajan, Chief Economist of the World Bank’s Middle East and North Africa Region and Meritxell Roca, ASE Academic Program Manager. There will be follow up meetings in Benin by the end of September, ensuring the Government’s continuing support to the African School of Economics.

Picture: L.Wantchekon and S.Devarajan are interviewed after the meeting by ORTB

August 3, 2014. Last Sunday August 3rd, 2014, ASE organized a welcome meeting for the students that  already are in Cotonou. Seventy-eight (78) new students from various part countries attended the meeting along with a number faculty members : Marcos Aboubacar (Mathematics), Assani Amzat (English), Marcos Victor (English) and Louise Grogan (Applied Econometrics, Labor Economics).  A group of 15 staff representatives also joined the event.
The meeting was an excellent opportunity for students, faculty and staff to interact and get to know each other. Exchanges mostly focused on logistical issues related to English and Maths Prep courses that will take place during the month of August. A more formal welcome ceremony will take place next week.

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July 31, 2014. Recently, IERPE summer interns visited the coastal city of Ouidah, about a two-hour drive from Cotonou. A modestly sized and peaceful city, Ouidah’s easy charm belies at once its rich cultural heritage and harrowing history. Ouidah today is something of a study in contrasts: its lively main squares, status as a spiritual center, and pristine beaches speak to its appeal for locals and tourists alike. However, Ouidah also bears the burden of a tragic history, for in centuries past it was a major port where untold numbers of Africans were stolen, enslaved, and sent off to the Americas. A place where the ghosts of the past mingle with the vibrant pulse of life in the present, Ouidah proved to be an eminently thought provoking city—and a window into the brilliant confluence of history, tradition, and change that defines this intriguing country.

Ouidah is considered something of a spiritual capital of the local animist religion, Vodoun, even hosting an international Vodoun festival each January, and so we began our visit with a tour of a local temple. As our guide explained, the name “Ouidah” is a corrupted francization of “python” in the local Fon language—considered a sacred creature in the West African religion—and so the temple was in fact known as the ¬temple des pythons. True to its namesake, the temple did not disappoint, and the pythons—non-venomous, we were assured—were docile and perfectly content being picked up, held, and draped around our necks, much to our delight. Interestingly, directly across from the python temple stands a large church, built by missionaries aiming to convert locals from Vodoun to Catholicism. According to our guide, the things didn’t go entirely as planned: rather than switching religions, many locals simply combined them, going to church in the mornings and the python temple in the afternoon. Oftentimes, that status quo of mixed traditional and Christian or Muslim beliefs persists to this day, a testament to Benin’s fascinating cultural combinations and syncretic belief systems.

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Pictures: (1) Door of no return, Ouidah, (2) Jonathan Liebman holding a Python

Here are some scholarship opportunities. Please be advised that information is in French.

1- Brochure

2- USAID Application Form

3- Peace and Development Flyer

   Michaëlle Jean holds a book by Leonard Wanchekon, director of IREEP

July 17, 2014. The ambitious project of the African School of Economics, initiated by Professor Leonard Wantchekon,  received last Monday, the support of a great personality. Visiting the premises of the Institute for Empirical Research in Political Economy (IREEP), Michaëlle Jean, former Governor General of Canada (2005-2010), UNESCO Special Envoy for Haiti and Chancellor of the University of Ottawa met with students, researchers of the institution to learn more about the advancement of mathematics and economics teaching in Africa. She expressed her  enthusiasm about the launch of the African School of Economics (ASE) late August this year.

Director Leonard Wantchekon spoke of fundamental values of IERPE and expresses his vision for the future of the institution in the context of the new school of economics. At the end of the session, students, researchers, and students had the chance to speak directly with Ms. Jean. They thanked her for her interest in IERPE and they also had clarification on the academic opportunities in Canada.