In October 2019, over 150 research papers were presented at the North East Universities Development Consortium annual conference covering a wide range of topics in development economics. The Centre for Global Development’s David Evans summarises these research findings in his recent World Bank blog. Below, INCLUDE provides a shortened version of this blog, relaying those results related to the African region.


Households and human capital

Child nutrition and child health:

  • A training program for parents of young children in Rwanda that included “listening to a radio show and…discussions over the course of seventeen weekly village-level meetings” led to improved child development outcomes nearly three years later. (Justino et al.)
  • Providing community-based parent training and nutrition counseling in Sierra Leone reduced wasting, improved parenting practices, increased fathers’ involvement in parenting, and reduced physical and violent punishments. (Chandra et al.) #RCT


  • Randomly selected lower secondary school students in Ghana received guidance on how to apply to upper secondary schools and information on which were the best. It changed which schools students applied to, but it didn’t change whether they graduated. (Ajayi, Friedman, and Lucas) #RCT
  • Scorecards, i.e., providing school performance information to parents, improved school management outcomes (parental satisfaction, public access to school information) in the Angolan province of Kwanza Sul. Collective action, especially  when combined with information, is a relevant component of these effects. There was no impact on students’ test scores and absenteeism.  (Di Maro et al.)


  • Richer patients in the Democratic Republic of the Congo receive better health care. More than half of that is explained by the fact that richer areas have better health facilities, but the relationship holds even within facilities. (Fink, Kandpal, and Shapira)
  • What is the demand for glasses in a resource-poor setting? In Burkina Faso, willingness to pay for glasses is low, amounting to 20 percent of their market price. A layaway scheme does not affect willingness to pay, while a video intervention raises the willingness to pay by 16 percent without having a lasting influence on the use of corrective glasses.  (Grimm and Hartwig)

Household bargaining and community interactions

  • Is following traditions driven by social image concerns? In Malawi, those who plan to marry off their under-age daughters are seen as more pro-social in villages where child marriage prevalence is high, but alternative signals (public donations) change perceptions and decrease favorable attitudes towards harmful traditions by 20–30 percent. (Haenni and Lichand)

Intimate partner violence and gender discrimination

  • Providing women in Ethiopia with jobs increases their income but has no impact on physical intimate partner violence. There are reductions in emotional abuse in the short-run, but for women who had little bargaining power in their relationships before the jobs, the job offers may have increased abuse. (Kotsadam and Villanger) #RCT


  • Increased female migration within South Africa at the end of Apartheid reduced employment and hours of low-skilled male non-migrants. (Sharp)

Government, institutions, and conflict

Civil service

  • Performance pay attracted more money-oriented teachers in Rwanda, without comprising teacher effectiveness. Overall, the effect of performance pay is at 0.21 standard deviation of pupil learning. One quarter of this impact can be attributed to selection at the recruitment stage, with the remaining three quarters arising from increased effort. (Leaver et al.)


  • Exposure to terrorist attacks in Kenya reduced children’s primary school enrolment attendance. (Alfano and Görlach)


  • Regions receive more health aid when a region-born health minister is in New borns from the same region as the health minister are less likely to die, as data from 45 African countries shows. (Widmer and Zurlinden)

Infrastructure and property

  • Even though the Bus Rapid Transit system reduced commuting time by about 18 percent in Accra, Ghana, it did not dramatically change howpeople commute. (Abeka-Nkrumah, Opoku Asuming, and Telli)

Political economy, institutions, and voting

  • Mobile phone and internet access reduced violent collective action by 21 percent during the Libyan (Absher and Grier)
  • Are the state and traditional leaders (village chiefs) substitutes or complements? If chiefs are integrated into the institutional structure, chiefs become complements (state presence will increase service provision by the chief).  If they are not integrated,  they  are  substitutes (service provision by the chief will decrease with greater state presence). (Henn)
  • Do voters care about (education) service delivery in Liberia? Yes! The presidential candidate who had set up private-public partnerships to improve school quality was rewarded  by  voters  in  places  where  the  program was successful, and punished where the program diminished school quality. (Sandholtz)
  • An anti-vote-buying campaign in Ugandastruggled to instill norms of refusing gifts from politicians in exchange for votes, but it levelled the electoral playing field by convincing some voters to abandon norms of reciprocity—thus accepting gifts from politicians but still voting for their preferred candidate. (Blattman et al.)

Public finance

  • Are tax rates too high in developing countries? in Kananga, Democratic Republic of the Congo, when tax liability decreases by half, tax compliance increases by 94 percent, bribes decrease by 75 percent, and there is no change in contributions to informal taxes, particularly among the poorest and least politically connected citizens. (Bergeron, Tourek, and Weigel) #RCT

Utilities and Energy

  • A field experiment of energy efficient cookstoves in Nairobi, Kenya, shows “an average rate of return of 300% and savings of $120 per year in fuel costs—around one month of income…  Factoring in financial savings and avoided environmental damages we estimate that a subsidy on the energy efficient technology would have a marginal value of public funds of $20 per $1 spent.” (Berkouwer & Dean)

Working and saving


  • What drives subsistence farmers to start growing cash crops in Uganda? Agricultural extension did, especially for farmers who started with poor info on the price of the crops. (Bonan, Kazianga, and Mendola) #RCT
  • Providing subsidized watchmen to farmers in Kenya increased agricultural production and dramatically reduced disputes among farmers. (Dyer) #RCT
  • Village level inequity aversion and fairness norms protect tenants by lowering the rent landowners can charge in rural Malawi. (Krah et al.)
  • Training farmers on aflatoxin (a food safety hazard) and its prevention substantially improves post-harvest practices in Northern Ghana. (Magnan et al.) #RCT
  • In Burkina Faso, households with access to warrantage substantially increased the take-up  of  storage   (94 percent),  while  credit  take-up  was  moderate (38 percent). (Delavallade and Godlonton)
  • Two different interventions in Kenya—including a game that helped farmers understand how weather index insurance works—both led more farmers to indicate they’d buy it in an auction. Two months later, very few bought it regardless. (Janzen et al.)
  • In Rwanda, irrigation enables dry season horticultural production, which boosts farm cash profits by 70 percent. However, adoption is constrained: Access to irrigation causes farmers to substitute labor and inputs away from their other plots. Eliminating this substitution would increase adoption by at least 21 percent.  Substitution is largest for smaller households and wealthier households. (Jones et al.) #RDD


  • Chinese  FDI in district-sector induces competing domestic Ethiopian firms to shrink, as output prices drop, while firms in up/downstream sectors expand. There is a zero effect on the local economy. (Crescenzi and Limodio)
  • Placing “young professionals for one month in established firms to shadow middle managers” in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, increases their likelihood of subsequent wage employment (but not self-employment). (Abebe et al.)
  • A seven-day training for firms in Liberia on how to bid on “contracts from large buyers that are awarded through a formal bidding process” led firms to bid on more contracts and to win both more and better contracts. The biggest effects were for firms that had access to the internet. (Hjort, Iyer, and Rochambeau) #RCT


  • Among women school-feeding workers in South Africa, “private feedback on performance is more effective at boosting effort than competing for public recognition,” and “image motivation crowds out intrinsic motivation.” (Delavallade and Burns) #RCT
  • Certifying the skills of youth looking for jobs in urban South Africa “and allowing them to share the certification with firms substantially increases employment and earnings.” (Carranza et al.)


  • How does risk affect technology adoption by farmers? In Malawi, a one standard deviation increase in the coefficient of variationof predicted yields reduces fertilizer application (use of improved seeds) by between 12.2–18.8 percent. Sensitivity to price risk is highest early in the season, when reliable information on output prices is still many months away. (Soumaila and Dillon)

Savings and credit

  • A large expansion of microcredit in Rwanda led more people to take loans not only from microlenders but also from commercial banks. (Agarwal et al.)
  • Offering a savings account that automatically deducts from the paycheck and then pays out after three months (with zero interest) led agricultural workers in Malawi to save more and then make more large purchases after the payout. They also work more. (Brune, Chyn, and Kerwin)



  • “Using  nationally  representative  data  from four sub-Saharan African countries, we find strong evidence that measurement error in plot size reflects a mixture of farmer misreporting and misperceptions.” (Abay, Bevis, and Barrett)
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