Marie Christine Apedo-Amah, Economist in the Firms, Entrepreneurship and Innovation Unit.
What are your current professional commitments?
Since September 2019, I have been working as a an Economist at the World Bank, hired through the Young Professional Program. I work in the Firms, Entrepreneurship and Innovation unit of the Finance, Competitiveness and Innovation Global Practice. My team is what the World Bank calls a «global team»: we work to support regional teams which are those with a geographical focus. I am currently working on an impact evaluation initiative covering many countries in Latin America, Europe, and Africa. Everything I do is related to understanding the constraints/opportunities for Small and Medium Enterprises regarding market access, access to finance, job creation and skills, in order to help alleviate the constraints and leverage the opportunities. Some of the projects also have specific gender components.
My specific tasks consist in coordinating between project teams and impact evaluation teams, providing technical inputs on projects designs and outputs. My main challenge is learning how to work on five different projects at once. I was used to working on two projects at most and they were my own research. Working on private sector initiatives is also new. Other than a study I designed on credit access for women and agricultural producers in Togo during my PhD, I had little experience in this field. I am learning how doing development is not limited to working in public service provision, or focusing on rural areas. The private sector is a powerful driver for job creations and growth. It is exciting to learn how and contribute to supporting it. I always wanted to do applied research and that is what I love the most about what I currently do at the World Bank.
Can you describe your professional trajectory since you finished the PhD?
At the end of my PhD, I was not completely sure what path to take. Although I always wanted to work in development institutions, I was also wondering whether going into academia could be a better choice. I love teaching and during my PhD I experienced the freedom to work on whatever I want however I want. This is something you find in academia and nowhere else. I applied for postdocs to gain more experience in academia and find out how good of a fit it would be... But I never thought that I would get a position in an American university, especially one of the most prestigious ones ! The entry barriers are quite high when you have a European PhD, especially a French one.
In 2017, I was hired as a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University. It was an intense selection process. Among other things, they were looking for a bilingual researcher who has experience in working on public service delivery in developing countries. I had the opportunity to work under the supervision of Pascaline Dupas. I leaded the research on her Transparency Accountability and Citizen Engagement (TRACE) Initiative to improve public service provision in Francophone West-Africa. The initiative is housed at the Stanford Institute for Policy and Economic Research (SIEPR).
I spent two exceptional years there. After doing some intense scoping, I designed and implemented an impact evaluation, which is still underway, on using community participation to improve the quality of healthcare services in rural Côte d’Ivoire. Pascaline Dupas provided guidance but freedom to conduct my research. Many times, she reminded me of the two other female Professors who mentored me at AMSE: Cecilia GarciaPenalosa, my PhD advisor, on her rigueur and Habiba Djebbari, my field work mentor, on her genuine care about making a difference for people in developing countries with her work.
How do you feel about your experience at AMSE?
My PhD research was supervised by Cecilia Garcia Peñalosa and Tanguy Van Ypersele. I studied how to make sure development projects involving NGOs succeed. I studied NGOs behaviour, how to ensure that foreign aid is used in the best way by the best implementing partners to achieve the maximum positive impact on populations. In a first paper, I compared the behaviour of NGOs with that of private firms. In a second paper, I compared the NGO sector to the government. My third paper was a lab-in-the-fieldexperiment for which I was coached by Habiba Djebbari and Roberta Ziparo. The study targeted couples of agricultural producers in Togo.
The quality of teaching at AMSE is great. The training internationalizes the students. Even though I was living in France, I improved my English: it was the language used in courses, research papers we read, and conversations with my advisors. If I had not done AMSE I would not be in the USA today!
Interview by Léa Dispa
The Young Professional Program at the World Bank is an opportunity for young professionals skilled in areas relevant to the World Bank operations, such as economics, finance, education, public health and engineering.
This is a very competitive program with around 1% of the initial candidates reaching the end of the recruitment process. For instance in 2018, the program received more than 5,300 candidate applications, out of which 240 people were interviewed and 57 people ended up joining.