Strengthening African Studies to Impact Change

by Elizabeth Nelson

The Institute for African Development (IAD) promotes and strengthens the study of African development at Cornell University. Since 1989 the institute’s central mission has been to bring focus to the university’s research, initiatives, projects, and instruction on the study of African development and to expand the breadth and depth of African development studies within the university community. “IAD works to influence policies that promote development in Africa,” says Muna Ndulo, Cornell Law School, and director of the institute. “The Institute’s true mark has been its remarkable capacity to embrace a wide range of disciplines across campus and to move forward, fostering the necessary policies needed to advance African development studies.”

IAD advances African development studies through a variety of programs. The IAD Growth Initiative supports research and development work that effectively bridge theory and practice, which lend themselves to practical impact, policy engagement, and relevant learning forums, both in the field and within academic arenas. Current projects include: Building Spatial Data Collection and Research Capacity for Sustainable Development (Stephan Schmidt, City and Regional Planning); Transitions to Adulthood: Education, Skills, Family Formation and Labor Market Outcomes (David Sahn, Economics); Exploratory Research on Mobile Money Technology among Smallholder Farms in Rwanda and Ethiopia (Ndunge Kiiti, Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development); and Measuring the Efficiency of Zambia's Superior Courts (Muna Ndulo, Cornell Law School). IAD also awards travel grants to graduate students for Africa-related research and manages an undergraduate summer internship program. “Although Ithaca serves as base, the institute’s impact spans the globe. IAD visitors, visiting fellows, undergraduate interns, and graduate fellows are testaments to the diverse constituency that calls IAD home,” says Muna Ndulo.

Each semester the institute chooses a theme related to issues of development upon which all of its lectures and spring symposium focus. The spring 2017 theme—Governance, Elections, Nationalism, and the Building of an Inclusive Democratic State—explores the challenges of developing inclusive governance structures and managing ethnicity. Seminar presentations from Cornell faculty and visiting scholars are held every Thursday at 2:30pm in G-08 Uris Hall.

The spring symposium brings scholars from all over the world for a two-day discussion. Symposium proceedings provide chapters in published scholarly work on Africa in the IAD/Cambridge Scholars Publishing Book Series. Publications have included Growing Democracy in Africa: Elections, Accountable Governance, and Political Economy (2016); Problems, Promises, and Paradoxes of Aid: Africa's Experience (2014); and, The Food and Financial Crises in Sub-Saharan Africa: Origins, Impacts, and Policy Implications (2011).

The Institute for African Development is an area study program under the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies.

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Institute for African Development

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