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PEGNet Conference 2018 Brings Together Researchers and Practitioners

The 2018 Poverty Reduction, Equity and Growth Network (PEGNet) conference on improving the quality of education and learning outcomes in developing countries, Co-hosted by ASE, was held at Azalai Hotel in Cotonou Benin on October 11th and 12th. The conference featured presentations from researchers from around the world, including keynotes Felipe Barrera-Osorio from Harvard University, and Modibo Sidibe from Duke University, and the founder of ASE Leonard Wantchekon from Princeton University. Alongside these prestigious speakers, top researchers gave presentations in a variety of parallel sessions, among which were presentations from current and former ASE students.

This conference was organized by PEGNet in collaboration with The African School of Economics, the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and supported by the KfW Development Bank and the University of Abomey-Calavi.

The conference kick-started with a welcome address by professor Leonard Wantchekon (founder and president of the African School of Economics), Kacana Khadjavi (director of PEGNet and researcher at the Kiel Institute for the World Economy), Peter Krahl from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, and guest of honor, Hon. Marie-Odile Atanasso (Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Benin).

PEGNet’s mission is, among other things, “to facilitate cooperation between researchers, policymakers and development practitioners with an interest in issues revolving around the poverty-inequality-growth nexus in developing countries.” Each of the four speakers expressed how important the conference and its theme were for the West African region in general and Benin in particular. As Hon. Marie-Odile Atanasso noted, despite the advances in the education sector in Benin there are still a number of issues to address, including the high proportion (about 23%) of children aged 6-11 who are out of school, the disappointing results in mathematics and French for high school students, and the failure to match education and training with employment opportunities to name a few.

The first day also included young keynote Modibo Sidibe from Duke University, who presented a paper on school choice under uncertainty that investigates whether it is possible to improve the allocation of students to schools in Ghana through a model of optimal portfolio choice under uncertainty. One of the important conclusions of this paper is that relaxing constraints on school choices has positive welfare effects.

Keynote speaker Felipe Barrera-Osorio (Harvard University) opened the second day of the PEGNet Conference with his presentation on “Public-Private Partnerships: Evidence and Policy Implications from Recent Studies in Low- and Middle- Income Countries.” His session focused on work in many countries looking at the precedent set in public-private partnerships, their outcomes, and what could be learned and used in other contexts from these partnerships.

These remarks and keynote speaker opened up two full days of highly complex and interesting talks and sessions on a variety of topics, ranging from political economy to employment to gender to education and social mobility. Such international speakers and researchers as Felipe Barrera-Osorio, Helmut Asche, and Katja Dombrowski engaged participants in a variety of forums and spaces during the conference.