Q&A with ARN Researcher: Sheila Agyemang Oppong

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Our December ALL-IN Research Network member spotlight features Dr. Sheila Agyemang Oppong, ICED Post-Doctorate Fellow and graduate of University of Ghana.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am Sheila Agyemang Oppong, currently working as a Post-Doctorate Fellow at the International Centre for Evaluation and Development’s (ICED) Ghana office. My academic journey includes earning a Bachelor of Arts (B.A) degree in Economics and Linguistics in 2011, followed by a MPhil degree in Economics in 2014, and culminating in a PhD Degree in Development Economics in 2021, from the University of Ghana (UG), Department of Economics. As a development economist, my keen interests lie in the realms of agricultural economics, monetary economics, gender, and broader developmental issues.

In addition to my academic accomplishments, I have further enriched my skill set through an Executive Leadership Programme in Monitoring & Evaluation for Public & Private Sector with the Institute of Statistical, Social Economic Research (ISSER), UG. This program has enhanced my proficiency in strategic leadership and equipped me with specialized knowledge in monitoring and evaluation tailored for both public and private sectors. I have joined a couple of research networks, one of which is the ALL-IN Research Network (ARN).

In 2013, I achieved a significant milestone by securing a scholarship from the Ghana Strategy Support Program (GSSP) Competition for Graduate Students’ Thesis Scholarship, organized by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). My MPhil thesis focused on “Economic Efficiency Analysis of Rice Production in the Northern and Ashanti Regions of Ghana”. Prior to embarking on my doctoral journey, which was generously sponsored by the United Nations University – World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER), I contributed as a teaching and research assistant at the University of Ghana, Department of Economics. My PhD Thesis was on “Bank Efficiency and Profitability Effects on Economic Growth: An Empirical Study of Sub-Saharan African Countries.”

Throughout my academic journey, I have actively participated in empirical research, including my recent engagement in projects including: the “IINDWEGE” initiative by ICED, focusing on the Evidence and Gap Map (EGM) on infrastructure’s impact on nutritious diets, women’s economic empowerment, and gender equality, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF); and the Gender Equality and Governance (GEG) project, funded by the Hewlett Foundation to produce two EGMs on “Gender-responsive macro-level policies and women’s economic empowerment in sub-Saharan Africa” and “Interventions to promote inclusive governance for underserved population in sub-Saharan Africa”.

Beyond my professional pursuits, I enjoy reading novels, solving puzzles, listening to music, and playing hockey, a passion I developed during my time at university. My adeptness at internet research reflects my continuous quest for knowledge and staying informed in my field.  

What are some of your research interests and why are you passionate about it?

I am deeply interested in development economics, a field that allows me to explore how economies can grow, alleviate poverty, and achieve sustainability. It’s not just a subject for me; it’s a commitment to understanding and contributing to the positive changes needed to improve people’s lives.  

What fascinates me most is the potential of research in development economics to bring about meaningful transformations. I believe in using research as a powerful tool for positive change, aligning with my fundamental beliefs and goals.

Development economics is inspiring to me because it’s not confined to a single discipline. It involves understanding economics, sociology, political science, and more. This diverse approach not only broadens my understanding but also creates a space for continuous learning and growth.  

Being part of development economics feels like embarking on a journey where every research piece contributes to a bigger picture. It’s about finding insights that can shape policies, uplift communities, and work towards a fairer and more sustainable future. The dynamic and transformative nature of Development Economics ignites my passion and makes it an incredibly exciting field to be a part of.

What are the most interesting research findings from your work so far?

Some interesting findings from the current Evidence and Gap Map on the impact of infrastructure on nutritious diet, women’s economic empowerment and gender equality (IINDWEGE) shows that a majority of evidence revolves around production infrastructure and its impact on nutritious diet outcomes. Notably, most of the studies delve into the effects of irrigation, water wells, ponds, and pond dykes on farm-level food availability, with Ethiopia emerging as the most extensively studied country.

The map highlights a scarcity of evidence regarding the impact of infrastructural interventions on women’s empowerment outcomes. A limited number of studies specifically explore women’s economic empowerment, concentrating on the effects of off-farm energy and power supply on time use, access and control over productive resources, and income control among women. Moreover, few studies address gender equality as an outcome of interest, and interventions related to information and distribution infrastructure rank as the least studied.  

What are some challenges you face in your industry?

Working in the development sector comes with its own difficulties, especially when dealing with complicated issues. It’s a constant struggle to find the right balance between doing thorough research and addressing urgent real-world problems. The challenge is not just about having solid academic research but also making sure that the findings are communicated well and put into action through policies and best practices.

What is the most promising and/or exciting part of your research work?

The most exciting aspect of my research work lies in witnessing the tangible impact of evidence-based decision making on development outcomes. Whether it’s through the implementation of policies informed by research or the application of innovative solutions, seeing how research translates into positive changes in the lives of individuals and communities is both rewarding and reinforces the significance of our commitment to research and innovation in the development sector.