Lecture on Development Economics inspires girls

On Tuesday 25th February, St Mary’s welcomed Dr Marianna Koli, Dean for Education in Business and Economics at New College of the Humanities, as part of the Sixth Form Lecture Programme. She gave a talk to staff, students and guests entitled How can people in poor countries make use of new technologies?

Dr Marianna Koli studied at the University of Manchester, gaining a BSc degree in International Management with American Business Studies in 2004, an MSc in Business Economics in 2005, and a PhD in Development Policy and Management in 2010. She subsequently held a full-time academic position in the Department of Economics at the University of Birmingham, before joining New College of the Humanities for its first teaching year in 2012, and has held a number of responsibilities at the College. Prior to Marianna’s academic career, she worked in accounting and logistics at ExxonMobil, and as an executive research assistant for the United Nations.

Dr Koli is currently co-authoring a book on the ethics of global and economic affairs, and contributing to a new initiative, Communicating Economics, which supports economists in communicating their research in accessible ways. She is also part of the BBC Expert Women programme.

Marianna began her talk by discussing the traditional approach to Development Economics before debunking a number of misconceptions. The field is rapidly changing, so many people’s views need updating and the approach of western governments has been too prescriptive. In particular, she dispelled the view that there is a particular roadmap towards development, as the circumstances of each country vary massively and they do not follow the same path that rich countries took. She went on to discuss the spread of mobile phones (including, but not limited to, smartphones) and the different ways in which they are used across poor countries. She argued that this technology has enabled poor countries to overcome a range of barriers to development, such as a lack of trust in government and weak institutions. The underlying message was that we should not assume that there is a specific order of actions for how countries develop, but in the real world new technology has the potential to tangibly solve problems more rapidly than government intervention.

After her talk, she answered a very wide range of excellent questions from the girls; she had clearly ignited their interest in Development Economics. Marianna's dynamic lecture inspired us to see that although the question of economic development is a complex one, it is truly fascinating and brings together so many different skills and disciplines. Although Economics is not yet diverse enough, she showed us that females should not be put off from pursuing it and that, in fact, they have so much to bring to it. The world needs bright young people to solve the major problems facing us and an insight into Economics empowers students with the skills to tackle such issues with confidence.

If anyone would like to learn more about Development Economics, Mr Cleaver highly recommends the excellent MOOC, ‘From Poverty to Prosperity: Understanding Economic Development’, produced by the University of Oxford, available here: https://www.bsg.ox.ac.uk/news/paul-colliers-economic-development-online-course-now-available-self-paced-version.

Mr Mark Cleaver, Head of Economics