African Social Research Initiative (ASRI)

STATA course participants

Courtesy of David Lam

Course on Statistical Analysis

    ASRI organized the course “Statistical Analysis of Census and Survey Data using Stata” at the University of Cape Coast (UCC), Ghana, from July 11 to July 20, 2011.  The course was developed and taught by David Lam from the University of Michigan (UM), Murray Leibbrandt and Cally Ardington from the University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa, and Samuel Samuel Kobina Annim from UCC.  They were assisted by 10 teaching assistant graduate students from UM, UCC, and UCT.  Prof. Kofi Awusabo-Asare was the UCC host for the course, providing outstanding support at all stages.
    An ASRI committee selected 58 participants out of a group of applicants that responded to a call distributed mainly to institutions in Ghana.  The largest group of participants (28) came from offices of the Ghana Statistical Service, with financial support provided by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).  Other participants came from a wide range of institutions, including the University of Cape Coast, the University of Ghana, the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, and the Health Research Centers at Navrongo, Dodowa, and Kintampo. 

    The course provided hands-on instruction in a computer lab in the statistical analysis of census and survey data using the statistical package Stata.  Instruction was built around the 2000 Ghana census, the Ghana Demographic and Health Surveys, and the Ghana Living Standards Survey.  All participants were provided with an individual licensed copy of Stata at the conclusion of the course.  Instruction ranged from production of descriptive tables and graphs to multiple regression analysis, with examples drawn from demography, public health, and economics.


Course on Quantitative Methods for Research

    ASRI organized a three-day short course on quantitative methods for research on governance and public policy, hosted by the Center for Democratic Development (CDD) in Accra, Ghana, from 19-21 July 2011.  The course was developed and taught by Rod Alence from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), assisted by graduate students from Wits and the University of Cape Town, along with researchers based at CDD.

    The aim of the course was to introduce quantitative methods to researchers in fields in which training opportunities are limited.   The 25 participants were drawn from universities and non-profit research organizations.  Most were based in Accra, but two traveled from Kumasi, and one traveled from Tamale.  All were regular “producers” of qualitative research on governance and public policy, most with Master’s degrees in the social sciences, and nearly all stated that their main reason for attending was to develop the skills needed to incorporate quantitative analysis more fully in their work.

    An innovative feature of the course was that introduced basic statistical methods using free, open-source software – specifically, “R” for statistics and “GNU Emacs” as an editing interface.  Participants brought their own laptops, and upon arrival they were given a USB drive loaded with the software, data sets, lecture slides, and other documentation.   The running example was a two-sample difference-of-proportions analysis, which required students to recode survey data, run basic tables and graphs, and construct confidence intervals.  By the end of the course, participants had presented their own analyses using Afrobarometer data.  They expressed a strong desire to come back in 2012 to attend a follow-up course.


Conference on Access, Accountability & Equality

    In late July 2011 an interdisciplinary group of scholars from U-M, Ghana and South Africa gathered in Accra for ASRI’s biennial conference, on “Access, Accountability and Equality.

    Over the last few decades, African countries have undergone monumental changes across political, economic, and social dimensions. Many countries have democratized and adopted market principles. Many have made enormous strides in reducing infant mortality, combating malaria, recognizing the rights of women, and improving educational opportunities. Yet many challenges remain. Few African countries are on target to meet the 2015 Millennium Development Goals established by the United Nations. Significant populations lack access to health services, quality education, or gainful employment, and socio-economic inequalities have risen in many countries. Opportunities for African citizens to hold governments accountable for their actions, or to participate meaningfully in politics, remain elusive.

    The ASRI conference aimed to evaluate development targets and investigate the abiding inter-sectoral challenges of democratic accountability, equality, and access to health and other social services in Ghana, South Africa, and neighboring countries in the region. The papers were data-driven, providing original research based on the analyses of recent surveys, as well as reflection on the quality and comprehensiveness of data sources in the region.

    Keynote speakers for the conference were Prof. Ernest Aryeetey, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, and Prof. Murray Leibbrandt, Director of the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit. Panelists covered a wide range of themes: one panel evaluated African states’ progress toward the Millennium Development Goals; another considered inequalities in access to health care in Ghana and South Africa; a third debated the diminished position of migrant populations in African citizenries. A particular emphasis was placed on incorporating early career scholars into the conference, and each panel of three or four participants included at least one early career scholar.