Thursday, May 31, 2012

Saturday, May 19, 2012

How (not) to use the toilet.

Posted on the men's restroom toilet-door in the IRC office in Kinshasa (Congo):

Do not fish in the toilet?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Kinshasa, Congo

After around 18 hours in a plane, I arrived in Kinshasa last Monday. The flight was very comfortable: Raul and I had a direct flight from NYC to Johannesburg (around 14 hours) and from there to Kinshasa (another four hours). It is my very first time in Kinshasa. Yep, I know; although I have been working for several years on the Congo this is my first time in the country’s capital. It is not too strange though because my work is mainly in Eastern Congo; and Bukavu, for example, is located 1,800km away from Kinshasa!


Despite the stories I’ve heard from colleagues and friends about Kinshasa airport, Raul and I navigated the airport without any bribes or further annoyances. And the IRC car was even waiting for us when we got out of the airport. Then – after an obligatory IRC security briefing (we are under no circumstances allowed to walk on the street!) and a meeting with the Director of Governance regarding the days to come – we met Macartan in the hotel. He arrived several hours after us, flying in from Vancouver (via Montreal and Brussels). After a dinner with the Directors of the Tuungane program – the program we are evaluating – the three of us worked until late preparing the presentations for the next day.


At 8am we were picked up by an IRC car and that morning and afternoon Raul and I saw the master at work: Macartan gave two three-hour presentations: one at the IRC headquarters (with all the high-level IRC people present) and one at the UK Embassy (with all the high-level people from DFID present). One major thing that stands out from these presentations and the discussion that we had afterwards is that it is impressive to see how both the IRC and DFID want to learn from the evaluation for future programming.[1] After a walk along the Congo river (with a view on Brazzaville on the other side), we had dinner with DFID and IRC: very important (and good fun) to also get to know each other better socially. After all this and when back in the hotel the three of us talked about our dissertations (fantastic), and we were late in bed again.


The main reason to be here is to present the results of the Tuungane 1 evaluation (2006-2011). In upcoming years, however, we will also lead the evaluation of Tuungane 2 (2011-2014) – a program several times larger than its predecessor. So, at 8am the IRC car picked us up again and we spent the morning and afternoon in the IRC office discussing the Memorandum of Understanding, the research components of the Tuungane 2 program, etc. Now - before dinner with the IRC - we have a few hours to send out some emails (and for me to write this post).


  • I don’t expect to upload many pictures. Not only did I forget my camera, I expect to spend most my time in hotels and offices – i.e. substantially less exciting then the field.
  • Kinshasa is warm and humid. That is, around 2pm one really wants to take a shower.
  • Talking about showers. The hotel we stay in has a hot shower! So, last Monday, I had a hot shower (i.e. actually hot water coming out of a wall) for the first time ever in Congo! Brilliant.

[1] I know I still do not say anything about the results of the evaluation. I'll wait until the evaluation report has been made public.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

I’m Heading Back to the Congo

Yesterday I booked my flights. May 13: NYC -> Jo'burg -> Kinshasa. Then the IRC organizes internal flights, and May 21: Lubumbashi -> Jo'burg -> NYC. Indeed. Less than a week in Congo! Quite nuts. Why?

Our evaluation of the Tuungane 1 program – one of the world’s largest community-driven development (CDD) programs – is done. It's a very serious evaluation. It started in 2006 with a baseline survey (I only joined in 2008). The final survey employed almost 100 enumerators, worked in over 1,120 villages for around 1.5 years (Oct’10 to Feb’12), has a very solid (behavioral) measure to measure the impact of the development program, etc. Up to now the results have only been shared with a small group of people: DFID (the donor), the IRC and CARE (the implementers) and a set of academics working in this field of research (EGAP). As soon as we go public I’ll write more on this blog.

I travel with Macartan and Raul. The reason for the trip is to present the results to, first, DFID’s country team in Kinshasa. Then a few days later (in Lubumbashi) we present to the national and provincial teams of the implementing partners (IRC and CARE). After that Raul stays in the Congo to do fieldwork for his dissertation and Macartan continues to Nairobi to present again. I fly out on the 21st back to NYC.

I would have loved to stay longer. My team is working in South Kivu at this very moment (collecting data for my dissertation) and I really would like to meet them, check their work, etc. Moreover there is lots to do for Tuungane 2 – the second stage of Tuungane 1 and about three times as big. Unfortunately I can’t; on the 24-25th there is WGAPE at Berkeley. This is a twice-a-year-get-together of economists and political scientists from Berkeley, UCLA, etc. that work on the political economy of development of Africa. Via Macartan I was able to go there. I’m exited because there are some really amazing scholars there doing very interesting work. Luckily Raul will meet up with my team though in Bukavu.

Two more things:
  1. Did you know that if you book your flight at you'll be flying to the “Democratic People’s Republic Congo”
  2. Food for thought: I often write too fast when using my phone and select “y” instead of the “t” so often my “you”s becomes “tou”s. Now the big question is: Where is the “h” coming from in Shakespeare’s “thou”? The “h” is not that closely located to the “y” on a phone's keyboard. Why would Shakespeare make those mistakes?