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I am a returned Peace Corps volunteer who lived and worked in rural West Africa for three years, focused mainly on education issues. I agree with you that “local experts will improve the quality of solutions to important problems,” in part because they have “local knowledge of culture, politics, and law, which allows them to understand the impediments to growth in a way that foreign World Bank consultants cannot.” Funding and encouraging more Africans to get PhDs in economics would be a welcome step in the right direction of making Africa’s development policies more attuned to local knowledge.

But I actually don’t think it goes far enough in that direction to fund exclusively undergrad and Master’s students in seeking to develop strong PhD candidates. In developing contexts, tertiary education is far more accessible to urban, well-off, male students – and these students are themselves detached from local realities in the (often rural) places that most need help. The meaning of “local” is highly contextual. Simply being a home-country national does not guarantee “local knowledge” any more than someone attending a wealthy prep school in New York City grasps the realities facing Appalachian West Virginia. If the only experts “in the room” are those likely to have grown up in the capital (or another major) city who went to the best private schools, we’ll have continued the problem of "experts" with limited expertise. EAs should take care not to encourage misalignment between policymakers & rural communities in the global south, especially given the perverse effect this has had in developed nations.

Greater impact may come from funding quality rural education initiatives from the primary and secondary level through the tertiary level [as Educaid, for example, does in Sierra Leone]. This could enable more poor, female, and/or rural students to become educated policy leaders and make changes at the national level (that many are already making at the grassroots level).