Steps Towards Evidence-Informed Policy In Ghana

Development Impact West Africa Program hosted by GIMPA and co-managed by the Centre for Effective Global Action (CEGA) is generating new policy-relevant research in the West Africa sub-region. This post was written by Richard Otoo, DIWA Evaluation and Research Manager, and Chelsea Downs, Project Manager for CEGA’s Global Networks.

GIMPA launched Development Impact West Africa (DIWA) together with the Centre for Effective Global Action (CEGA) in 2019. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and pivots to our activities, we have made strides in promoting evidence-informed policymaking in the region. Our activities began with a virtual Impact Evaluation Training and Matchmaking Workshop in June 2020, held over a month for 43 researchers and 17 Ghanaian policymakers. On the final day of the event, policymakers from the Ministry of Agriculture, Health, Energy, Environment, Education, and Gender and Social Protection presented their priority areas for research. With these local needs in mind, teams of researchers and policymakers from West Africa and CEGA affiliated faculty developed innovative proposals to submit to DIWA’s first-ever research grant competition in December 2020. This competition seeded four larger studies ($37,000-$50,000) and five pilot projects ($15,000), which have (despite several obstacles) begun to take off in the field. In August 2021—eight months later—these teams came together to share initial implementation successes and challenges, and to receive feedback on their study designs. Below we share an overview of the projects, grouped by sectors:


Using a randomized evaluation, Aaron Asibi Abuosi (University of Ghana) and Aleksandra Jakubowski (CEGA/UC Berkeley) are testing how the development and implementation of an actionable birth plan may help eliminate the barriers to maternal care that engender increased in-facility births and improved health outcomes in the Upper East Region of Ghana.
With one out of every seven women aged 12-49 dying from preventable pregnancy-related causes in Ghana (according to the 2017 Ghana Maternal and Child Health Survey), Chinenye Bembir (University of Ibadan) and co-authors, advised by Samuel Muhula (NIERA), are testing the effects of outreach, home visits, and referral systems on maternal and child health in Ghana using a repeated cross-sectional design.


The implementation of Free Senior High School (FSHS) education in Ghana led to increased access, forcing the government to introduce a double-track system that requires students to alternate classes due to the large student population. Duah Dwomoh (University of Ghana), advised by Chad Hazlett (University of California, Los Angeles), is investigating the impact of the FSHS program on academic performance using a quasi-experimental design.
Angela Owusu Ansah (Ashesi University), Ketki Sheth (UC Merced), and Julius Ruschenpohler (International Labour Organization) are investigating the behavioral constraints of a bottom-up approach to school management and accountability using members of the community. The research team will collaborate with Ghana’s Ministry of Education to design an intervention that will address constraints related to information, social norms, and social sanctions.


Wisdom Akpalu (GIMPA) and co-authors, advised by Ethan Ligon (UC Berkeley) and Pierre Biscaye (UC Berkeley), are using difference-in-differences to examine household electricity consumption behavior in Ghana and estimate how prepaid meters may affect the welfare of households in different income quintiles.
Opeyemi Amusan (University of Ibadan) and co-authors, advised by David Levine (UC Berkeley), are assessing the impact of energy recovery from organic waste on health and environment, youth employment, and economic empowerment. The study is being implemented in a small community in Accra and the findings will feed directly into the Ministry of Energy’s decision to scale up the intervention to other parts of Ghana.


The government of Ghana introduced the Northern Rural Growth Programme (NRGP) in 2008, a commodity value chain approach to agricultural transformation to help address severe poverty in Northern Ghana. Philip Duku Osei (UBIDS) and co-authors, advised by Vincent Amanor-Boadu (Kansas State University), are investigating the impact of the NRGP on smallholder farmers’ productivity, income, and food security using a quasi-experimental design. Impact of Northern Rural Growth Program on Smallholder Farmer Welfare in Ghana - CEGA

Labour and Microfinance

Richard Boso (GIMPA) and Alfredo Burlando (University of Oregon) are evaluating the impact of small loans on the development of small businesses and livelihoods using a difference-in-differences design. The pilot study will also assess the quality of beneficiary targeting and sustainability.
Samuel Agyei-Ampomah (GIMPA) and Levi Boxell (Stanford University), advised by Pascaline Dupas (Stanford University), are exploiting the quasi-random variation in labor postings for tertiary graduates for a twelve-month mandatory national service in Ghana to examine the determinants of compliance. The study will also assess the effects of different placements in the program on national identity, migration and assimilation, and labor market outcomes.


Launching these studies was a feat. Rises in COVID-19 cases in Ghana in the summer of 2021 led to restrictions in social gatherings, which impacted the intervention for some experimental studies and delayed rollout for others. Coupled with the pandemic was a shift in the climatic conditions of some communities– one team recounted how a shift in the planting and harvest season compelled members in one community to abandon scheduled meetings for farming, leading to low attendance. Constraints to accessing data for the study and data collection restrictions was another major challenge identified by some research teams. For instance, some researchers recounted difficulty in the government’s release of data due to the bureaucratic and sensitive nature of their chosen study. Other teams received datasets from outdated databases and had to consider redesigning their studies. Finally, the period of data collection for certain studies coincided with the National Housing and Population Census in Ghana, during which the state restricted all other forms of data collection and there was an increase in the attrition rate for trained enumerators.
Despite these obstacles, many studies have completed data collection whilst others are on the verge of completion. The DIWA team is invested in troubleshooting with the research groups, particularly by connecting with ministry partners who could support implementation.

What’s next for DIWA?

Five West African investigators of the aforementioned studies were competitively selected to take part in the DIWA visiting fellowship program and the CEGA Non-Resident Fellowship to further these collaborative research projects, develop additional expertise in designing rigorous evaluations, and build their research networks. Meet the current fellows here and stay tuned to meet the fellows coming in 2022.