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.

jonathan 1 web  jonathan2web

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.

The Konrad Adenauer Foundation is offering scholarships for students who would like to pursue a Master's degree. Please note that this opportunity is only for students from Benin, Burkina Faso, Togo, Niger and Cote d'Ivoire.

The following website provides further information on application requirements:

http://www.kas.de/westafrika/fr/events/58434/

The deadline to submit applications is March 28, 2014.

We are pleased to announce the recruitment of the opening faculty of the African School of Economics for the Academic year 2014-2015. They are Maxime Agbo and Juste Somé from the University of Montréal (Canada), David Gbaguidi from the University of Aix-Marseille (France) and Agnès Zabsonré from Laval University (Canada).

Please visit: http://www.africanschoolofeconomics.com/faculty for their short bios and photos.