On December 16, 2017, the African School of Economics held its second annual Graduation and Commencement Ceremony. This year’s cohort of graduate students came from Benin, Togo, Nigeria, and Cameroon among others. Pierre Nguimkeu, Professor at Georgia State University, was one of many who congratulated ASE’s graduates, especially those whom presented at SIER 2017. He also expressed his great joy to sponsor the ceremony.  

ASE’s president Léonard Wantchekon also congratulated the graduating class on their accomplishments and wished them the best while also thanking parents for their support. He also spoke of ASE’s progress and success made during the past three years, including the placement of ASE graduates in international institutions such as the World Bank and Innovation for Poverty Action. Additionally, ASE placed five pre-doctoral students in top US universities including Princeton University and New York University. Professor Wantchékon also mentioned that two students from the United States and Mexico were recently admitted to ASE and were excited to begin their studies in January 2018. Graduates also had the opportunity to congratulate their class and acknowledge the many challenges and accomplishments they faced during their time at ASE.

Class representatives Clinton Obina Ogwuike and Gaïus Ahamidé celebrated the cohort’s accomplishments in their speech before offering a symbolic gift to the founder of ASE on behalf of their class. The gift was an abstract painting made up of small circles, which grow in time to become great. Students felt this symbolic representation was a reflection of their thanks and wishes for a successful future of the African School of Economics.

SIER concluded on December 19th with two trainings on econometrics and machine learning.

Professor Pierre Nguimkeu of Georgia State University opened the day with the presentation “A Structural Econometric Analysis of the Informal Sector Heterogeneity.” The training was comprehensive and included theoretical explanations, analysis of the informal sector, model descriptions, and test specification, providing students with greater knowledge on various econometric approaches.  

Professor Songbian Zime of ASE gave the final lecture on the contemporary subject of Machine Learning. First defining the various elements of the machine learning field, Zime presented his ongoing research and thesis on the subject.

 

The day concluded with final remarks from Professor Leonard Wantchekon about the vision and aspirations for ASE students and the institution at large. Wantchekon closed the conference with a final thank you to the lecturers, the organizing committee, the GIMPA delegation, students, and participants.


On December 18, 2017, SIER held its first day of trainings for ASE students. Incorporating concepts of Institutions and Econometrics, four lectures from high-profile researcher universities provided the students with an excellent opportunity.

Opening the trainings was Professor Leonard Wantchekon, who gave a lecture entitled “Re-examining Institutions and Governance.” Providing a comprehensive presentation of the concept of institutions, he taught students about the role of institutions on governance and state capacity.

Following the first lecture, Professor Pierre Nguimkeu from Georgia State University provided a lecture on his research project “Randomized Evaluation of Institutions.” Focusing on the key technical elements of his article, Nguimkeu spoke specifically about the methodology of his research, teaching students how to build theoretical models for assessing the impact of institutions on numerous outcomes.

Professor Ian Heffernan of ASE and Princeton University’s lecture, “Partisan Competition, Growth, and the Franchise,” stemmed from a paper written in collaboration with Humberto Llavador and Robert J. Oxoby. Students learned about the linkages between voting rights, political competition, and political institutions at large.

 

The day concluded with another presentation from Professor Leonard Wantchekon, who lectured on “Electoral Competition under the Threat of Political Unrest.” Students learned about the various threats affecting electoral outcomes, using case studies as learning mechanisms. 

 

 

SIER 2017: Second Day of Panels

On December 15, 2017, ASE’s annual Summer Institute for Economic Research (SIER) held its second consecutive day of panels. Conducted in a bilingual manner to accommodate a wide variety of international researchers, the panels centered upon topics ranging from agriculture to data science.

The day opened with a special presentation from founder and President Leonard Wantchekon, who linked the objectives of SIER to future ASE developments. Highlighting upcoming initiatives, such as the 2018 Undergraduate Program and upcoming Masters programs in Agriculture and Biotechnology, Wantchekon stressed the importance of innovation and timely relevant research, both themes emphasized throughout the second day of presentations.

The first panel, entitled “Food Security,” opened with a presentation from Zara Riaz (Princeton University), who discussed an ongoing project examining links between citizen mobilization, government reactions, and food improvement outcomes. This was followed by presentations from Elise Ahovey, Director of Social Statistics at Benin’s National Institute of Statistical and Economic Analysis (INSAE), and Sylvia Ahouanse from Ministère de l’Agriculture de l’Elevage et de la Pêche (MAEP), who both discussed the issue of food accessibility, rather than food availability, in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The second panel, focused on agriculture and biotechnology, had five research presentations with experts stemming from the University of Abomey-Calavi (UAC) and the Laboratoire de Génétique Ecologique. Session attendees learned about the technicalities and economic elements of agriculture in Benin, receiving exposure to public policies regarding production, fertilization, environmental safety, and genetically modified organisms.

The final panel, centered upon technology and development, contained presentations focused on new systems created for the facilitation of financial transactions - “the crypto-currency.” Chaired by representatives from startups Etrilabs and Khulatech, presenters discussed the potential gains and ramifications of financial transaction technologies that are able to leapfrog bank intermediaries.

With over 70 participants in attendance, SIER’s second day of panels addressed emerging economic and social issues, and provided students, regional and international academics, and professors the opportunity to network and share cutting-edge research, establishing long-lasting links for collaboration in the future.


Photo: Kana Lucie Assonfack presents on "Impact of child labor on school attendance and attainment: Case study of Cameroon."

December 14, 2017: ASE’s third annual Summer Institute for Economic Research (SIER), launched December 14th on ASE’s new campus. Bringing together researchers from various countries and academic interests to present multidisciplinary research, SIER’s first day engaged students, researchers, and policy makers from around the continent through four panels.

The first panel, Institutions & Governance, consisted of four papers from seasoned academics.  Dr. Pierre Nguimkeu of Georgia State University and Leonard Wantchekon of ASE and Princeton University presented a joint paper entitled “Randomized Evaluation of Institutions,” focusing primarily on the evaluation and identification of the intrinsic effect of a policy-making process or an institution. Professor Ian Heffernan of ASE and Princeton University presented From Institutions to Culture Experimental Evidence,” a paper questioning the causal relationship between democratic institutions, quality of institutions and civic capital. IREEP Research Associate Andre Gueguehoun also discussed his ongoing project on bureaucratic monitoring, hoping to determine effects of formal, centralized observation on local government performance. William Asante from the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) closed the panel with an engaging presentation on the determinants of electoral decisions in Ghana’s 2016 Parliamentary Elections.

The Human Capital panel, chaired by ASE’s Markus Olapade, centered upon a wide variety of topics. Elizabeth Addy, a PhD candidate from GIMPA, shared research on succession planning in Ghanaian institutions, while Deo-Gracias Houndolo, a PhD candidate at the International Institute of Social Studies, questioned and reexamination the field’s measuring and evaluation of human capital at large.

The Microfinance panel, chaired by Professor David Gbaguidi, exhibited papers ranging from economic informality and exogenous shocks to mobile money adoption. ASE professor Messan Agbaglah examined the low rates of mobile money adoption in Togo, while GIMPA PhD Candidate focused on budget governance in Ghana. The panel concluded with an analysis of monetary union policies in ECOWAS, conducted by Mazu Amoudath of Université de Gaston Berger de Saint Louis.

The day concluded with a panel on Infrastructure, addressing a diverse array of structural questions relevant to sub-Saharan Africa. Professor Alice Bonou Fandohan (ASE) explored the ramifications of flooding on farming, poverty, and community expenditure (here). Policy experts also participated, as Senouwa Hectore Kpangon from Cooperation Technique Belge presented an ongoing project aimed at creating sustainable, environmentally friendly rice-parboiling processes.

Numerous ASE Pre-doctoral fellows were granted the opportunity to present their research, further cementing ASE’s dedication to the professional and academic training of young economists on the continent.

Lucie Assonfack and Gaïus Ahamide contributed to the Human Capital panel, as Kana discussed the impact of child labor on school attendance and attainment in Cameroon, while Ahamide provided research linking the health insurance industry in Africa to aggregate labor supply. Wilfried Adohinzin and Caroline Tossou participated in the Macrofinance panel - Adohinzin examined how large informal sectors absorb negative technology shocks, and Tossou evaluated the implication of Benin’s new Government Action Plan (GAP). Horace Gninafon contributed to the infrastructure panel through the examination of natural disasters’ effects on poverty and community expenditure.

 

The interactive and engaging first day of panels set the tone for the remainder of the conference. Through additional panels, lectures, and training sessions, ASE, through SIER, plans to continue its promotion of progressive and relevant research, facilitating networks and collaborations between academics and policy makers.