IfAD Public Talk Series

Founding Director, The Initiative for Agency and Development
Associate Professor, Dept. of Agricultural an Resource Economics
Associate Professor, Dept. of Economics (Courtesy)
The University Of Arizona
E: tauhid@arizona.edu
T: (520) 390-6210

Gambling on Development

Speaker: Stefan Dercon, University of Oxford
Time: 10.00-11:30 AM (AZ), Friday, 24 March 2023
Location: Zoom
Registration: Click

Bio: Stefan Dercon is Professor of Economic Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government and the Economics Department, and a Fellow of Jesus College. He is also Director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies. Between 2011 and 2017, he was Chief Economist of the Department of International Development (DFID), UK. Between 2020-2022, he was the Development Policy Advisor to successive Foreign Secretaries at the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. His research interests concern what keeps some people and countries poor: the failures of markets, governments and politics, and how to achieve change.

His latest book, Gambling on Development: Why some countries win and others lose was published in May 2022. It draws on his academic research as well as his policy experience across three decades and 40-odd countries. His book, Dull Disasters? How Planning Ahead Will Make a Difference, published in 2016, provides a blueprint for renewed application of science, improved decision making, and better preparedness, and pre-arranged finance on the face of natural disasters.

He is a Fellow of BREAD, a Research Fellow of CEPR and of IZA, and an Affiliate of J-PAL, a Non-resident Fellow, Centre for Global Development, Washington and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and Manufacture (FRSA). He studied economics and philosophy at the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium) and holds an MPhil and DPhil in Economics from the University of Oxford. Before re-joining the University of Oxford, he held positions at the University of Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), the Catholic University of Leuven, and WIDER (Helsinki), part of the United Nations University.

In 2018, the Queen awarded him as an honorary Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) for services to economics and international development.

US-China Competition: Implications for Africa’s Trade and Development

Speaker: Zainab Usman, Senior Fellow and Director, Africa Program Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Time: 03:00-4:30 PM (AZ), Tuesday, 10 March 2023
Location: Zoom
Register: Click

Bio: Zainab Usman is a senior fellow and director of the Africa Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C. Her fields of expertise include institutions, economic policy, energy policy, and emerging economies in Africa. Prior to Carnegie, Dr. Usman was at the World Bank initially as part of the prestigious Young Professionals Program and later as a public sector specialist. At the World Bank, she worked on social sustainability, policy reforms, natural resources management, and disruptive technologies.

She has worked on these issues in Cote d’Ivoire, Morocco, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, the Republic of Congo, Serbia, Tanzania, and Uzbekistan. She has also worked at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford and the Department of International Development (DfID) and the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) in Nigeria.

Dr. Usman’s is author of the book, Economic Diversification in Nigeria: the Politics of Building a Post-Oil Economy, and co-editor of the book, The Future of Work in Africa: Harnessing the Potential of Digital Technologies for All.

Dr. Usman’s written and broadcast commentary has appeared in Al-Jazeera English, BBC, Foreign Affairs, Project Syndicate, The Washington Post, among others. Dr. Usman obtained her doctorate from the University of Oxford.

Innovative Financing for Development and Global Education

Speaker: Emily Gustafsson-Wright, The Brookings Institution
Time: 12:30-1:45 PM (AZ), Monday, 16 January 2023
Location: Zoom
Register: Click

Bio: Dr. Gustafsson-Wright is a Senior Fellow in the Global Economy and Development Program at the Brookings Institution. She specializes in applied microeconomic and policy research. Her current focus on effective delivery of social services, including education and health interventions in developing countries, has established her role as a global expert on innovative financing mechanisms including payment by results, public-private partnerships, and impact investing. She is the leader in the field of social and development impact bonds.

She has authored a series of publications on the issues including the success of impact bonds.She has given invited lectures on these topics at the universities such as Columbia, Duke, George Washington, and Johns Hopkins. She leads the Childhood Costing Initiative at the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution, aimed to establish quality data on the costs of education and early childhood interventions.

With over 20 years of experience in development, her previous professional experience includes working at the World Bank, the UNICEF Innocenti Research Center, and the Amsterdam Institute for International Development (AIID). Dr. Gustafsson-Wright holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the Tinbergen Institute, the University of Amsterdam, as well as a Master of Science in Applied Economics and Finance and Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her work is regularly cited in the media including in the Economist, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Financial Times, and she has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals as well as contributed to several books in her field.

Coup d'état

Speaker:Rabah Arezki, Harvard University
Time: 12:30-1:45 PM AM (AZ), 22 September 2022


Dr. Arezki is a Senior Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School. He is former Chief Economist and Vice President of the African Development Bank Group. He was also the Chief Economist for the Middle East and North Africa Region at the World Bank. He was also the Chief Economist for the Middle East and North Africa Region at the World Bank. Prior to that he was the Chief of the Commodities and Environment at the International Monetary Fund. His research covers a wide array of topics including the macro-development of resource rich countries, energy and the environment, the economics of Africa and the Middle East, institutions, human capital, innovation and economic growth. His work has been cited extensively in prominent media outlets such as the Economist.

He is also a frequent contributor to Project Syndicate, VoxEU, Finance and Development, and Jeune Afrique. Dr. Arezki received his M.S. from the Ecole Nationale de la Statistique et de l’Administration Economique in Paris, M.A. from the University of Paris-1 Pantheon-Sorbonne and Ph.D. in economics from the European University Institute.


Speaker: Nora Lustig
Time: 10:30-Noon (AZ), 09 May 2022

Bio: Dr Nora Lustig is Samuel Z. Stone Professor of Latin American Economics and Director of the Commitment to Equity Institute (CEQ) at Tulane University. She is also a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, the Center for Global Development and the Inter-American Dialogue. Professor Lustig’s research is on economic development, inequality and social policies with emphasis on Latin America. Professor Nora Lustig's most recent publication Commitment to Equity Handbook: Estimating the Impact of Fiscal Policy on Inequality and Poverty, (Brookings 2018) is a step-by-step guide to assessing the impact of taxation and social spending on inequality and poverty in developing countries.

Prof. Lustig is a founding member and President Emeritus of the Latin American and Caribbean Economic Association (LACEA) and was a co-director of the World Bank’s World Development Report 2000, Attacking Poverty. She serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Economic Inequality and is a member of the Society for the Study of Economic Inequality’s Executive Council. Prof. Lustig served on the Atkinson Commission on Poverty, the High-level Group on Measuring Economic Performance and Social Progress, and the G20 Eminent Persons Group on Global Financial Governance. In July 2021, the General Assembly of the Society for the Study of Economic Inequality (ECINEQ) appointed Nora Lustig as President-elect of the organization. Professor Lustig is the first woman President-elect. Her term is for the period 2023-2025. In November 2021, she was recognized with the Tulane University Innovation Award. She received her doctorate in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley. She received her doctorate in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley.


Speaker: Orzala Nemat: Liesl Folks The Future of Afghanistan
Time: 10:30 AM-Noon (AZ), 28 April 2022

Bio: Dr. Orzala Nemat, an internationally known Afghan activist and scholar, an expert in political ethnography, is Director of Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU) . Prior to this, she served briefly as Afghanistan’s president Ashraf Ghani’s Advisor on Sub-national Governance. Dr Nemat has an extensive research, practitioner and activist first-hand experience which shapes and influences her perspective and approach to policy and research today.Dr Nemat holds a PhD in Development Studies from SOAS University of London, a MSc from University College London (UCL) and has been a Yale World Fellow class of 2008.

As an expert in political ethnography her research interest includes development and conflict, gender, governance and borderlands studies. Her PhD thesis in Development Studies focused on local governance relations that results from external interventions. Dr Nemat was born in 1977 in Afghanistan and lived as a refugee in Pakistan for 14 years. Following completion of her Doctorate Studies and two years of teaching at SOAS, Dr Nemat moved back to her home country, serving briefly as the Afghan president's advisor on local governance.

As an Afghan scholar with over 16 years of experience in development practice, activism and women’s rights, Dr Nemat brings an enriching experience into her new career path, leading the Afghanistan Research & Evaluation Unit (AREU), one of the top research think-tanks in Central Asia region & Afghanistan. Dr Nemat provides regular analysis through her writings, talks, media appearance and scholarly work on conflict, development, gender and the way local power relations affected by global interventions.


Speaker: Dr. Sabina Alkire Director, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative University of Oxford
Time:10:30 AM-11:59 AM AZ (AZ), 25 February

Bio: Sabina Alkire directs the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) at the University of Oxford. Previously, she worked at the George Washington University, Harvard University, the Human Security Commission, and the World Bank. She has a DPhil in Economics from the University of Oxford. Her research interests include multidimensional poverty measurement and analysis, welfare economics, the capability approach, the measurement of freedoms and human development.Together with Professor James Foster, Sabina developed the Alkire-Foster (AF) method for measuring multidimensional poverty. It is used to report a headline figure of poverty (the MPI).

This has been applied and implemented empirically to produce a Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), offering a tool to identify who is poor by considering the range of deprivations they suffer.

Worldwide, across 109 countries and 5.9 billion people:
• 1.3 billion people are multidimensionally poor.
• About 644 million are children under age 18.
• Nearly 85% live in Sub-Saharan Africa (556 million) or South Asia (532 million).
• More than 67 percent live in middle-income countries.
The 2021 Global Multidimensional Poverty Index, OPHI and UNDP


Speaker:Marie Gaarder, Executive Director International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie)
Time: 12:30-2:00 PM (AZ), 28 May 2021

Bio: Dr. Gaarder is the executive director of 3ie. She leads its efforts to improve lives in low- and middle-income countries by supporting the generation and use of high-quality and relevant evidence to inform decision-making. She has over 20 years of experience managing operational and research projects. In her previous role in 3ie, as director for evaluation and global director for innovation and country engagement, Marie provided strategic direction and guidance to 3ie’s work in evaluation and synthesis. Prior to joining 3ie, she was a manager in the World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group, overseeing thematic, sector, corporate and project evaluations.

She was the director of the evaluation department at the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation. Prior positions include being the deputy executive director of 3ie during the institution’s start-up years, and a senior social development economist at the Inter-American Development Bank, specializing in social protection and health programs in Central America. Marie has published extensively, including on evaluation of cash transfer programs, evaluation in fragile and conflict-affected states, and how to increase the accountability for evidence use and for outcomes among development agencies and governments.

Marie is the co-chair of the International Development Coordinating Group within the Campbell Collaboration, a member of the Research Ethics Review Committee of the Partnership for Economic Policy, a member of the DFID-CDC Evaluation & Learning Program Steering Group, and a member of the WFP’s impact evaluation Strategic Advisory Panel (SAP).

Marie holds a PhD in Economics from University College London, an MSc in Economics from London School of Economics and a graduate degree in Political Science, Arabic and Economics from University of Oslo, Norway.


The 3ie is a global leader in funding, producing, quality assuring and synthesizing rigorous evidence. It is also a global advocate for the generation and use of quality evidence in development decision-making.

Mission: Improve lives sustainably in low- and middle-income countries through evidence-informed decision-making.

Vision: Promote evidence-informed equitable, inclusive, and sustainable development. Support the generation and effective use of high-quality evidence of what works, for whom, how, why and at what cost to inform decision-making and improve the lives of people living in poverty in low- and middle-income countries. Facilitate evidence and its use by governments, development institutions and funders.

“3ie brings together those who wish to use impact evaluation findings with those who conduct them. To ensure useful measurement, it mobilizes and focuses resources for relevant questions that matter in the real world and paves the way for more transparent research practices. 3ie also works closely with governments and NGOs to strengthen their systems for prioritizing evaluations and using findings.” Ruth Levine, 3ie Board of Commissioners


Speaker:Mark Sundberg, Chief Economist and Vice President Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)
Time:12:30-2:00 PM (AZ), 14 May 2021

Bio: Dr. Sundberg is the MCC’s Chief Economist and Deputy Vice President, Department of Policy and Evaluation. He is responsible for the quality of MCC’s economic work and manages the division responsible economic analysis of growth, poverty impact, and project cost-benefit analysis in MCC compact and threshold program countries. Prior to joining MCC, he was Manager for the Economic Management and Country Evaluation work of the World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group responsible for thematic, sector and project work macro-fiscal management, poverty, governance, and evaluation of country programs.

He was also in the World Bank research department (leading author, 2006 and 2007 Global Monitoring Reports), and operations economist (India, Pakistan, Viet Nam, Laos, Myanmar, Ghana, Russia, and Turkey). During 1996-98 he was regional Chief Economist, Emerging Markets, for Salomon Brothers/Citibank in Hong Kong.

He holds a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University and BA in Economics and East Asian studies from Yale University.


The MCC is an innovative and independent U.S. foreign assistance agency that is helping lead the fight against global poverty. Created by the U.S. Congress in January 2004, MCC has changed the conversation on how best to deliver smart U.S. foreign assistance by focusing on good policies, country ownership, and results. MCC provides time-limited grants promoting economic growth, reducing poverty, and strengthening institutions. These investments not only support stability and prosperity in partner countries but also enhance American interests.

MCC forms partnerships with developing countries who are committed to good governance, economic freedom and investing in their citizens. MCC grants are designed to complement other U.S. and international development programs, as well as create an enabling environment for private sector investment.

Our mission is to reduce poverty through economic growth. Our values are CLEAR: Embrace Collaboration, Always Learn, Practice Excellence, Be Accountable, Respect Individuals and Ideas.

-Millennium Challenge Corporation


Speaker:Kenneth Chomitz, Chief Analytics Officer
Rachna Chowdhuri, Senior Director, Analytics
Global Innovation Fund
Time:12:30-2:00 PM (AZ), 30 April 2021

Bio: Kenneth Chomitz is Chief Analytics Officer at the GIF, responsible for developing systems for monitoring, evaluation, analysis and learning that maximizes the impact of GIF’s approach of piloting, testing, and scaling innovations. He joined the GIF after a distinguished career in research and evaluation at the World Bank. He is innovator in applied economics, he has published pioneering work in the economics of climate change, biodiversity, and deforestation, and has worked also in health and labor. He was a co-author of the 2016 World Development Report, Digital Dividends.

As Senior Advisor and member of the leadership team in the World Bank Group’s Independent Evaluation Group, he led major evaluations of the Bank’s efforts in energy policy, climate change mitigation, and adaptation; reviewed evaluations across all sectors; and contributed to innovation in methodology.

He holds an BSc in Mathematics from MIT and a PhD in Economics from UC Irvine. Prior to joining the World Bank, he was a National Research Council Fellow; Assistant Professor of Economics at Boston University; and Senior Advisor with the Development Studies Project, a Jakarta-based policy advisory group.

Rachna Chowdhuri is a Senior Director, Analytics, at GIF with experience in research, evaluation and evidence-based policy making across South Asia, South East Asia, Southern and West Africa. Her expertise is in Social Protection, Gender, Education and Health. Prior to joining GIF, she worked on Social Protection and Jobs at the World Bank in Zambia and Nigeria, as the Country Director at Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) Zambia, and as a Research Manager at J-PAL South Asia. Rachna started her career as an economist for an innovative social enterprise working with small farmers in Vietnam and Laos. Rachna holds a MA in Economics from University of Sussex and a BA in Economics from Delhi University.


It is a non-profit innovation fund, headquartered in London with an office in Washington D.C., an evidence-based, venture-capital-inspired fund for improving the lives of the poorest people in developing countries. It invests in the development, rigorous testing, and scaling of innovations targeted at improving the lives of the world’s poorest people.

Approach: It invests in a range of innovations with strong potential for social impact at a large scale. It defines ‘innovation’ broadly to include new business models, policy practices, technologies, behavioral insights, or ways of delivering products and services that benefit the poor in developing countries — any solution that has potential to address an important development problem more effectively than existing approaches.

How it works: Through grants, loans and equity investments ranging from $50,000 to $15 million, the GIF backs innovations with the potential for social impact at a large scale, whether they are new technologies, business models, policy practices, technologies or behavioral insights. It supports innovators at all stages of their life cycle, from start-up and pilot-testing through to larger scale implementation. The innovations it funds can be located in any developing country and can focus on any sector relevant to international development, provided they improve the lives of those living on less than $5 a day.

“We believe that the best ideas for solving some of the world’s most critical problems can come from anyone, anywhere. Through our grants and risk capital, we help breakthrough solutions to global development challenges from for-profit firms, non-profit organizations, researchers, and government agencies to maximize their impact and affect meaningful change.”

Global Innovation Fund


Speaker: Pedro Conceicao, Director of the Human Development Report Office, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Time: 3:30-5:00 PM (AZ), 26 March 2021

Bio: Dr. Conceição is Director of the Human Development Report Office and lead author of the Human Development Report. Prior to this, he served as Director of Strategic Policy at the Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, and Chief Economist and Head of the Strategic Advisory Unit at the Regional Bureau for Africa. Before that, he was Director of the Office of Development Studies (ODS) from March 2007 to November 2009, and Deputy Director of ODS, from October 2001 to February 2007. He is author and co-editor of several books on financing for development; global public goods; innovation, competence building, and social cohesion in Europe; and knowledge for inclusive development, published by Oxford University Press.

Edward Elgar Press, and Quorum Books, respectively. He has published numerous journal articles on the issues of inequality, the economics of innovation and technological change, and human development.Prior to coming to UNDP, he was an Assistant Professor at the Instituto Superior Técnico, Technical University of Lisbon, Portugal, teaching and researching on science, technology ovation policy. He has degrees in Physics from Instituto Superior Técnico and in Economics from the Technical University of Lisbon and a Ph. D. in Public Policy from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.

Summary Thirty years ago, UNDP created a new way to conceive and measure progress. Instead of using growth in GDP as the sole measure of development, it ranked the world’s countries by their human development: by whether people in each country have the freedom and opportunity to live the lives they value. The 2020 Human Development Report (HDR) doubles down on the belief that people’s agency and empowerment can bring about the action we need if we are to live in balance with the planet in a fairer world. It shows that we are at an unprecedented moment in history, in which human activity has become a dominant force shaping the planet. These impacts interact with existing inequalities, threatening significant development reversals. Nothing short of a great transformation – in how we live, work and cooperate – is needed to change the path we are on. HDR 2020 explores how to jumpstart that transformation.

“If equity, innovation and stewardship become central to what it means to live a good life, human flourishing can happen alongside easing planetary pressures.”

Human Development Report 2020

World Development Report 2015: Mind, Society, and Behavior

Speaker: Karla Hoff, Senior Research Economist Development Economics Research Group World Bank
Time: Thursday, April 16 3:30 to 4:30 PM

Bio: Karla Hoff is a Senior Research Economist in the Development Economics Research Group and Codirector of the World Development Report 2015. Much of her work focuses on using the tools of economics to study social interactions. Her work explains how good people can form bad neighbor-hoods, how productivity is sensitive to social setting, and how historical legacies influence the difficulty of establishing a rule of law. She is coeditor of two books—The Economics of Rural Organization and Poverty Traps. Ongoing work evaluates a women’s empowerment project and a political theater program in India. Her work spans conceptual analysis and grassroots fieldwork.

She has a BA in French from Wellesley College and a PhD in economics from Princeton. She taught English in the Peace Corps in the Ivory Coast

Participatory Development: Does It Work?

Speaker: Dr. Vijayendra Rao, Lead Economist Development Research Group World Bank
Time: Monday, November 25 1:00 to 2:30 PM

Bio: Dr. Rao is a lead economist in the Development Research Group of the World Bank. He integrates his training in economics with theories and methods from anthropology, sociology, and political science to study the social, cultural, and political context of extreme poverty in developing countries. Dr. Rao has published widely in leading journals in Economics and Development Studies on subjects that include the rise in dowries in India, the social and economic context of domestic violence, the economics of public celebrations, sex work in Calcutta, and how to integrate economic and social theory to develop more effective public policy.

Insights from economics, law, and behavioral sciences to inform identification and designs of effective development policies and programs to promote agency and economic development.

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