From how a bicycle can help empower girls in Zambia improving their safety and class attendance to how information and media can stop the spread of an epidemic such as Ebola or the curse of natural resources. Pioneering research was presented on the political economy of development at the 8th NCID Research Workshop, which was held on April 4 and 5 at the headquarters of the Fundación Ramón Areces in Madrid.
Projects were presented from all around the world. The first to present was Justin Sandefur, a researcher at the Center for Global Development. Sandefur explained the experiment in which 93 public schools in Liberia came to be managed by eight private companies. The students slightly improved their academic results, but the economic cost of management was the same and, in addition, some minors were abused.
Another innovative presentation was that of Ana García-Hernández, researcher at Universidade Nova de Lisboa. Her study showed that giving a bicycle to girls in Zambia reduced 35 minutes the time taken to get to school, which therefore reduced missed school days and late arrivals. In addition, the girls said they were safer, more empowered and in control of their lives.
The director of NOVAFRICA, Pedro Vicente, also presented a unique research carried out in collaboration with, amongst others, NCID’s resident fellow Alex Armand. In their study they discover that informing an entire community of the benefits of the appearance of natural resources improves the prospect of obtaining economic returns for all and increases confidence in political institutions. However, if only the leaders are informed, corruption and mistrust increase.
The day closed with Prof. Romain Wacziarg’s Keynote Address on the effects of historical ties between nations for the current economic development. Titled Historical Barriers to the Wealth of Nations, the presentation welcomed more than 200 people who listened to the conclusions of Prof. Wacziarg. He presented the term "cultural distance" to explain the factors -mainly geographical, linguistic and genetic factors- that unite or separate countries.
Sharing culture permeates positive values to countries that have historically been related, helping them to develop in a similar way. However, the cultural proximity also has a negative effect, since the researcher assures that wars and violence intensify among people of the same community and culture. In spite of everything, these "historical barriers" are not definitive and can be overcomed. The speaker explained that history has, at best, a 50% effect in determining the development of nations. "The other 50% is decided by societies with their capacity to evolve and leave the past behind," explained Wacziarg. The event ended on Friday at noon after two days and a total of thirteen presentations.