Key Research Interests

The over-arching theme and motivation of my research interests is a concern with market development in poor countries, along with its implications for the reduction of poverty and vulnerability, and the promotion of wealth creation.

While my disciplinary focus has been clearly economic however, the search to understand how markets are constituted and shaped has seen my research overlap with the conceptual and methodological approaches of other social sciences such as social anthropology and human geography.

Conceptually the dual notions of institutions and identity encompass much of my research. I seek to understand decision making at the small scale level of individuals by studying, for example, microenterprises like shop keeping or palm wine selling. In doing this my PhD research made extensive use of rational decision models and game theory, both standard tools of microeconomics. It also took serious account however of other social phenomena including gender, ideology, history, religion and witchcraft, which are less often considered within economics.

The potential contribution of recent advances in behavioural economics towards our ability to understand micro level decision making seems to me beyond dispute. However, I also consider that any interpretation of individual choice in such settings such as rural Tanzania is likely to remain inadequate unless it takes into account the strategic constraints imposed by multiple, pre-existing and rule-bearing relationships within which individuals must act; in other words, the role of social institutions and the particular identities of actors within these institutions.

My concern with social institutions and choice of conceptual tools led me to adopt a mixed methods design for my Tanzanian study. I am highly interested both in quantitative and qualitative research approaches, as well as in their complementarities.

It seems to me that an elementary but too often neglected precondition for effective policy design is to understand existing processes of economic development clearly. By studying the rural economy in the context of evolving social institutions I seek to contribute to a stronger basis for policymaking in areas such as rural development, infrastructure provision and market governance. I am also interested in longer term trends such as urbanisation and deagrarianisation, along with their implications for policy.

My main geographical focus so far has been Sub-Saharan Africa, especially East Africa and Tanzania in particular. The title of my thesis was Institutions, Non-Farm Business and Accumulation in Kipatimu Village, South East Tanzania.

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