BRIEF January 30, 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. 





February 28

Simon Quinn

Oxford University

April 12

Kehinde Ajayi

Boston University

May 10

Tavneet Suri

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

May 17

Chris Udry

Northwestern University


Mobile-phone based agricultural advice for smallholder farmers: evidence and implications

Customized agricultural advice, delivered by mobile phones, holds the promise of delivering actionable, relevant information to small-holder farmers at a very low cost. We present evidence from a series of experiments testing the efficacy of mobile-phone based agricultural advice, conducted in Africa and South Asia. We find some positive evidence: in a trial in India advice changed practices, increasing yields in cumin (26%) and cotton (8.6%, for a sub-group receiving reminders). In Kenya, SMS encouragement to adopt agricultural lime increased lime purchases by 10-15% among maize farmers. A series of experiments with One Acre Fund in Kenya and Rwanda show that lime encouragement SMS campaigns increased lime purchases by similar magnitudes. We also find settings in which such services are not effective, or optimized: For instance, SMS advice by a Kenyan government research group referencing a specific soil chemistry condition had no effect on farmer behavior; government-designed soil health cards in India were incomprehensible to most farmers without visual and audio aids; and a simple tweak to the design of a mobile advisory service in another African country significantly increased service usage. Together, these underscore the value of iterating on the design, and testing the efficacy of mobile agricultural extension services through randomized experiments. We also discuss ongoing work to test behavioral and social learning theories in the context of agricultural decision-making.







December 14, 2017

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

Professor Måns Söderbom, University of Gothenburg
November 30, 2017“Does Social Pressure Hinder Entrepreneurship in Africa? The Forced Mutual Help Hypothesis”Pierre 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 Africa”Margaret McMillan, Tufts University and IFPRI

April 06, 2017

 “Resources, Conflict, and Economic Development in Africa”James Fenske, University of Warwick

March 02, 2017

 “Share the Love: Parental Bias, Women

Empowerment and Intergenerational Mobility”

Théophile T. Azomahou, Maastricht University
March 16, 2017“Why 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 26,2017“There's No Place Like Home: Theory and Evidence on Politician Preferences and Decentralization”Michael Kremer, Harvard University