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.

 

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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

October 21, 2014. The African School of Economics (ASE) is proud to announce the launch of four Research Programs to foster high-caliber academic research and to grow the community of scholarship. Each Research Program brings together scholars from ASE’s faculty and research team, in addition to the global community of first-class academics at ASE’s international partner universities (i.e. Princeton University, the University of Ottawa, etc.). ASE’s Research Programs will actively participate in research projects sponsored by government agencies, international organizations and private corporations.

To help organize, focus, and leverage the work of ASE’s research community, the Research Programs focus on four research domains:

  1. Political Economy & Governance
  2. Human Development
  3. Infrastructure and Rural Development
  4. Finance & Management

 

Political Economy & Governance Research Program:

The Political Economy & Governance Research Program covers political and economic institutions in Africa with a focus on elections, decentralization, public administration and regional integration. Key pieces of the program include public opinion research with Afrobarometer and randomized experiments on democracy and governance.

Human Development Research Program:

The Human Development program will examine a full range of topics on education and public health.  Topics of interest include education and social mobility, aspirations and human capital externalities, emergency care, and management of infectious disease outbreak. Our scholarship offers ideas on institutional and policy reform to ensure sustainable human development.

Infrastructure and Rural Development Research Program:

The path to rural development comes through enhancing sustainable energy, reducing transportation costs and facilitating access to markets. The Rural Infrastructure Research Program involves topics such as rural infrastructure and food security, water and sanitation, the political economy of infrastructure provision.

Finance & Management Research Program:

The Finance and Management program addresses challenges to the development of the private sector in Africa through high caliber academic research. Topics of interest include banking management, financial regulation, firm fragmentation, and microfinance.

 

Each Research Program will manage a variety of seminars, forums, a blog, and regular academic discussion groups relating to their respective area of focus. The ASE research community welcomes interested scholars to engage and contribute to ASE’s Research Programs.

Contact: Ms. Courtney Quinney, ASE Research Coordinator (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

 

October 20, 2014. The African School of Economics (ASE) welcomed a representative from Nigeria’s Centre for Public Policy Alternatives (CPPA) to discuss internships and research opportunities with students. Professor Wantchekon briefly introduced Dr. Olufemi Olarewaju, a CPPA Research Fellow with a PhD in Public Affairs from the University of Texas. Dr. Olarewaju has an extraordinary background in environmental sustainability, business, and public policy.

The Centre for Public Policy Alternatives’ research focuses on public policy solutions to issues of population living standards and state capacity in Sub-Saharan Africa. According to Dr. Olarewaju, it is important to think about how we can utilize statistics, such the median age in Nigeria, to develop sound policy solutions.

ASE students asked Dr. Olarewaju about the availability and application process of internships and research programs at CPPA. Dr. Olarewaju emphasized the need to think differently about research. CPPA does not need the physical presence of students; rather they need the ideas of students. In the end, Dr. Olarewaju stressed the need for students to focus and work hard on their studies.