Leonard Wantchekon awarded Kiel Institute’s 2023 Global Economy Prize

June 23, 2023

The Global Economy Prize is presented to individuals who have contributed to society by proposing unique and creative solutions to global problems. The award, which has been presented to 11 Nobel laureates over the years, honors individuals from politics, business, and economic science who have made an outstanding contribution to a socially responsible society. The theme of this year’s award centers on development in Africa.

Wantchekon’s contributions to the global community began when he was a student activist in Benin from 1976 to 1987. At Princeton, Wantchekon conducts research on governance and political institutions with a focus on economic and educational history, institutional experimentation, and development economics.

In highlighting Wantchekon’s achievements, the award committee stated, “Leonard Wantchekon is not only an outstanding political economist, economic historian, and development economist, but also a far-sighted and assertive scientific entrepreneur. His unique perspective on development economics — not least shaped by his personal background — his innovative scientific methods, and his resulting groundbreaking work published in leading journals have earned him worldwide recognition in the profession.” View the Kiel Institute's video of the award ceremony.

Wantchekon founded the African School of Economics, a university with locations in Benin, Nigeria, and Cote D'Ivoire that provides students with opportunities to conduct research on societal problems while working closely with government agencies and international organizations. In founding the school, Wantchekon aimed to address the limited African representation at the forefront of social science research, as well as the limitation in opportunities for training among highly talented individuals in Africa.

The African School of Economics recently announced its plans to expand geographically to regional campuses in Zanzibar, Nigeria, and the Caribbean, as well as programmatically with schools in the Arts and Sciences, Business, Public Administration, and Engineering. He hopes that the university will increase the mobility of African students and foster innovation.

One of his ongoing studies on education focuses on the role of personal identity in a student’s motivation to work hard and succeed. “I’m currently doing a study in which we teach local history to students and see how this instruction motivates them to study and to learn,” he said. “We are exploring how motivation itself contributes to better learning outcomes.”

Wantchekon said he intends to continue exploring ways governments and policymakers can become more effective through institutional experimentation, particularly in Africa. “We know a lot about what is to be done, and we have a lot of policy ideas,” Wantchekon said, “but we don’t know enough about how these policies can be effectively implemented. We are exploring what kinds of processes can be put in place to improve the prospect of better policy implementation.”

The Global Economy Prize was founded in 2005 and is co-sponsored by the Kiel Institute, the City of Kiel, and the Schleswig-Holstein Chamber of Commerce. The award ceremony this year was held on June 19, 2023, in Kiel, Germany.

This story originally appeared on the Office of the Dean for Research's website.