Ila Fazzio, Alex Eble, Robin Lumsdaine, Peter Boone, Baboucarr Bouy, Pei-tseng Jenny Hsieh, Chitra Jayanty, Simon Johnson, Filipa Silva, 16 December 2020

Achieving universal basic literacy and numeracy has long been a policy goal for development agencies working in areas of extreme poverty. This column presents evidence from a bundled intervention in rural Guinea Bissau which suggests that targeted education policies can have substantial positive effects on children’s schooling outcomes. Such policies could play a key role in helping people ‘escape’ the poverty trap, as the education gains from such interventions elevate local children’s attainment levels far beyond those found in neighbouring areas.

Roberto Bonfatti, Steven Poelhekke, 03 December 2020

Africa’s interior-to-coast roads are well placed to export natural resources, but not to support regional trade. Are they the optimal response to geography and comparative advantage, or the result of suboptimal political distortions? This column investigates the political determinants of road paving in West Africa in 1965–2014. Autocracies focused more than democracies on connecting metal and mineral deposits to ports, resulting in more interior-to-coast networks. This deposit-to-port bias was only present for deposits located on the elite’s ethnic homeland, suggesting that Africa’s interior-to-coast roads were the result of ethnic favouritism by autocracies.

Denis Cogneau, Alexander Moradi, 17 May 2014

The quasi-experiment of arbitrary border design allows for causal interpretation of institutional effects across territories. This column presents evidence on the impact of British and French colonial education policies in West Africa. British flexibility and French centralisation resulted in educational attainment differences that persist – across one border – even among some cohorts of the current workforce.

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