November 26, 2014. At many stages of life, people are called to select the best candidate for a job, team, or university admissions. ASE's Professor Maxime Agbo has designed a model to explain the perpetual search for talented individuals across overlapping generations.

Prof. Agbo’s presentation on Tuesday, November 18th was the most recent installment of ASE’s weekly Academic Research Seminar Series. On the ASE campus, located in Abomey-Calavi, Benin, Prof. Agbo shared his latest paper, A Perpetual Search for Talents Across Overlapping Generations: A Learning Process, with students and academics. His study considered a class of multi-armed bandit problems. The bandit is an arm-acquiring, restless, and mortal individual; the rewards of the bandit may follow any distribution.

Prof. Agbo discusses the application of his model on the talent search of job candidates

This is similar to the case of a committee whose mission is to select the best candidate from a pool of applicants. The applicants live for K periods and have different levels of seniority. In each period, new young talented candidates enter the pool. Prof. Agbo found that if K is infinite (i.e. the candidates live forever) than the problem is indexable. However, the index he found is different from that of Gittins and is easier to implement. On the other hand, if K is finite, than the problem is not indexable. In this case, he has only partially solved the problem. Under a number of conditions, he has developed a criteria to compare two talents. He also found that the solution he proposed is still optimal in case of multiple talent searches.


Students were amazed to see how an ordinary problem of selecting talent can be thoroughly modeled; they were especially impressed by how Prof. Agbo has integrated the history of candidates into the model. Gildas Adowe, an MBA student, enquired if this model can used to solve problems in the business world. Prof. Agbo answered by suggesting the application of this model to the selection of the best debtors in a micro-finance institution, based on their history of debt repayment.


Prof. Agbo concluded his presentation by asking interested students to join him in his research. He challenged the audience to contemplate the aspects of this problem that remain unsolved.

Maxime Agbo addresses the audience

 

Gildas Adowe (MBA, Class of 2016) enquires about the application of Prof. Agbo’s

model the business world

 

Kalemba Tite (MMES, Class of 2016) discusses the limitations of the model

November 26, 2014. ASE’s campus in Abomey-Calavi hosted last November 12 Dr. Blaise Gnimassoun, from Université Paris Ouest Nanterre, who presented a paper entitled Current Account Sustainability in sub Saharan African: Does the exchange rate regime matter? This presentation was part of ASE’s Academic Research Seminar Series.

Prof. Louise Grogan opened the seminar by introducing Dr. Blaise Gnimassoun, an economist specialised in applied macroeconomics and international finance with a regional focus on Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). He began his presentation sharing some of his motivations behind this research project; he mentioned a lack of studies focused on developing countries as a strong reason why he decided to focus on the SSA region.

 

Dr. Blaise Gnimassoun presenting on the current accounts of sub-Saharan African countries

 

Professor Gnimassoun discussed the monetary unions of SSA countries (i.e. West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), specifically the effect of monetary unions on the behavior of each member country. For instance, a country’s membership in a monetary union limits its ability to expand the money supply and modify the value of the currency. On the other hand, monetary unions allow countries to avoid external disequilibrium. Dr. Gnimassoun discussed the trade-off  between flexibility and sustainability when countries join a monetary union. He also explained the effect of the Enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative on the current accounts of SSA countries.

To conduct his study, Dr. Gnimassoun used data from 44 countries and recent panel co-integration techniques. His investigation is modeled by a formal macroeconomic theoretical framework of a small open economy.

At the conclusion of his presentation, Dr. Gnimassoun synthesized his work on current account adjustments and their sustainability in SSA. His findings show that current accounts have been globally sustainable in this region over the 1980–2011 period. The results of his study suggest that sustainability is lower for countries operating a fixed exchange rate regime or belonging to a monetary union. This difference in sustainability may be explained by a higher persistence in the current account adjustment when a country is operating under a rigid exchange rate regime.

The audience, composed of ASE students and faculty members, questioned Dr. Gnimassoun on the subject of his research. Q&A time included, among others, questions on the software and the model used in his study, the effects of a country’s membership in a monetary union and which exchange rate regime would he would recommend: fixed or flexible.

Wilfried Bankole (MMES, Class of 2016) reflects on his understanding of current accounts

 

Abdoul-Aziz Adama (MMES, Class of 2016) asks Dr. Gnimassoun to elaborate on his opinion of monetary unions in sub-Saharan Africa

 

October 30, 2014. Students of the African School of Economics and Prof. Leonard Wantchekon greeted the CEO of Fludor Benin, Mr. Roland Riboux, to the first installment of ASE’s Professional Development Seminar Series.

Throughout his presentation, Mr. Riboux advised students on how to develop a career and generate investment in Benin. The CEO of Fludor Benin described why he chose to invest into the cottonseed industry of Benin 18 years ago. He took advantage of the opportunity to utilize the agricultural production of cottonseed in Benin. By leveraging a capital investment of $15 million, he industrialized the production of cottonseed oil in the country, thus accelerating the development of Benin’s food industry.

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Prof. Wantchekon and Mr. Riboux addressing the audience

 

Students were well-prepared with a number of questions for the guest speaker. Ansila Kweka, an MMES student from Tanzania, asked about the ability of investors to change the cost of living within a country. Mr. Riboux asserted that investors play a long-term role in changing the price of goods within a country. He supported his argument by commenting on the level of industrialization and the quantity of food imports in Benin.

Gildas Adowe, an MBA student from Benin, sought Mr. Riboux’s advice on becoming an entrepreneur in Benin. After describing his thoughts on how to create jobs for other people through entrepreneurship, Mr. Riboux shared his personal motto with the students: “Patience.”

The seminar ended with cheers of gratitude for Mr. Riboux’s inspiring presentation of entrepreneurship in Benin.

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Roland Riboux graduated from the University of Paris in Economics and Political Science. He has worked around the world in the banking sector with Crédit Lyonnais in Cameroon, Iran, Saudi Arabia, France, Thailand, and Nigeria. In 2000, he was named the first President of the Association of Industrialists of Oilseeds for the Economic and Monetary Union of West Africa (AIFO-UEMOA). In 1996, he lead a $15 million investment project to install an oil-based cottonseed business in Benin. Today, this business has grown into Fludor Benin, whose plant has an operational capacity of 300 tons of cottonseed.

 

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Ansila Kweka asks about an investor’s ability to affect the cost of living within a country.

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Gildas Adowe asks Mr. Riboux for advice about entrepreneurship in Benin.



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October 28, 2014. Professor Leonard Wantchekon presented last October 28 an academic seminar on his recent paper, Education and Human Capital Externalities in Colonial Africa (click here to access article), to an audience composed of ASE students and administration. His speech involved a detailed discussion on externalities and the aspiration effects of education. His study focused on the positive externalities at the village-level and extended family level. He also discussed the impacts of these positive externalities on the allocation of resources within a family. To set the stage for his paper, Prof. Wantchekon spoke about his autobiography, especially life in his Beninese village many years ago. He explained that one day, he visited his family’s village with his elder brother to learn about where his peers from primary and secondary school are now. They found out that thirteen people from his village now hold a PhD degree. The brothers were amazed by this fact and  Prof. Wantchekon was determined to learn more about this phenomenon.

 

Prof. Wantchekon illustrates the limited access to education in many African countries

 

To first explain the externalities of education, Prof. Wantchekon used his own village as an example. He showed how a village with one person attending school can have a powerful effect on the other people of the village. This is referred to as the aspiration effect of education. Understanding this aspiration effect can help to explain how a single village is able to produce thirteen scholars with a PhD degree.

Prof. Wantchekon used historical trends to display the effects of education on the living standards of people whose ascendants attended colonial schools. In the time of colonial schools, the location of the school and the decision to go to school or not can be described as random. Prof. Wantchekon selected two locations, the first with access to a colonial school and the other location without. The results of his study found that descendants of the uneducated in locations with a colonial school performed better, than those descending from a village without a colonial school. He described this as a village-level positive externality.

At the family level, the results of his study show that the descendants of families with at least one educated individual from a colonial school are better off. At the time of colonial schools, the extended family of an educated individual benefited from the education of a colonial school, even though they themselves did not attend this school. This positive externality at the extended family level can be described as family externalities and the cost of these externalities can be high.

Typically, education and human capital are considered private goods. However, they become public goods as the knowledge from education spreads to others. These positive externalities can contribute to the development and occupational diversity of a country.

The discussion following Prof. Wantchekon’s seminar offered a number of insightful interventions. Prof. Juste Somé highlighted the mentality of many people, who believe that education fails to improve their living standards in the short-term. Prof. Wantchekon reinforced the need to see education as a powerful tool to help improve the behaviors of citizens. In his closing remarks, Prof. Wantchekon called upon the audience to visit their own village and motivate children to attend school, while promoting the community’s capacity for entrepreneurship.

 

 

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Mohamed Barro poses a question about colonial schools in Benin.

 

LW SEMINAR 3

Caleb Dohou shares his perspective on the relevance of Prof. Wantchekon’s paper.

 

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Immaculee Affognon inquiries about the application of Prof. Wantchekon’s study.

 

October 24, 2014. Students from the African School of Economics eagerly awaited the arrival of Mr. Victor Pouliquen, an impact evaluation consultant from the World Bank, who came to ASE to explain the research and job opportunities at this international financial institution.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Pouliquen, a graduate of the Paris School of Economics and the Toulouse School of Economics, expressed his satisfaction in the emergence of an economic vocation school in Africa. Before starting with the agenda of the seminar, he made ​​a brief presentation of the objectives and methodology related to the current empirical study he is conducting in partnership with the Institute for Empirical Research in Political Economy (IERPE).

To link this research project with his work at the World Bank, Mr. Pouliquen began by defining the characteristics of good research. He emphasized the importance of a well-defined research question. According to Pouliquen, research is not an end in itself, rather it is designed to meet a specific need. Research must address a question to which no solution has yet been found. A good researcher must always ask how his/her findings are in the interest of the community. Although mastering in mathematics, macroeconomics, microeconomics, and econometrics is required to conduct a good research project, it is not sufficient to find an innovative research question. Hence, according to Pouliquen, a good researcher needs not only to assimilate these courses, but also develop his/her intuition for identifying paradoxical situations worthy of academic research.

Mr. Pouliquen used his experience in screening job applications to advise ASE students on how to successfully obtain an internship with the World Bank. In his opinion, many candidates are rejected due to a misunderstanding of the mission and functions of the World Bank. Thus, the key to understanding a company’s mission and functions is through exhaustive consultation with friends, professors, and the company’s website. For example, the World Bank’s website includes all the necessary information for formulating an impeccable application. Prof. Leonard Wantchekon advised students to ensure that they write their cover letters in a professional style, free from grammar and spelling errors; applying to internships and jobs requires an ample amount of preparation.

Finally, the seminar ended with a Q&A session from ASE students. They were interested in the activities of the World Bank, how the World Bank accounts for gender issues, and the World Bank’s consideration for the Millennium Development Goals.

Prof. Leonard Wantchekon introducing Mr. Victor Pouliquen, World Bank consultant, to the students of ASE

Mr. Victor Pouliquen sharing his advice on applying to World Bank internships