William & Mary

The Center for African Development

ITPIR and William & Mary Assistant Professor Philip Roessler launched the Center for African Development (CAD) in early 2014 to research and better understand how development affects pressing political issues on the African continent, and to meaningfully contribute to policy formulation and academic literature on the African continent. In the spring of 2015, Professor Scott Ickes, from the Kinesiology and Health Sciences Department, joined CAD as a prinicpal investigator, bringing new public health initiatives to the program as well. Like its ITPIR sibling projects, CAD is an environment which affords students leaving the classroom to see tangible effects of their research efforts in the academic and policy arenas. In CAD, students and faculty collaborate on policy-relevant research designed to answer salient questions in the study of conflict, state-building and development in Africa.

Professor Roessler with his student researchers. (From left to right: Emily Mahoney, Allison Roberts, Philip Roessler, Michael Hibshman, and Tim Wright)Active CAD initiatives are trying to understand the impact of the mobile phone revolution in Tanzania, how Chinese aid and investment in Africa shape political legitimacy, state capacity and economic development, how to track nutrition sensitive spending in Uganda, and how to tacke child malnutrition in Africa with ready-to-use food. CAD is committed to employing rigorous social science analysis and field-based research to ensure robust contributions to key academic and policy debates. Philip Roessler and Scott Ickes are the current CAD co-directors, applying their expertise in both African politics and African development to lead all of CAD’s various active projects.

Projects and Initiatives

In 2014 CAD launched two new projects: “China and the African State” and “Mobile Phone Ownership and Women’s Empowerment.

China and the African State” focuses on the political impact of increased Chinese aid and investment flows on recipient states in Africa. “Mobile Phone Ownership and Women’s Empowerment” addresses the impact of the mobile phone revolution on women in low-income countries, in particular Tanzania.

China and the African State 

A collaboration between Robert Blair of Yale university and Philip Roessler of William & Mary,  the project aims to better understand the subnational impact of Chinese investment and development projects on state capacity and legitimacy. The project will begin by conducting a series of field surveys, lab-in-the-field experiments, and observational studies in Liberia, Tanzania and Democratic Republic of Congo.


Mobile Phone Ownership and Women’s Empowerment
A Tanzanian woman holding a Kidogo-Kidogo mobile phone and Phone case.

Led by Philip Roessler of William & Mary, Flora Myamba of REPOA, a research institute in Tanzania, Daniel Nielson of Brigham Young University and a group of William & Mary students, the project is a collaboration with the social enterprise Kidogo Kidogo to evaluate the impact of mobile phone ownership on women’s empowerment in Tanzania. Professor Roessler and his students have designed one of the first field experiments on mobile phone ownership to measure the effects of Kidogo Kidogo's "mobile phone drops.”


Student-Faculty Collaboration

A centerpiece of CAD is the involvement of William & Mary students in its research projects to connect abstract learning in the classroom with tangible field experience.

Over the past year seven other William and Mary students contributed their time to collaborate on CAD projects. Kyle Titlow, Michael Hibshman, Jasmin Boothe and Logan Ferrell helped research “The Coup-Civil War Trap” and Jacob Sprang, Josh Fleitman and Isabel DoCampo contributed research for “China and the African State. In summer of 2013, William & Mary student, Nadia Ilunga, worked with Professor Roessler in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to help collected data for a book he is writing with Harry Verhoeven of Oxford University on the outbreak of Africa’s Great War in Congo in 1998. During the 2014 spring semester, five William & Mary students helped Professor Roessler design the mobile phone field experiment, and two others — Tim Wright and Raychel Schwarts — will travel with Professor Roessler to Tanzania in the summer of 2014 to implement the experiment.