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Conferences


ASRI showcases the work of its members and the research of those whom it has supported through its sponsorship of interdisciplinary conferences in Africa and the United States. 

July 13-16 — University of Ghana, Legon, Accra, Ghana

There has been considerable optimism in recent years about Africa’s growth performance and prospects for the future. However, the optimism has been diminished by continuing challenges to human capital development and by political instability. A number of African countries were unable to achieve the health and education targets in the Millennium Development Goals. The political landscape has also been mixed. Some countries have been stable for some time now and others have had smooth transitions from one administration to the other. Yet other countries have been destabilised partly due to attempts to subvert their constitutions.

African countries have been integrated into the global economy and society at a level which did not exist fifty years ago but many social barriers to development remain. Gender inequality, youth unemployment, disease burden and alienation, have declined in some countries but continue to pose great challenges in rural and urban areas. As Africa prepares for the Sustainable Development Goals, imaginative thinking, innovative analytical frameworks and new tools are required to interrogate the emerging issues and to design measures and strategies to promote the development of the continent.

The goals of the conference are to:

  • Bring together social scientists to present their findings
  • Deliberate on emerging issues and possible pathways for Africa
  • Strengthen alliances between researchers within and outside the continent working on African development
  • Provide an opportunity for interaction with policy makers

The conference aims to bridge multiple thematic areas, including democratic governance, the delivery of public goods, income dynamics, poverty, gender, health and development. We especially welcome papers that cover more than one of these themes.

October 11-12 — Rackham Assembly Hall, University of Michigan, United States

At the very moment that governments in developed as well as developing countries are least able to provide support, the global crisis has increased demands on them to meet basic human needs for healthcare, housing, education, and security. In the absence of vigorous responses by governments from South Africa to the US, other actors—from businesses to community based organizations—have stepped into the breach to offer skills training, supply anti-retroviral drugs, provide affordable housing, or deliver security. As government budgets become more stretched in the US, Ghana, and South Africa, how has access to education, healthcare, and housing been affected across different socioeconomic groups in different countries? Moreover, as the delivery of services has become more decentralized and disjointed, which social groups have benefited and which have been overlooked?

This conference uses the tools of social research to identify and measure the major gaps and the greatest strains in health, housing, education, employment, and welfare at the national and sub-national levels on the African continent. Contributors also examine the vulnerabilities generated or exacerbated by the global economic downturn, growing inequality, and continuing deficiencies in the provision of public goods. Taking advantage of the University of Michigan’s location in southeastern Michigan, conference participants will be exposed not only to the economic and social vulnerabilities that some of Detroit’s most disadvantaged communities have experienced, but also to the creative solutions these communities have adopted to confront challenges in health care, housing, education, and employment.

Recognizing that many vulnerabilities are transnational makes possible the discussion and application of solutions that transcend national boundaries. One of the goals of the conference then is to bring scholars and policymakers into dialogue with each other about the most advanced techniques for conducting social research and how research findings can be translated into policies that are both inclusive and equitable. We aim to share tools and techniques of data analysis that have been developed at the University of Michigan, and to highlight the work of emerging scholars from the continent of Africa and the United States.

July 22-23 — Alisa Hotel, Accra, Ghana

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.

This conference critically evaluated development targets and investigated 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 conference panels highlighted data-driven papers, 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 included Professor Ernest Aryeetey, a noted economist and the Vice- Chancellor of the University of Ghana and Professor Murray Leibbrandt, Director of the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit.

Conference Host Institute: ISSER, the Institute for Social Science and Economics Research, a leading demographic and economic think-tank at the University of Ghana-Legon.

The conference explored the uses of different measurement tools and what they yield across multiple fields of research. Participants explained the applications of survey data, including experimental approaches. They also examined public opinion research and explained the challenges of panel and longitudinal data to measure and explain income dynamics, gender change, and/or democratic governance. As stated above, the conference provided the foundation for the creation of several research partnerships that have already borne fruit.

2009 Conference Participants

  • Ackumey, Mercy – School of Public Health, University of Ghana
  • Alence, Rod – International Relations, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Alter, George – Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), University of Michigan
  • Anderson, Barbara – Department of Sociology and Population Studies Center (PSC), University of Michigan
  • Aryeetey, Ernest – Institute for Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER), University of Ghana
  • Aryeetey, Ellen Bortei-Doku – Institute for Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER), University of Ghana
  • Askew, Kelly – African Studies Center, Department of Anthropology, and Center for Afroamerican and African Studies (CAAS), University of Michigan
  • Bawa, Ahmed – Department of Physics and Astronomy, Hunter College, City University of New York
  • Bawah, Ayaga – INDEPTH Network [Ghana]
  • Burns, Justine – School of Economics and Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU), University of Cape Town
  • Christofides, Nicola – School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Coetzee, Marcus – Citizen Surveys [South Africa]
  • Debpuur, Cornelius – Navrongo Health Research Centre [Ghana]
  • Dorrington, Rob – Center for Actuarial Research (CARe), University of Cape Town
  • Du Toit, Andries – Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS), University of the Western Cape
  • Frempong, Alexander – Department of Political Science, University of Ghana
  • Govender, Rajen – Independent Consultant
  • Gyapong, Margaret – Ghana Health Service
  • Howell, David – Center for Political Studies (CPS), University of Michigan
  • Jackson, James – Institute for Social Research (ISR) and Department of Psychology, University of Michigan
  • Lam, David – Department of Economics and Population Studies Center (PSC), University of Michigan
  • Leibbrandt, Murray – Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU) and School of Economics, University of Cape Town
  • Mattes, Robert – Center for Social Science Research (CSSR) and Department of Political Studies, University of Cape Town
  • Moyer, Cheryl – Center for Global Health, University of Michigan
  • Mukasa, Sam – Department of Geological Sciences, University of Michigan
  • Nartey, Alexander – Partnership for Social Science in Malaria Control [Ghana]
  • Nzimande, Nompumelelo – Center for Development Studies (CDS), University of KwaZulu-Natal
  • Pienta, Amy – Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), University of Michigan
  • Piper, Laurence – Department of Political Studies, University of the Western Cape
  • Posel, Dori – Center for Development Studies (CDS), University of KwaZulu-Natal
  • Ranchhod, Vimal – Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU), University of Cape Town
  • Shisana, Olive – Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) [South Africa]
  • Sibanyone, Mxolisi – Afrobarometer and Institute for Democracy in Africa (IDASA) [South Africa]
  • Snow, Rachel – School of Public Health and Population Studies Center (PSC), University of Michigan
  • Stein, Howard – Center for Afroamerican and African Studies (CAAS), University of Michigan
  • Tessler, Mark – International Institute, Department of Political Science, and Center for Political Studies (CPS), University of Michigan
  • Tollman, Stephen – School of Public Health and Agincourt Health and Demographic Surveillance System, University of Witwatersrand
  • Van der Berg, Servaas – Department of Economics, University of Stellenbosch
  • Vermaak, Claire – School of Economics and Finance, University of KwaZulu-Natal
  • Welch , Matthew – DataFirst Resource Unit (DFRU), University of Cape Town
  • Whatley, Warren – Department of Economics and Center for Afroamerican and African Studies (CAAS), University of Michigan
  • Yevoo, Lucy – Dodowa Health Research Centre [Ghana]

2009 Conference Proceedings

WELCOME

  • Prof Thandabantu Nhlapo, Deputy Vice Chancellor, UCT
  • Prof Kelly Askew, Director, African Studies Center, UM
  • Prof Murray Leibbrandt, Director, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU), UCT

PANEL 1. Measuring Gender Change
Chair: Mercy Ackumey (U-Ghana)

  • Survey data sources on gender: What are we after, and can we do better?
    Rachel Snow (UM)
  • Measuring masculinities
    Nicola Christofides (MRC, WITS)
  • The gender agenda for diseases of poverty
    Margaret Gyapong, Dodowa (U-Ghana)

PANEL 2. Mixed Methods
Chair: Ellen Bortei-Doku Aryeetey (ISSER, U-Ghana)

  • Ethnography and long-term social scientific research: an anthropological perspective
    Kelly Askew (UM)
  • A qualitative approach to understanding the enterprise-household nexus in informal self-employment
    Andries du Toit (UWC)
  • Development through the lens of experimental economics
    Justine Burns (UCT)

PANEL 3. Opinion Research on Governance>
Chair: David Howell (CPS, UM)

  • Challenges to survey research in Africa: Lessons from the Afrobarometer and the Arab Barometer
    Bob Mattes (UCT) & Mark Tessler (UM)
  • The supply and demand of survey data in Africa: Academia
    Rod Alence (WITS) & Alexander Frempong (U-Ghana)
  • The supply and demand of survey data in South Africa: Policy-makers
    Rajen Govender (Independent Consultant)

PANEL 4. Measuring & Explaining Income & Poverty Dynamics
Chair: Dori Posel (SDS, UKZN)

  • Measuring recent income dynamics and poverty trends in Ghana: Instruments, findings and progress in ascertaining causes
    Ernest Aryeetey (ISSER, Ghana)
  • Measuring recent income dynamics and poverty trends in South Africa: Instruments, findings and progress in ascertaining causes
    Servaas van der Berg (U-Stellenbosch)
  • A decomposition analysis of changes in poverty amongst the employed in South Africa, 2000–2006
    Claire Vermaak (UKZN)
  • The contributions of data on services to the analysis of poverty: A South African example
    Barbara Anderson (U-M)

KEYNOTE ADDRESS. Local knowledge-building at the Centre of ASRI
Ahmed Bawa, Professor and Distinguished Lecturer of Physics and Astronomy,
Hunter College, City University of New York

PANEL 5. Longitudinal studies: Past experience and future prospects
Chair: Rob Dorrington (CARe, UCT)

  • UM’s Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) and Health and Retirement Study (HRS)
    David Lam (U-M)
  • The Navrongo Demographic Surveillance Site (NDSS)
    Cornelius Debpuur (Navrongo, Ghana)
  • South Africa panel surveys: The Cape Area Panel Study (CAPS) and the National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS)
    Vimal Ranchhod (UCT)
  • The Agincourt Health and Demographic Surveillance System and the INDEPTH Network
    Steve Tollman (Agincourt, WITS)

Panel Breakout Sessions: Exploring, planning shared projects & products

Parallel breakout sessions: Panels 1, 3, 4

Parallel breakout sessions: Panels 2, 5

PANEL 6. Difficulties of Collaboration, Data-Sharing, Public Access
Chair: George Alter (ICPSR, UM)

  • Olive Shisana, HSRC (SA)
  • Ayaga Bawah, Indepth (Ghana)
  • James Jackson, Institute for Social Research (UM)
  • Mathew Welch, Data First! (SA)

Follow-Up to 2009: Breakout Sessions Feedback

Planning ASRI 2010: Location, Themes, Working Groups

Close of Meeting