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What’s the latest economic research on Africa? CSAE Round-up – Day 1

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This post is a joint production with contributions from Pamela Jakiela , Michael O’Sullivan , João Montalvão , and Owen Ozier .

This week Oxford University’s Center for the Study of African Economies holds its BIG annual conference. Two plenary panels, one keynote speech, one presentation of the World Bank’s new report on Poverty in Africa, and almost 300 papers being presented. Wow!

So, what’s going on in economic research in Africa? Today’s post provides micro-summaries of the papers presented on the first day of the conference. You can skip to posts on Agriculture, credit, savings, and insurance, health, household and social networks, political economy, or poverty and inequality. Each micro-summary is tagged by country and (where straightforward) empirical method, so you can just search for those. 

On Thursday, we’ll post summaries of the second and third days of the conference. These posts focus on applied micro papers, and they are not exhaustive. If your paper isn’t listed, feel free to give a one-line summary with a link in the comments! (If your paper was presented Monday or Tuesday, just wait.)

You can also watch a video of the plenary on What We Have Learned in 25 Years of Research on African Economies, with talks by Augustin Fosu (growth and poverty), Anke Hoeffle (conflict and development), and Stephen O’Connell (macro policy); of Mthuli Ncube’s keynote on Global Growth and Financial Spillovers in Africa; or of several of the regular sessions.

  • Farmers use sharecropping to mitigate climate risk across 11 countries in Africa (Kalkuhl et al.)
  • A wide-spread sustainable land management program yields no impact on short-run ag production, but it generates sizeable gains after 4 years #Ethiopia #PSM #DiffInDiff (Schmidt & Tadesse)
  • Let your guard down! Low-cost land certification leads to shift toward off-farm work, increased wage earnings & better food security for rural households in #Rwanda #RCT (Ali et al.)
  • Rural land certification in #Ethiopia associated with greater perceived tenure security: but only significantly so for male-headed households. (Ahmed & Ahmed)
  • Producing rice for market is not sufficient to solve food insecurity. #PSM #Uganda (Ntakyo & van der Berg)
  • “Urban consumers would apply habitual choice strategy in evaluating iron bean varieties while the provision of nutrition information as an exogenous shock may change this path” #Rwanda #LabinField (Oparinde et al.)
  • “Providing nutrition knowledge leads to considerable improvements in children’s diets but only in areas with relatively good market access.” #IV #Ethiopia (Hirvonen et al.)
  • An NGO program that gives credit and technical support to village organizations that “buy, store and sell food-grain on isolated and thin local food markets” has a “positive and large impact on the nutritional status of both adults and children.” #RCT #BurkinaFaso (Gross et al.)
  • Youth are leaving agriculture in Malawi, Uganda, and Nigeria (Southern, in particular). In Tanzania and Ethiopia, the youth work fewer hours in agriculture than the older cohort. (Maïga et al.)
  • The gender gap in agricultural productivity in Malawi, Tanzania, and Uganda, is large. (Buehren et al.)
  • Providing nutrient-rich yogurt to milk producers in #Senegal improves adherence to dairy processing contracts, especially if women are in charge of the production contracts! #RCT (Bernard et al.)
  • Training farmers on the production & benefits of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes increases knowledge, adoption & child nutrition status in #Mozambique #RCT (Caeiro & Vicente)
  • A nutrition-sensitive agricultural program in #Malawi increased crop diversity but did not register an impact on dietary diversity #IV (Haile et al.)
Credit, Savings, and Insurance
  • Risk averse dictators punish recipients who pass up opportunities to mitigate risk; risk loving dictators do the opposite. #Ethiopia #LabintheField (Morsink)
  • How do you know who your friends are? They give you expensive gifts. #China (Wang)
  • Why do people like to delay their payouts from rotating savings and credit cooperatives (ROSCAs)? Ethnographic evidence and a theoretical model! #BurkinaFaso (Baland et al)
  • Present bias strikes back!  Cutting edge methodology and mobile money technology reveals that, even accounting for risk preferences, with no front-end delay for payouts, people are still present-biased. #Kenya #Lab (Balakrishnan et al)
  • Anti-retroviral therapy for the HIV-positive benefits the HIV-negative by vastly reducing transmission rates.  Less stigma when the HIV-negative know the information. More people then get tested. #RCT #Malawi  (Derksen et al)
  • Three approaches all suggest no impact of secondary school attendance on HIV incidence in #SouthAfrica #IV #DiffinDiff (Durevall et al.)
  • Vocational training in #Malawi “decreased the likelihood of childbearing in females and increased the likelihood of being HIV tested in males.” Inspirational talks increased HIV testing but no effect on childbearing. #RCT (Jones et al.)
  • “HIV treatment expansion, in addition to mortality gains, generates robust economic benefits both for the HIV-positives and those unaffected by the disease.” #Malawi (Barofsky & Baranov)
  • Prenatal exposure to seasonal food scarcity “has a significant negative impact on height by age five that strengthens by age eight. … Typical variation in prenatal food availability can have lasting impacts on health.” #DiffinDiff #Ethiopia (Miller)
  • In utero exposure to “dust pollution in West Africa increases infant mortality” more than pollution in Mexico, less than democracy in XX, similar to wildfires in Indonesia #DiffinDiff #WestAfrica (Adhvaryu et al.)
  • Want to have your household water tested for safety? Schoolchildren take up the program more than adults. Testing and info lead to safer water choices. #RCT #Ghana (Okyere et al.)
Household and Social Networks
  • Women in patrilocal villages are less competitive than men, but only between adolescence and menopause; the same pattern does not hold in matrilocal villages. #Malawi #LabintheField (Flory et al.)
  • Children of junior wives are better off than children of senior wives, but worse off than children in non-polygamous households. #Mali #IV (Han & Foltz)
  • Rwandans use their social network to learn how to send airtime to their friends. #Rwanda #BigData (Fafchamps et al.)
  • Social collateral facilitates risk pooling when effort is unobservable. #LabExperiments #Kenya (Jain)
  • 1/3 of water pumps in LDCs aren’t working @ a given moment.   Turns out the neighborhood matters – pumps are 21 ppts more likely to be working if nearest water sources is the same technology. #Tanzania (O’Keefe-O’Donovan)
  • What are the costs of social networks? Field experiment with improved seeds shows that larger networks + higher expected yields may make you less likely to contact and contract others. #RCT #Tanzania (Di Falco et al.)
  • Popular people (with popular friends) cooperate more when other people know they are matched with them in the game.   Are others trying to win their friendship with higher contributions? #Uganda #Labinthefield (D’Exelle et al.)
  • Who self-selects into Government housing projects? Evidence from a lottery in Addis suggests the wealthier do. #RCT #Ethiopia (Franklin)
Political Economy
  • Hope. Change. Afrobarometer data from 12 countries show that people are more hopeful, closer to an election; more so in the case of competitive elections. #CrossCountry (Zeydanli)
  • Being born in the pre-collapse Soviet Union led to lower levels of various positive socio-emotional skills – extraversion, openness, stability, agreeableness, and grit – relative to those born later. #DiffInDiff #Armenia #Georgia (Kochanova & Nejad)
  • Using network mapping data of political connections, Asif & Chaudhry show that at the local level, citizens vote for the party (not the candidate), whereas at the national level, the opposite is true. #Pakistan
  • People with high “betweenness centrality – a measure of brokerage potential” receive better public services #Philippines (Fafchamps & Labonne)
  • Democracy increases distribution relative to autocracy #CrossCountry (Dodlova & Giolbas)
Poverty and Inequality
  • “We find strong evidence that cash transfer programmes has a mitigating role against the negative effects of weather shocks.” #RCT #Zambia (Asfaw et al.)
  • No evidence of poverty traps in Northern #Nigeria, drawing on 20 years of panel data. (Dillon & Quiñones)


David Evans

Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development

Markus Goldstein

Lead Economist, Africa Gender Innovation Lab and Chief Economists Office

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