CSAE Conference 2024

Full Riverside Lecture Theatre at St Catherine’s College, Oxford, for the CSAE Conference 2024.

Sunday 17 March, Day One

On Sunday 17th March, Oxford saw more than 400 participants from around the world arrive for the Centre for the Study of African Economies’ Conference on Economic Development in Africa 2024. The conference runs every year spanning a wide range of topics; scholars present cutting-edge papers on everything from agriculture and climate to behavioural economics, including macro, fiscal, international trade, and many other areas. This year’s conference also included the screening of a critically acclaimed documentary on cash transfers, keynote speeches from prominent policymakers, and panels discussing the latest issues in economic development.

Day one began with an introduction to the World Bank’s Poverty and Inequality Platform, an interactive computational tool with rich data on poverty and inequality around the world. This was followed by 18 sessions throughout the day, with a huge number of high-quality papers presented and discussed. One highlight was work presented by Lukas Hensel in the Behavioural Labour Economics session, in which South African jobseekers were given information on their results from standardised assessments of job-relevant skills. This allowed them to focus on jobs that value skills where they scored relatively highly without raising their search effort. Another was in a Fiscal Policy session, where Priya Manwaring presented evidence from Uganda suggesting that public disclosure policies (e.g. reporting delinquents and recognising compliers) have potential to raise tax compliance. Work presented by Barbara Zelu was also a highlight: in a Households, Inequality and Poverty session she outlined a paper demonstrating that extending pension benefits reduced fertility rates among newly covered women in Ghana.

The day closed with a screening of ‘Free Money’ (2023, dir. Lauren DeFilippo and Sam Soko), a documentary on a Give Directly project in Kenya. Participants were fortunate to listen to the directors of the film and several experts in the field (representing a variety of viewpoints) for a panel discussion following the screening, entitled ‘A Discussion on the Research and Ethics of Cash Transfers’. The film included thought-provoking critiques of the model, and the audience engaged in spirited exploration of the issues at hand with Miriam Laker (Global Director of Research at Give Directly), Stefan Dercon (Director of the CSAE, University of Oxford), and Dennis Egger (Professor of Economics at the University of Oxford and a Give Directly research collaborator). With lively thinking about all of the fantastic research covered that day (as well as the conceptual and ethical questions raised by the documentary), participants went to dinner and prepared for the second day of the CSAE Conference 2024.


Photo of the screening of the film Free Money as it displayed on a large projector screen with two audience members in the foreground and CSAE logo on podium.

Panel (Miriam Laker, Stefan Dercon, Dennis Egger) sit in person in a lecture theatre by a podium displaying the CSAE logo. The film directors (Lauren DeFilippo and Sam Soko) join remotely with their faces on the projector screen behind the in-person panellists.


Monday 18 March, Day Two

Day two of the CSAE Conference was marked by the breadth of topics considered and the range of approaches used to understand the economic challenges facing the continent. Presentation topics spanned macroeconomics, trade, experimental labour market studies, and the effects of economic programmes on mental health and the environment.

A notable highlight was the keynote speech delivered by Arkebe Oqubay (British Academy Global Professor at SOAS University of London), in discussion with Adnan Khan, Chief (Economist and Director for Economics and Evaluation at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the UK, and London School of Economics). Titled "Producing Transformation in Africa: What we know about Development Strategies and Policymaking," the session delved into drivers of structural change in Africa, addressing key challenges such as low economic diversification and growth, weak productive capabilities, and constraints on the balance of payments.

Another significant moment was the session featuring research associated with the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC), a capacity-building institution dedicated to enhancing research capacities and informing economic policies in sub-Saharan Africa. Presentations focused on the importance of financial inclusion in Africa. For example, work by Fiennasah Annif’ Akem indicates that there remain significant challenges for women in accessing financial services in Cameroon.

The conference has continued to emphasise the importance of interdisciplinary approaches (such as actuarial modelling, for example) and evidence-based policymaking in driving Africa's economic transformation and fostering sustainable development pathways. As the conference progresses, it is exciting to see how development economists are thinking about building a brighter economic future for Africa.

Scholastica Odhiambo, Fiennasah Annif' Akem, Esthre Nanziri Lwanga; and Abbi Kedir from the AERC stand in front of a projector screen for their special session. Photo by AERC

Arkebe Oqubay speaks at the lectern with a CSAE logo and flowers.

Adnan Khan speaks at the podium with the CSAE logo while Arkebe Oqubay sits at the table in front of the projector screen displaying his opening slide.


Tuesday 19 March, Day Three

The final day of the CSAE Conference started strong with sessions exploring agricultural inputs and measurement, with speakers discussing how to tackle repetitive droughts in Nigeria, measure crop yields in Malawi, and understand the ins and outs of village economies. These discussions shed light on the importance of innovation and adaptability in ensuring food security and improving livelihoods across rural Africa.

Parallel sessions looked at gender dynamics, political landscapes, and policy frameworks. Speakers delved into the impact of women-led protests on political participation, the complexities of gender-inclusive policy-making, and the effects of gender discriminatory laws in Tunisia. These conversations emphasised the need for inclusive governance structures and the dismantling of systemic barriers to achieve gender equality and social justice.

Labour market dynamics and resilience took centre stage in subsequent sessions. Speakers examined wage inequalities during the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa, explored the adaptive strategies of self-employed workers amidst trade shocks in low-income countries, and discussed the broader challenges shaping employment landscapes across Africa.

After the break, sessions explored natural resources, environmental sustainability, and socioeconomic well-being, highlighting empirical evidence from conflict hotspots in Ghana, strategies for optimising resource-driven economic growth, and the impact of climate change on conflicts in Nigeria. These conversations stressed the importance of holistic approaches that balance economic development with environmental conservation and social equity.

Simultaneously, sessions on household dynamics, inequality, and poverty offered nuanced perspectives on the challenges facing vulnerable populations. Speakers explored coping mechanisms of informal workers during COVID-19 lockdowns in Benin, analysed the impact of climate-induced shocks on child marriage in sub-Saharan Africa, and discussed targeted interventions addressing poverty, social norms, and vulnerability.

Afternoon sessions included presentations on the transformative potential of education and skill-building initiatives. Speakers delved into the spillover effects of internally displaced settlements on children's well-being, the role of affirmative action in incentivizing educational attainment among marginalised communities, and the impact of conflict on youth education and employment outcomes in Ethiopia. These conversations highlighted the pivotal role of education in fostering social mobility, economic empowerment, and sustainable development.

In the closing panel, the spotlight shifted to ‘The Role of Online Job Matching Platforms in Promoting Economic Inclusion’. Panellists Radu Ban (Senior Programme Officer, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), Monica Lambon-Quayefio (Senior Lecturer, University of Ghana), Belinda Lewis (Chief Product Officer, Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator), and Christian Meyer (Director of the Future of Development Programme at the Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford) and Kate Orkin (Associate Professor at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford) shared insights into gender disparities, technological adaptations, and the importance of inclusive design principles. The panel emphasised the need for technological innovation and concerted efforts to address systemic biases for more equitable labour markets across Africa and beyond.

Throughout the day, discussions underscored the imperative of collaborative efforts to chart a path towards equitable and sustainable development across Africa, from harnessing technological innovations to promoting inclusive governance structures. Attendees of the CSAE Conference 2024 left with fresh insights into the remarkable breadth of academic research and policy initiatives that are driving transformative change in Africa and other low- and middle-income regions.

The call for papers for the CSAE Conference 2025 will open in the summer of 2024. Find out more about the CSAE Conference and other CSAE events on the CSAE website https://www.csae.ox.ac.uk/


Christian Meyer, Monica Lambon-Quayefio, Radu Ban, Kate Orkin, and Belinda Lewis sit alongside one another for the closing panel of the CSAE Conference.