State of the Planet

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Student Researcher Helps Promote Trade and Investment in Sub-Saharan Africa

by Kaci Fowler

Philipp Petermann
Philipp Petermann is a student researcher from the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris, or Sciences Po.

Originally from Germany, Philipp Petermann comes to the Earth Institute through an exchange program between Columbia University and the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris, or Sciences Po, a public research and higher education institution in Paris, France. In May, Philipp will graduate with a dual Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Economics from Sciences Po and Université Nancy 2.

Philipp’s hometown of Freiburg afforded him the opportunity to live in a close-knit community and experience historic monuments like the Freiburg Minster cathedral, but he wanted to experience living in a very big city.

Philipp firmly decided as a sophomore that Columbia was “the only place to study if you want to concentrate on international politics and economics.” He is enrolled in a range of courses, including history, economics and political science, which have all further sparked his interest in sustainable development.

After receiving an email about undergraduate research projects at the Earth Institute, Philipp immediately applied. He “envisioned the research as an opportunity to learn more about small African cities and assist them in receiving funding.” He is currently working as an Earth Institute student researcher on a project entitled, Regional Partnership to Promote Trade and Investment in Sub-Saharan Africa, in conjunction with the Millennium Cities Initiative and the Vale Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment.

The Millennium Cities Initiative (MCI) was established at the Earth Institute in early 2006 to help sub-Saharan African cities achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of contributing to the global dialogue on the importance of increasing sustainable investment and action at the sub-national level. In his work on this project, Philipp focuses on MCI’s investment-related activities, assisting the organization in its efforts to create employment, stimulate enterprise development, and foster economic growth by increasing domestic and foreign investment, with a view toward eradicating extreme poverty.

Philipp is gaining firsthand experience in private sector development and investment promotion by conducting research on charters in African developing countries and providing investors with information regarding regulatory services, timelines and costs. Moreover, he contributes to the creation of an online toolkit to promote investment in small and medium sized communities. Philipp has enjoyed his experience, and notes that, “the research requires organizational skills and much thought.”

For Philipp, the exchange program is a great opportunity for undergraduate students to obtain research experience and funding at the same time. He describes his research experience as a very “flexible and nurturing environment,” and believes his superiors and advisors are dedicated to helping him achieve his research goals. He suggests that the next student researcher be “curious, dedicated and a self-starter,” as these qualities will help him or her make the most out of the research experience.

Kaci Fowler is a student in the Master of Science in Communications Practice program in the School of Continuing Education at Columbia University.

Columbia campus skyline with text Columbia Climate School Class Day 2024 - Congratulations Graduates

Congratulations to our Columbia Climate School MA in Climate & Society Class of 2024! Learn about our May 10 Class Day celebration. #ColumbiaClimate2024

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