New PhD virtual seminar series, co-organized by the University of Sussex and the University of Kent launches.

This week saw the launch of a new virtual ‘Micro-Seminars’ series co-organized by the University of Sussex and the University of Kent, hosted by the Development Economics Research Centre at the University of Kent.


The idea behind the incentive is to give the opportunity to PhD students to present their on-going research and receive feedback from faculty and peers from both departments. Mumba Ngulube, a fourth year PhD student in the School of Economics working under the supervision of Dr. Amrit Amirapu and Dr. Alex Klein was the first to present. Her research specialises in investigating the effects of reduced transport costs induced by improved transport infrastructure on economies in Southern Africa. She tells us about her experience here:


“The presentation went really well. The attendance was good and so was the participation from both universities. Its a great initiative.


I was nervous being the first presenter of the seminar series, but as I went along with the presentation, I became relaxed, presenting on work in my third chapter entitled “Estimating the Impact of Upgraded Highways Using Global Night-time Light Data in Zambia.”


Strategic investment in road transport infrastructure supports economic growth in an economy. However, in Africa it remains unclear through what channels reduced transport costs arising from infrastructure investment affect economic activity. Most studies on this topic are macro level studies that focus on developed countries. Therefore, this research is important because not only does it provide evidence from a non-coastal country in Southern Africa where transport costs are among the highest in the region, the analysis explores the microeconomic channels through which investment in transport infrastructure affects economies. The research is useful to policy makers as it provides information on which sectors and locations gain highly from transport infrastructure investments. Results in the paper suggests that the tradable sector experiences higher growth compared to non-tradable sector after the improvement of a transport infrastructure that links a non-coastal country to a seaport in a neighbouring country. Further, rural areas nearest to the improved transport infrastructure experience higher economic activity compared to urban areas. This is partly because rural areas unlike urban areas have access to only a single transport link unlike urban areas that have access to various transport links.


This paper investigates the impact of reduced transport costs arising from the upgrade of a highway on economic growth measured at a subnational level (grid cells of 11.1 square km) in Zambia. Nighttime lights is used as a proxy measure of economic growth to overcome the challenge of absence of economic statistical data at this fine geographic level.  I measure effects of the improved highway on nighttime light intensity using two quasi-experimental approaches, the difference-in-differences methodology and the event study methodology. Results indicate that after the highway is upgraded, grid cells in close proximity to the upgraded highway experience a higher growth in light intensity compared to locations equidistant to a transport infrastructure not upgraded. The average growth in grid light intensity ranges between 23.86 percent to 15.83 percent a year after the completion of the highway project in grid cells near to the intervened highway, and results are robust to empirical specification.


I was happy to get valuable feedback from the faculty both from the University of Kent and Sussex University as well as from the PhD students. I appreciate the feedback as it should assist me to improve my research. It’s a great forum for any PhD researcher looking for feedback.”