BRIEF May 16, 2018

Africa Economics Seminar Series


This series is offered by the Office of Chief Economist in the Africa Region, and provides regular opportunities to interact, debate and discuss on topics that are relevant to our work in the Africa Region. The series invites leading researchers to present the results of their most recent research in a seminar format. 





May 17

Information, market access and risk: addressing constraints to agricultural transformation in northern Ghana

Chris Udry, Northwestern University

Information, market access and risk: addressing constraints to agricultural transformation in northern Ghana

A typical smallholder farmer in northern Ghana cultivates less than ten acres of land, grows rain-fed maize and groundnut or rice, may be food insecure during lean seasons, maintains very limited liquid savings and faces the risk of weather shocks. These smallholder farmers are using few inputs other than their own family labor: there is little use of fertilizer, high-yield seeds, or farming equipment. Farmers in northern Ghana are achieving just 30 percent of potential crop yields. We report preliminary results from a four-year project examining three major agricultural barriers inhibiting increased farm profitability amongst smallholder farmers: (1) excessive risk deriving from weather uncertainty, (2) unavailability and unaffordability of high yielding inputs, and (3) lack of improved agricultural knowledge. Using a cross-cutting randomized design, we test all three. To test the role of risk, farmers were able to purchase a commercial rainfall index insurance project. To test the role of unsure, untimely, and costly access to appropriate inputs, the program made fertilizer and improved seeds available just prior to land preparation. To test the role of imperfect farmer knowledge, certain communities were provided with more intensive extension. In addition, two text messaging interventions provided farmers with information about either weather forecasts or market prices. Preliminary results suggest that large insurance grants – but not small grants – induce sizeable investments. Extension agents induce significant but small impacts on farmer knowledge and practice. Input provision had little impact. Text messages with weather forecasts changed the timing of farmer activities and increased profits.

For more information contact: Ken Omondi






May 10, 2018Can digital loans deliver? Take up and impacts of digital loans in KenyaTavneet Suri, Massachusetts Institute of Technology 
April 12, 2018Consumer perceptions and saving behavior: evidence from NigeriaKehinde Ajayi, Boston University 
February 28, 2018Self-employment, capital and job search, drawing on data from GhanaProfessor Simon Quinn, Oxford University 
January 25, 2018Mobile-Phone Based Agricultural Advice for Smallholder Farmers Shawn Cole, Harvard Business School and Michael Kremer, Harvard University

December 14, 2017

Prices, Productivity and Enterprise Clustering: Firm-level Evidence from Ethiopia

Professor Måns Söderbom, University of Gothenburg
November 30, 2017Does Social Pressure Hinder Entrepreneurship in Africa? The Forced Mutual Help HypothesisPierre Nguimkeu, Georgia State University

November 14, 2017

Income Inequality Trends in sub-Saharan Africa: Divergence, Determinants, and Consequences

Haroon Bhorat, University of Cape Town

October 26, 2017

The Hopes and Impediments of Sustainable Improvements in School WASH: Evidence from A Field Experiment in Kenya

James Habyarimana, Georgetown University




September 28, 2017

Improving Student Learning by Changing Teaching Practice: Evidence from South Africa

Jacobus Cilliers, Georgetown University

September 14, 2017

Land Markets, Resource Allocation, and Agricultural Productivity

Diego Restuccia, University of Toronto
May 18, 2017 Strategies for Raising Labor Productivity in Sub-Saharan AfricaMargaret McMillan, Tufts University and IFPRI

April 06, 2017

 Resources, Conflict, and Economic Development in AfricaJames Fenske, University of Warwick

March 02, 2017

 Share the Love: Parental Bias, Women

Empowerment and Intergenerational Mobility

Théophile T. Azomahou, Maastricht University
March 16, 2017Why is the adoption of productivity enhancing Agricultural technologies low in Africa?Awudu Abdoulai, University of Kiel


February 16, 2017

Foreign Aid and African Development: Taking Stock and a Research Agenda

Leonce Ndikumana, University of Massachusetts at Amherst
February 09, 2017

Environmental Externalities and Intrahousehold Inefficiencies

Seema Jayachandran, Northwestern University
January 26,2017There's No Place Like Home: Theory and Evidence on Politician Preferences and DecentralizationMichael Kremer, Harvard University