By Keren Mettle-Nunoo, class of 2006

On May 20, 2003, as part of Ashesi University's continuing seminar series on "The Global Economy: Opportunities and Challenges for Ghana," Professor Ravi Kanbur, T. H. Lee Professor of World Affairs and Professor of Economics at Cornell University delivered a lecture on "Poverty, Vulnerability and Micro-insurance."

Professor Kanbur, discussed with students how poverty is defined, explaining such terms as "the poverty line," and shared ways in which the dynamics of poverty could be studied. He explained both qualitative and quantitative survey methods and how the data gathered might be used to support continuing research of poverty in Ghana.

Prof. Kanbur's presentation highlighted vulnerability as a key dimension of poverty. "To be poor means a person is living below a threshold where even small things can knock one off or send one on a downward spiral." Prof. Kanbur recommended that micro-insurance programs should be developed in poor communities to help boost stability. Kanbur cited the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) of India, an organization of poor, self-employed women as a good example of how a micro-insurance program can operate. These women, he explained, earn a living through their own labor or by operating small businesses and SEWA gives them assistance when business incomes alone cannot support their families. "This organization (SEWA) recognizes good times and bad times", he said. Such micro-insurance programs offer security to families that otherwise would never be able to afford insurance.