Student Stories: From DEV 309 to Analyzing WAEMU's Impact on Trade

Julia Conrad head shotJulia Conrad is a second-year MPA/ID student at Harvard Kennedy School. She was accepted into the Growth Lab's 2022 Summer Internship Program and contributed to the newly formed Pan-Africa research agenda. Our team is exploring the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the underlying constraints that have held African nations back from economic diversification and structural transformation.

Why did you apply to be a Growth Lab intern?
In Fall 2021, I completed the Development Policy Strategy (DEV-309) course with Professor Ricardo Hausmann. It was a great learning experience and one that I hoped to build on with this opportunity. As the regional focus of the internship was Africa, it was especially interesting and fitting to my background and experience.

What did you work on this summer?
For the case of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), I analyzed how the establishment of a regional economic bloc has translated into increased trade and investment among member countries and within the region. [Read Julia's blog on this research]

In what ways were you challenged?
I initially intended to talk to policymakers and trade practitioners in WAEMU to discuss the Growth Lab's research agenda on AfCFTA and to receive feedback on some tools that were developed. Unfortunately, the outreach via Zoom/email was more difficult than expected, also given that my internship fell into the holiday season of many institutions and ministries.

What was your most exciting experience?
I very much enjoyed the Growth Lab's Development Talk seminar with economist and Namibian Finance Minister Iipumbu Wendelinus Shiimi.

What advice would you give future Growth Lab interns?
I believe it could be more fruitful to work on a research question as a team of interns or to be paired with a full-time Growth Lab research staff. Therefore, I recommend future interns consider aligning in advance.

What’s next for you?
I am leaving for a trekking trip to the Peruvian Andes and after I will attempt to climb Cotopaxi in Ecuador (wish me good luck!).