Economics serving society

Workshop | Urban and rural infrastructure in the Global South | April 5

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The Paris School of Economics is glad to invite you to the “Urban and rural infrastructure in the Global South” workshop organized by the Opening Economics Chair.

  • Date: Friday, April 5, 2024 ; 2:00pm-4:50pm
  • Venue: Paris School of Economics
    48 bd Jourdan, 75014 Paris, room R2-21



2:00pm-2:50pm - James Christopher Mizes (Université Paris Dauphine - PSL), “Africa’s Infrastructure, a paradox for whom?”
Résumé : In March of 2020, the global consulting firm McKinsey & Company published a policy brief which introduced a new way to understand Africa’s Infrastructure: as a “paradox”. According the brief, there is a large pipeline of potential infrastructure projects across Africa and a similarly vast amount of capital ready to invest in them. Yet, paradoxically, 90 percent of Africa’s infrastructure projects fail to secure funding. Two years later, a representative of the African Union’s own infrastructure planning program framed the problem in identical terms. The solution, he argued, is to develop the technical skills needed to demonstrate the feasibility and profitability of Africa’s infrastructure projects to “alternative investors” across the world. Perhaps surprisingly, both institutions underlined the importance of government: they argued for “national ownership” and an expanded role for government in the provision of electricity, transport, water, and sanitation. In this presentation, I will consider how this new relationship between governments and “alternative investors” could transform the planning and management of large technical systems in Africa. How, for example, will governments attempt to change investor perceptions of the riskiness of African infrastructures? And what, in turn, will investors ask of governments to assuage their apparent low appetite for Africa’s infrastructural risks? These questions are particularly salient for municipalities which are today faced with a litany of new infrastructural risks and vulnerabilities often beyond the scale of their political authority (e.g. drought, black-outs, military coups, floods, sectarian violence).

2:50pm-3:40pm - Laura Silva (PSE), “Local Infrastructure, Objective and Subjective Income in a Divided Society”
Résumé : This study investigates the impact of access to infrastructure on individuals’ objective and subjective income dimensions in the South African context. South Africa, undergoing significant infrastructure development since the end of Apartheid, provides an ideal setting for this analysis. Beyond the traditional economic channels, we explore the broader structural advantages that access to infrastructure confers, influencing not only objective income but also subjective perceptions of individuals’ social standing and citizenship identities. Utilizing data from the National Income Dynamic Study (NiDS) , covering 2008-2017, our analysis includes four outcomes: objective household income, subjective perceptions of current and future income, and subjective perceptions of income equality. The main independent variable is an overall infrastructural access measure derived from factors like electricity, water, street lighting, and garbage collection. Controlling for various individual and contextual factors, and exploiting a fixed effect estimation strategy for within-individual changes, our findings reveal positive associations between infrastructure access and both objective and subjective income measures. This suggests that improving infrastructure access not only correlates with tangible socioeconomic improvements but also positively influences individuals’ perceptions of their social status within their community.

3:40pm-4:00pm - Coffee break

4:00pm-4:50pm - Oliver Vanden Eynde (PSE, CNRS), “Complementarities in Infrastructure: Evidence from Indian Agriculture”
Résumé : Complementarities between infrastructure projects have been understudied. This paper examines interactions in the impacts of large-scale road construction, electrification, and mobile phone coverage programs in rural India. We find strong evidence of complementary impacts between roads and electricity on agricultural production: dry season cropping increases significantly when villages receive both, but not when they receive one without the other. These complementarities are associated with a shift of cropping patterns towards market crops and with improved economic conditions. In contrast, we find no consistent evidence of complementarities for the mobile coverage program.

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James Christopher Mizes is an interdisciplinary social scientist, blending spatial perspective of geographic research with an anthropological approach to understanding how experts and publics reason about collective problems. He is currently a post-doctoral researcher at Laboratoire Techniques Territoires Sociétés (École des Ponts ParisTech, Université Gustave Eiffel) within the scope of the ANR project “Securitizing City-Building”.

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Laura Silva is a postdoctoral fellow at the Paris School of Economics, affiliated with the Opening Economics Chair. She received her PhD in Sociology at Sciences Po and her research focuses at the intersection of urban, infrastructural, and environmental sociology.

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Oliver Vanden Eynde is an economist, researcher at the CNRS and professor at Paris School of Economics. He is also affiliated with the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). His research mainly focuses on civil conflict, crime, economic development, and the role of the military and police in developing countries.

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The Opening Economics Chair allows economists to respond in creative and effective ways to the major questions of our times, by integrating two observations: that current challenges, complex and multifaceted as they are, demand an approach that transcends disciplinary boundaries, and that economics research must be renewed by advances made in other related disciplines.