In case you missed it, last week’s DNA Summit “Africa Redefined”, in Association with the New York University Africa House, was a fantastic success! Together, the DNA Summit and the NYU Africa House were able to bring together a group of incredibly interesting and innovative people in order to consider how to continue moving the discussion on Africa away from aid, to opportunity, leadership and business.

The goal was to draw from the group’s collective insight in order to develop a concrete list of structured ideas, which Co-Chair Mark Florman of the DNA Summit would then share with Prime Minister David Cameron the following afternoon in London.

Below, co-host Professor Yaw Nyarko of the NYU Africa House speaks with African billionaire Strive Masiywa of EcoNet Wireless on his experience in enterprise development on the African continent, and on the future of African development.

Prof. Nyarko: These first two questions are coming from NYU students of mine: Can you comment on the importance of business-oriented unification of African nations as an aid to speeding up development?

Mr. Masiywa: Thank you very much, that is a great question. We all know the great success that China has had. And the allure of China is the size of the market. Africa needs to present itself as a big market. The idea of working in 54 sovereign nations, from a business point of view, is a battle with pitchforks. We’ve got to deal with basic things: movement of people, and movement of goods across borders. My goodness, if the French and the Germans can get together and it makes sense to them, and believe you me, they really don’t like each other, but they understand that it makes good business sense. So really, we’ve got to get regional integration working, we’ve got to get continental integration working.

Prof. Nyarko: Thank you Strive. Again, a question from an NYU student: Are you impressed by the current technological advancement in Africa? Are we doing something wrong, or maybe do we need an entirely different approach to how technology is developed in Africa?

Mr. Masiywa: I am certainly impressed with what we have accomplished with telecommunications, but power continues to be a major opportunity. We have at least a 100,000 Megawatt deficit on the African continent. We cannot spur meaningful economic development with almost every major African country having a major power deficit. And this spills over into impacting things such as education. We have 57 million children not in school, wandering around on the streets. We need to get those children in school, and technology gives us, perhaps, a platform which could allow us to disrupt that and get them into education.

Prof. Nyarko: Thank you. Ok, now I am going to ask another question of you that, for many Americans, is very uncomfortable, so let me preface it. West Africans are considered among the most religious people in the world; and I know your faith is very important for you. I went onto the Econet webpage, and there was actually a message. A Christian message there, so I hoped you would reflect on what your faith has meant to you, and whether it has anything to say for the broader African population.

Mr. Masiywa: Thank you Yaw, I am always happy to talk about that. My faith frames my value system. That is how I approach it. I will give you an example. My wife and I sat around the table one evening, and we were talking about HIV and AIDS. As you know it is one of the great scourges that attacked Africa over the last twenty years. Now our faith tells us that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Out of that we created a program to support AIDS orphans. Today we support roughly 42,000 at any given time. So that value system frames how I respond to a lot of issues. Others have their own moral compass, but that is the moral compass on which I will respond.

Prof. Nyarko: Thank you Strive for your candidness and insight. So just to summarize the key take-away points here for the audience:

1.     Africa needs economic unity to make doing business easier;

2.     Power continues to be a major opportunity in Africa with promising spillover effects in education;

3.     Doing business in Africa requires perseverance and a strong  moral compass.


UAE Migrant Labor

In a front page article of the NY Times, NYU  gets some negative press related to the treatment of construction workers building its new campus on Saadiyat Island. My view is that the article was a bit harsh on NYU and got some facts wrong. The official NYU response is here. There have been reforms in the labor system in the UAE.  The "Notice of Consent" clause tying a worker to one particular job  has been removed. Indeed, in a recent joint technical paper with two co-authors we measure the impact of this reform - a good thing for workers. Click here for the policy brief summary and here for the full technical paper. Nevertheless abuse still persists in the labor system, a fact which the regulators acknowledge.  However, to say there has been no progress is wrong. I think the presence of institutions such as NYU in the region help move the reform process forward. Prof. Yaw Nyarko

Rural Tourism & Greening as Drivers for Economic Transformation: the Leveraging Role of Technology

NYU Africa House and the Center for Technology & Economic Development are proud to co-present this special collaborative forum convening local leaders, practitioners, academics and community stakeholders for the launch of the inaugural edition of the Africa Tourism Monitor 2013 Report in Afram Plains of Ghana on January 22nd 2014. The report is a joint publication of New York University-Africa House, the Africa Travel Association (ATA), and the African Development Bank (AfDB). The event titled Rural Tourism & Greening as Drivers for Economic Transformation: the Leveraging Role of Technology will take the format of a town hall gathering convening a cross section of stakeholders and community leaders in Kumawu, located in the Sekyere Afram Plains District. Part of the decision to launch the report in this region is to draw emphasis on the unique potential for economic empowerment via the tourism sector and also highlight the array of tourism assets in the region such as the Bomfobiri Widlife Sanctuary which is managed by the Ghana Forestry Commission. Date: Wednesday January 22nd Time: 10:00am – 12:00pm – Forum 12:00pm – 1:00pm – Luncheon Networking Reception (Complimentary Food and Refreshments Provided) Location: Tweneboa Kodua Senior High School, Kumawu, Sekyere Afram Plains District, Ashanti Region  


Rural Tourism and Greening as Drivers for Economic Transformation: The Leveraging role of Technology Tweneboa Kodua Senior High School, Kumawu Sekyere Afram Plains District, Ashanti Region

Wednesday January 22, 2014 

10:00am                                         Welcome and invitation of priest for opening prayer-Mr. Nantwi, Principal, Twenboa Kodua Senior High School, 10:05am                                         Opening prayer- Father Abban 10:10am                                         Official opening and Introduction of Prof Nyarko– Mr. Nantwi 10:15 am                                         Acknowledgement of special guests – MC Hon. Philip Basoah-MP Kumawu (Special guest of honour) Hon. Samuel Asiamah-DCE (Chairperson) Hon. Fuseni Donkor (DCE- Sekyere Afram plaines) The local chiefs (Sanaahene and Samaahene) Mr. Ekow Sampson- Ghana Tourism Authority-Regional director, Ashanti Region CTED Advisory Council (Baba Amadu, Yaw Busia, Robert Danso Boakye and Kofi Blankson) Mr. Charles Abeka Haizel (Regional director for Wildlife division-   Forestry Commission) Mr. Joseph Binlinla – Manager Bomfobiri Wildfire Santuary Dr Adu Bredu- Deputy Director, Forestry Research Institute Mr. Kwadwo  Sarpong Dr. James London Mr. Shalom Danso, Forest Research Institute of Ghana (FORIG) Mr. Kofi Yankson- Building and Roads Research Institute (BRRI) Mr. Nantwi – Headmaster of TKSHS Teachers of TKSHS Local Assemblymen 10:20am                                          Order of speech (Introduced by MC) Prof. Yaw Nyarko, NYU Dept of Economics, Director CTED & Africa House – Special address and launch of the  Africa Tourism Monitor Report 2013 Hon. Philip Basoah-MP-Introduces the DCE and local leaders Hon. Samuel Asiamah-DCE (Chairperson) 10:35 am                                          Keynote address- Baba Amadu 11:00am                                          Ekow Sampson-Ashanti Regional Director- Ghana Tourism Authority Charles Abeka Haizel – Regional director, Wildlife Division; Forestery Commission Joseph Binlinla- Manager, Bomforbiri wildlife sanctuary 11:40am                                           Open Forum & Discussion 12:00pm                                          Networking Reception/Lunch

President Jacob Zuma, Republic of South Africa

President Jacob Zuma of the Republic of South Africa participated in a public lecture where he spoke about contemporary political and and economic issues in South Africa. President Zuma also spoke in general about the role and functionality of government on the African continent. The event was then followed by a dinner reception for VIP guests at the NYU Kimmel Center in honor of  President Zuma.

Former President Rawlings at NYU

Former President of Ghana
His Excellency, the Former President of Ghana, Flt. Lt Jerry John Rawlings (Ret.) and his wife, the Former First Lady of Ghana, Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings were the guest speakers at two Africa House events held recently at NYU. The former president spoke on the topic "Mobilizing African People for Economic Development." He stressed that the people are the number one resource for development of every nation or continent and that democracy should be at the center of efforts to mobilize African people for economic development. His presentation was followed by a lively Q&A session during which Mr. Rawlings engaged animatedly with the audience and tried to answer every question he was asked. The lecture was preceded by a cocktail reception and followed by a dinner for the former president and some special guests. Mrs. Rawlings spoke on the topic "Mobilizing Women for Economic Development." She acknowledged that the struggle for equality for women has been a long and arduous one. She addressed poverty, trade and economic issues as factors that influence the state of women's rights. She urged African leaders to do more than pay lip service to gender equality but to work to ensure that women are empowered at all levels and in all spheres of society. Her presentation was followed by a wine and cheese reception. For a transcript of Mr. Rawlings speech, click here. For a transcript of Mrs. Rawlings speech, click here. Photographs of the Events N. Borowick | Stanly Lumax

CTED Town Hall on Pineapple Cultivation in the Afram Plains

[satellite gallery=35 auto=on caption=off thumbs=on] On March 10th CTED hosted a Town Hall that featured a hands-on training session for small holder farmers in the Afram Plains co-presented by our CTED partner Mr. Kwadwo Sarpong, Director of the Kumawu office of the Ghana Ministry of Agriculture (MoFA). The topic for the training was best practices in pineapple cultivation.  The hands-on tutorial which took place at an area farm was conducted by Mr. Emmanuel Owusu Oduro. Its purpose was to introduce some of the best practices in pineapple cultivation to farmers in the area and to provide them with the opportunity to engage in open dialogue and knowledge exchange among their peers as well as with (MoFA) agricultural extension officers. Mr. Sarpong has been an invaluable partner to the CTED research team led by Prof. Yaw Nyarko. The strong linkages between his office and the local farmers in Kumawu and the surrounding villages has provided CTED with unparalleled access to farmers through our regularly convened town halls, and our ongoing research activities. The CTED Town Halls in the Afram Plains provide local farmers, traders, civic representatives and ministry experts with a platform to share best practices, brainstorm solutions to farming and market challenges, and offer practical training opportunities through MoFA and CTED teams. Additionally, CTED has been working with farmers in the Afram Plains on our mobile Market App. Farmers in rural Africa often lack important geographical and agricultural information about their land. Sometimes they do not even know the boundaries of their own property. CTED built a GIS agricultural mapping system that allows farmers to precisely map the boundaries of their land and food transportation routes. CTED is also studying the technology and economics of Market Information Systems, and is working with Esoko, a company that uses mobile phone technology to send price alerts to the farmers so that they are better able to negotiate with traders and build better lives for themselves. CTED’s project focuses both on the impact of this technology and on developing ways to enhance it to help smallholder farmers in rural Ghana. We have also hosted other Town Hall events on The Best Practices in Yam Cultivation, a well attended forum on Tourism & Greening for Rural Economic Transformation among several others.  We plan to continue to engage farming communities in constructive conversations that lead to new peer-to-peer insights and the dissemination of local knowledge and expertise between farmers.

CTED 2014 Annual Meeting

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New York University’s Center for Technology and Economic Development (CTED) held its Fourth Annual Meeting on February 25, 2014 at the Intercontinental Hotel in Abu Dhabi. The aim of this year’s event was to highlight the possibilities for innovative technologies to contribute to emerging regions' economic development, within the context of CTED’s five main research areas: Finance, Education, Energy, Agriculture and Health. The event also showcased CTED’s ongoing research and collaborative efforts in the UAE, Pakistan, India, Ghana, Ethiopia and the USA. The meeting's interdisciplinary programme brought together scholars, practitioners and distinguished guests and friends of CTED. A number of our esteemed Advisory Council members were able to join us as well, including: Dr. Zarrouk, Chief Economist at the Islamic Development Bank; Sudhir Shetty, Chief Operating Officer of Global Operations at the UAE Exchange; and Tim Gollin, Managing Director at One Equity Partners LLC. The programme included presentations by Dr. Yaw Nyarko, Tiffany Tong, Dr. Lakshminarayana Subramanian, Nicole Hildebrandt, and Sunandan Chakraborty on topics including:

  • The Economics of the Food Crop Network in a Small Developing Nation (Ghana)
  • Experience of Designing a Mobile GIS Mapping Tool for Rural Farmers in Ghana
  • Fine-grained Dengue Surveillance with Citizen-Driven Data in Lahore, Pakistan
  • Summarization Search: A New Search Abstraction for Mobile Devices
  • Information is Power? Impact of SMS-based Market Information System on Farmers in Ghana

Africa House will conduct research on Ethiopia Commodity Exchange

With the objective of increasing knowledge on commodities markets and promoting cutting edge technologies for economic development, Africa House and our partner organizations, the Development Research Institute (DRI) and the Center for Technology and Economic Development (CTED), have established an agreement with the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX) to conduct a rigorous research agenda to evaluate ECX. Professors and PhD students from the Departments of Economics, Mathematics, and Computer Science at NYU and NYU-Abu Dhabi will analyze the impact of ECX in the Ethiopian economy, assess its institutional design and technology systems, and measure the performance of the market. Mr. Bemnet Aschenaki, Chief Strategy Officer of ECX, and Prof. Yaw Nyarko, Director of Africa House and CTED and Co-Director of DRI, presented the objectives and scope of the partnership in a press conference at ECX offices in Addis Ababa. Mr. Aschenaki expressed the need of an independent evaluation of the exchange in order to understand its current value, identify the areas of improvement, and shape the future of the exchange. Prof. Nyarko remarked that the transfer of knowledge and local capacity building are key components of the agreement. Established in 2008, ECX was conceived as a set of mechanisms and rules designed to address issues that limit the development of the agricultural sector, such as high transaction costs, information asymmetries, coordination failures, lack of contract enforcement, among others. The research team will study the performance of the exchange vis-à-vis its initial objectives by generating theoretical and empirical research outputs. The analysis of the Ethiopian experience will provide tools for other Sub-Saharan African countries to consider the development of commodity exchanges. The research topics are organized into three broad categories:

  • Impact on the welfare of different stakeholders, in particular small-scale producers
  • Intermediation and institutional design
  • Technology and diffusion of information

A Talk With Alemayehu Seyoum Taffesse

IMG_0478Dr. Alemayehu Seyoum Taffesse (IFRPI, Ethiopia) at NYU Africa House My good friend and colleague gave a great talk the other day.  It was on aspirations.  His basic argument is that there is something called “aspirations” that people have in their heads.  Their work effort depends upon the level of these aspirations.  The aspirations can be changed by providing information.  His work involves showing Ethiopian farmers TV programs – some positive, some placebo.  Those with the positive images had higher levels of aspirations. His paper/slides can be found here. I think that this work is great.  I prefer interpreting the work as one involving models of learning. You learn what is possible by getting information (including TV programs).  If you are a villager you may learn, for example, that it is actually not impossible for a villager to get a loan from a bank – this will help you aspire to better things. I am doing work with Alemayehu on our Ethiopia Coffee Commodities Markets project.  Great guy – more information about his work can be found here. He has also sent over some of his more philosophical writing – focus on the “people perspective”. Click here for his essay – Enjoy! Y. Nyarko About The International Food Policy Research Institute IFPRI is an international agricultural research center founded in the early 1970s to improve the understanding of national agricultural and food policies to promote the adoption of innovations in agricultural technology. Additionally, IFPRI was meant to shed more light on the role of agricultural and rural development in the broader development pathway of a country The mission of IFPRI is to seek sustainable solutions for ending hunger and poverty through research. IFPRI carries out food policy research and disseminates it through hundreds of publications, bulletins, conferences, and other initiatives. IFPRI was organized as a District of Columbia non-profit, non-stock corporation on March 5, 1975 and its first research bulletin was produced in February 1976. IFPRI has offices in several developing countries, including China, Ethiopia, and India, and has research staff working in many more countries around the world. Most of the research takes place in developing countries in Central America, South America, Africa, and Asia. IFPRI is part of a network of international research institutes funded in part by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), which in turn is funded by governments, private businesses and foundations, and the World Bank

A Conversation with Dr. Eleni Gabre-Madhin: Setting up a Commodity Exchange and Doing Business in Africa

A Conversation with Dr. Eleni Gabre-Madhin: Setting up a Commodity Exchange and Doing Business in Africa April 25th, 2012 Grand Hall, NYU Global Center, 238 Thompson Street 5:30 - 7:30 PM Dr. Eleni Gabre-Madhin shared and discussed with the audience her experience setting up the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange and the current trends in doing business in Africa. The first of its kind, the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange is a national multi-commodity exchange that provides low-cost, secure marketplace services to benefit all agricultural market stakeholders and invites industry professionals to seek membership enabling them to participate in trading. Dr. Eleni Gabre-Madhin is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange. As described by The Economist, she is an internationally recognized thought leader on agricultural marketing in Africa and global development, with prior roles as Senior Economist at the World Bank and Senior Research Fellow with the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, as well as UNCTAD in Geneva. She is among The Africa Report's "50 Women Shaping Africa" 2011, named Ethiopian Person of the Year 2010, and nominated Outstanding Businesswoman of the Year 2010 by African Business. [embed][/embed] Click here to view Dr. Eleni Gabre-Madhin's publication (March 2012) Click here to watch Dr. Eleni Gabre-Madhin's talk on TED (June 2007)