OPINION: Relevance of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economics to Tanzania

Saturday October 19 2019



Honest Ngowi

Honest Ngowi 

Each year several prizes are awarded to various individuals and institutions. Among these include the Nobel Prize.

Each year various Nobel Prizes are awarded in different fields including Economics. For 2019 the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences was awarded to Esther Duflo (the second woman to win it), Abhijit Banerjee and Michael Kremer.

They won the prestigious prize for their research on alleviating poverty. In what follows, the prize is discussed with a focus on its relevance for Tanzania.

Nobel Prizes

Nobel Prizes are a set of annual international awards bestowed in several categories by Swedish and Norwegian institutions in recognition of academic, cultural, or scientific advances.

It has its foundation from the will of the Swedish scientist Alfred Nobel which established five Nobel prizes in 1895.

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The prizes were first awarded in 1901. The prize is regarded as the most prestigious award in the fields of literature, medicine, physics, chemistry, economics and peace globally.

Nobel Prize in Economics

The Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in particular is an award for outstanding contributions to the field of economics. It was established in 1968 by a donation from Sweden’s central bank to the Nobel Foundation to commemorate the bank’s 300th anniversary.

It is not one of the prizes that Alfred Nobel established in his will in 1895. However, it is administered and referred to along with the other Nobel Prizes by the Nobel Foundation.

The 2019 Prize

The three economists won the 2019 prize in economics for their work into the causes of poverty.

They were recognized for their experiment-based approach to tackling global poverty.

They used randomized control trials as the methodology to discover which educational outcomes or child health initiatives actually work.

Their contribution to knowledge includes the dramatic improvement of the ability to fight poverty in practice.

According to the Nobel Committee, as a direct result of one of studies of the three laureates, more than five million Indian children have benefitted from effective programmes of remedial tutoring in schools.

Furthermore, heavy subsidies for preventive healthcare have been introduced in many countries based on their research.

Their research showed how to raise vaccination rates and educational standards in schools.

Relevance of poverty

The key issue on which the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences revolves is poverty. This is very relevant for Tanzania by all standards.

The country has been classified and categorized among the countries of the world suffering from poverty. Poverty has been and still remains to be among the central issues in Tanzania.

From the 1961 political independence, alleviating poverty has been among the key goals of the government as manifested in various interventions aiming at poverty alleviation in the country.

Different strategies, policies, programmes and projects for example, have been put in place aiming at alleviating poverty in its many forms in Tanzania. The main form of poverty has been and remains to be income poverty.

Tanzania’s National Development Vision-2025 and the many instruments to implement it for example have poverty alleviation as the ultimate goal.

The 2019 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences by the trio therefore stands to add much value in Tanzania’s bid to kiss poverty goodbye.

Education and health

The trio researched on the kinds of educational and health outcomes initiatives that actually work in poverty alleviation.

Their findings, when customized in Tanzania’s context, can have significant contributions in alleviating poverty in the country via the routes of education and health.

It will therefore be very important to identify these educational and health outcomes in Tanzanian context and then use them accordingly.

This is very important because the government uses substantial amount of public funds in education and health.

The Nobel laureates’ findings can inform the authorities and other stakeholders in Tanzania on how best to invest in education and health for the desired poverty alleviation.

Going forward...

As is the case for all other Nobel prizes, the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences will make sense for Tanzania if and only if the findings of the three laureates are utilized.

This implies that the findings have to inform policy and decision makers for evidence-based policies and decisions.

There will be a need to make the findings well known among policy and decision makers as well as various practitioners on the ground.

This may call for simplification of the Nobel-level findings into policy briefs and popular versions among others.