Published on Development Impact

Weekly links April 12: declining African agricultural productivity, revenue from .ai, returns to Bangladeshi migration, and more…

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Young boxers at the White Collars Boxing Match 2019, taken by Mariajose Silva Vargas

·       Agriculture and Development: Highlights from the 2024 Kuznets Mini-Conference:  The Yale Economic Growth Center hosted their Kuznets Mini-Conference on April 5, focusing on Agriculture and Development. Sagar Saxena highlights the key takeaways from the conference, from micro to macro, from water conservation in Bangladesh to coffee supply chains in Uganda. The conference followed Chris Udry's deliver of the 33rd annual Kuznets Memorial Lecture, "Structural Change and Declining Agricultural Productivity: Evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa." Udry presented results from his analysis with coauthors of a plot-level dataset that aggregates survey data for nearly 60,000 farmers over a 10-15 year period across six sub-Saharan African countries. They found that agricultural yields have actually been systematically declining across these countries.  You can read about Udry's puzzling results in an EGC Q&A article, and you can watch the entire lecture on EGC's website.

·       The Economics of everyday things podcast has an episode on Internet top-level domains. Of interest for development is the story of how a very countries with two-digit country abbreviations have struck it lucky, providing large sources of revenue for small countries – but also raising questions of governance, contracting, and revenue sustainability. For example, the island of Anguilla has domain names ending in .ai – which have suddenly become very popular, and a country of population 15,000 is now getting $4 million a month, and half of all government revenue for the year, from selling .ai domain names. They also have an update on an earlier one I had heard of, Tuvalu, which has the .tv domain names – and the difficulties of thinking about how to value what these rights are worth.

·       On VoxDev, Bossavie and co-authors look at the returns to Bangladeshi migration, and how many of them use the money earned abroad to then set up businesses at home. “Prior to migration, the individuals in our sample have a self-employment rate of around 30%, similar to non-migrants, but it increases to over 60% after return. This is significantly higher than for people within the same age group and human capital characteristics but who have never migrated. Many of these returning migrants become small-scale entrepreneurs, such as shopkeepers or taxi drivers.”

·       In Scott Cunningham’s Mixtape podcast series, he recently interviewed Daniel Chen about his pathway to working on governance and the law, with detours on religious fundamentalism in Indonesia, and his recent paper on the causal effects of teaching Chicago economics to judges. It was one of the interviews that had me reflecting on the challenge of knowing what knowledge will be useful later on in life, and what shapes the questions we end up working on.

·       Conference deadline on Monday: the 6th World Bank/IFS/ODI Public Finance Conference will focus on public finance and structural transformation: submissions due Monday April 15.

David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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