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What’s the latest in development economics research? A round-up of 140+ papers from NEUDC 2017

David Evans's picture


Did you miss this year’s Northeast Universities Development Consortium conference, or NEUDC? I did, unfortunately!

NEUDC is a large development economics conference, with more than 160 papers on the program, so it’s a nice way to get a sense of new research in the field.
Thankfully, since NEUDC posts submitted papers, I was able to mostly catch up. I went through 147 of the papers and summarized them below, by topic. If a paper you loved or presented isn’t in the rundown, feel free to add a brief summary in the comments. (Why 147 instead of 160? I skipped a few macro papers and the papers that weren’t posted.)

These links should take you to your topic of interest: Agriculture, cash transfers and asset transfers, credit and insurance, crime, conflict, violence, and war, culture, norms, and corruption, education, elections and political economy, firms, governance, bureaucracy, and social capital, health (including WASH), jobs (including public works), marriage, methodology, migration, mobile phones and mobile money, poverty, inequality, and shocks, psychology, taxes, and traffic.

Data on firms by firms: how companies like Gap could remove investment barriers

Andreja Marusic's picture
To invest or not to invest? When determining whether to enter a new market, businesses must fully understand the potential risks and opportunities. To do so, they need access to information on relevant market players, such as potential suppliers, customers or competitors. While governments require businesses to supply data when registering as well as throughout their operation, these repositories of data held by business registries, tax authorities, statistical offices and other registries are often not updated properly nor are they made available to the general public in a comprehensive way.

The Internet of Things – from hype to reality

Prasanna Lal Das's picture
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Sensors in elevators that alert government agencies to public safety risks; data from school bags to keep children safe; garbage trucks with the smarts to save cities money… The Internet of Things (IoT) will change everything. That is the conventional wisdom. We set out to look for evidence of this change in the government. How fast is it coming? Is it real? And our findings were mixed – sobering, but also encouraging.

On the plus side, we found government agencies keen to apply IoT to improve their business environment or reduce the burden on businesses while simultaneously increasing compliance. On the downside, very few IoT initiatives have been scaled beyond pilots, the business models to sustain IoT infrastructure are under-developed, and the policy landscape is woefully inadequate. There’s significant potential but it requires systematic, informed work by the government, private sector, and civil society.

Helping Brazil realize its infrastructure promise

Paul Procee's picture


Photo: LWYang | Flickr Creative Commons

Since the 1980s, investment in Brazil’s infrastructure has declined from 5% to a little above 2% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), scarcely enough to cover depreciation and far below that of most middle-income countries (see figure below). The result is a substantial infrastructure gap. Over the same period, Brazil has struggled with stagnant productivity growth. The poor status of infrastructure is broadly believed to be a key reason for Brazil’s growth malaise.

Can Africa’s tech start-up scene rise to the next level?

Ganesh Rasagam's picture
Pitch competition at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Johannesburg. Photo Credit: World Bank


In the decade since mobile money first sparked international interest in African innovation, hundreds of tech hubs have sprung up across the continent; global giants like GE have rushed in to build innovation centers; and the venture capital industry has steadily grown. Nevertheless, the continent’s tech scene continues to face challenges.

The rise of African innovation has inspired thousands of new start-ups, and this trend will continue into the foreseeable future. Existing acceleration programs, however, still leave growth-stage companies in need of additional support to secure investment and scale their businesses across borders. With many of the continent’s acceleration programs lacking in quality, we hoped to introduce an innovative post-acceleration program, XL Africa.

After infoDev launched its mLabs in Kenya, Senegal, and South Africa in 2011, they introduced incubation programs that successfully supported the creation of over 100 start-ups that raised close to $15 million in investments and grant funding, and developed over 500 digital products or services. As these ecosystems and start-ups have matured, more needs to be done to improve the marketability of these companies to global and local investors.

Doing Business and Central Asia – After 15 years, how much reform?

Stefka Slavova's picture
Photo: Michel Matera/Banque mondiale


L’aménagement urbain est un enjeu majeur, aussi bien pour des villes anciennes comme Rome, Le Caire ou Athènes, que modernes comme New York ou Singapour. Il permet de gérer la vie collective et occupe une place essentielle dans le « contrat » qui définit comment et pourquoi des habitants souhaitent habiter le même espace.
 
Madagascar connaît une urbanisation galopante. Sur une population totale de 24,8 millions d’habitants (2016), le pays compte aujourd’hui près de 7 millions de citadins, contre 2,8 millions en 1993. Ses villes génèrent environ les trois quarts du produit intérieur brut (PIB) national, et la capitale, Antananarivo, plus de 50 %.

Building on success: PPPs in a new era of Canadian infrastructure

Mark Romoff's picture
A beneficiary family from the commmunity of San José del Paredón (in Chuquisaca, Bolivia) celebrates the new irrigation system.
A beneficiary family from the commmunity of San José del Paredón in Bolivia celebrates the new irrigation system. Photo: Gabriela Orozco / World Bank. 

“When the company let us down, we only imposed a fine. We must be firm with companies and with vendors, otherwise they fail to fulfill their end. This is how to move the project forward”. This testimony impressed me a lot when I heard it from an indigenous woman in Bolivia, who was proud to be part of the steering committee and defend the interests of the community in the project.

 
Bolivia has a terrific success story to tell about encouraging rural women to take the lead in their communities and organizations and lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

Which comes first: good governance or economic growth? (Spoiler: it’s neither)

Yuen Yuen Ang's picture
Available in Chinese
Graphic: Nicholas Nam/World Bank

The idea that economic growth needs good governance and good governance needs economic growth takes us to a perennial chicken-and-egg debate: Which comes first in development—good governance OR economic growth? For decades, positions have been sharply divided between those who advocate “fix governance first” and others who say “stimulate growth first.”

The Legacy of Saman Kelegama

Sanjay Kathuria's picture
Saman Kelegama, a Sri Lankan economist and the Executive Director of the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS Sri Lanka) died prematurely in June 2017. He was a champion of deeper South Asian cooperation.
Saman Kelegama, a Sri Lankan economist and the Executive Director of the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS Sri Lanka) died prematurely in June 2017. He was a champion of deeper South Asian cooperation. Credit:  Institute of Policy Studies

I first met Saman in the early 1990s in Delhi.  Over the years, our paths diverged.  When I re-engaged on South Asia, I ran into Saman again. We re-connected instantly, despite the long intervening period.  This was easy to do with Saman—soft-spoken, affable, a gentleman to the core.  He bore his considerable knowledge lightly.  

Despite his premature passing away in June 2017, he left a rich and varied legacy behind him. I will confine myself to discussing his insights on regional cooperation in South Asia, based on his public writings and my interactions with him.

Saman was a champion of deeper economic linkages within South Asia. He was also pragmatic. 

Along with a few other regional champions, Saman, as the head of the Institute of Policy Studies in Colombo, helped to kick-start the “South Asian Economic Summit”, or SAES, in Colombo in 2008, to provide a high-profile forum for dialogue on topical issues, especially South Asian regional integration. It is remarkable that the SAES has endured, without any gap. The fact that the policy and academic fraternity meet with unfailing regularity, despite on-and-off political tensions in the region, is testimony to its value.

Saman repeatedly stressed that Sri Lanka has been able to reap benefits from the India-Sri Lanka FTA (ISFTA), contrary to the general belief. His arguments were powerful: the import-export ratio for Sri Lanka improved from 10.3 in 2000 (the start of the ISFTA) to 6.6 in 2015; about 70 percent of Sri Lanka’s exports to India get duty-free access under the FTA, but less than 10 percent of Sri Lanka’s imports from India come under the FTA (since India provided “special and differential treatment” to Sri Lanka).

Chocolate innovation: Sweet tooth hackers solve cocoa farmers’ challenges

Katie Nunner's picture

While chocolate is a sweet treat for consumers around the world, its producers face many challenges. Every year, more than five million family farmers in countries like Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Indonesia and Brazil produce about four and a half million tons of cocoa beans, according to the World Cocoa Foundation. Farm-level input providers, financial institutions, chocolate manufacturers, development organizations and more are coming together to create digital solutions to improve access to finance and boost agricultural productivity for a sustainable and climate smart cocoa supply chain. 

Last week, the World Cocoa Foundation’s partnership meeting brought together key stakeholders from small scale farmers to large multinationals including Cargill, Nestle, and Mars, under the theme “Accelerating Sustainability Through Technology and Innovation.”

To spark the industry into further innovation and collaboration, infoDev partnered with the WCF to sponsor the second annual Chocothon, a two-day hackathon where three teams came together to “hack” the cocoa supply chain and generate new creative solutions to the common challenges cocoa farmers and suppliers face. The Future Food Institute, the International Trade Center, and Valrhona, a premium chocolate manufacturer, were all heavily involved in the Chocothon as mentors and a number of us from infoDev joined in the excitement. Given their experience with cocoa supply chain partners, Valrhona’s co-sponsorship and engagement provided valuable insights to guide the ‘choco-hackers.’  
 

The Geo Cocoa, Kejetia, and Cocoa Run teams pose together with some of the Chocothon mentors.
Photo Credit: World Cocoa Foundation

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