Global Poverty Fighters

Economics alumni help chart the course of the World Bank.

Improving health, education, and social protections in Africa, studying chronic poverty in Latin America, and developing climate-smart cities and increasing food production around the world sound like far-flung goals. But these World Bank initiatives all have one thing in common: they are led by UC Davis economics graduates.

Their prominence at the World Bank reflects a long tradition in the Department of Economics of producing policy-oriented experts in global trade, capital flows, and development.

“UC Davis alumni from the economics department are particularly well-prepared to tackle the challenges of contributing to the World Bank’s mission,” said Deborah Swenson, professor and chair of economics. “They leave the program with a rigorous economics training, and guidance in the application of data analysis tools that are relevant to important policy questions of global concern.”

Established in 1944 to rebuild nations devastated by World War II, the World Bank now works with more than 170 countries, with the aim of ending extreme poverty by 2030. Here are career highlights of Aggie alumni helping the World Bank achieve that goal.

Portrait photo of UC Davis alumnus Hafez GhanemHafez Ghanem

Ph.D. ’87 
World Bank vice president for Africa

Ghanem leads an active portfolio of over 600 projects totaling more than $71 billion to reduce poverty and support inclusive growth across Africa. An Egyptian and French national, he joined the World Bank in 1983. Over the next 24 years, he worked on bank operations and initiatives in more than 20 countries in Africa, Europe and Central Asia, Middle East and North Africa, and Southeast Asia. He served as an assistant director-general at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; led the Arab economies project as a senior fellow in the Brookings Institution’s global economy and development program; and was World Bank vice president for the Middle East and North Africa before assuming his current role in July 2018.

Portrait photo of UC Davis economics alumna Hiau-Looi KeeHiau-Looi Kee

M.A. ’97, Ph.D. ’00
Senior economist with the World Bank Research Department’s trade team

Kee’s research focuses on international trade and development, and productivity and growth. She joined the World Bank in 2000. Her work has been published in top economics journals.

portrait photo of UC Davis economics alumnus Derek H.C. ChenDerek H. C. Chen

M.A. ’97, Ph.D. ’01
Macroeconomist with the World Bank’s Development Economics Prospects Group

Since joining the World Bank in 2000, Chen has worked in economic growth, poverty analysis, demographic economics, the knowledge economy, and employment creation. He is a contributing author to the World Bank’s semi-annual flagship report, “Global Economic Prospects,” focusing on the Latin American and Caribbean region. He has written widely on the growth effects of innovation and knowledge.

Portrait photo of UC Davis economics alumnus Renos VakisRenos Vakis

B.A. ’94
Lead economist with the World Bank’s Poverty and Equity Global Practice

Vakis co-leads a unit that incorporates behavioral science in the design of anti-poverty policies. He also conducts experiments to improve household survey measures of well-being. Among other writings, he co-authored a book, Left Behind: Chronic Poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean. After graduating from UC Davis, he earned a Ph.D. in economics at UC Berkeley.

Portrait photo of UC Davis economics alumna Sati MadaniDorsati “Sati” Madani

M.A. ’93, Ph.D. ’97
Senior economist at the World Bank in Bethesda, Maryland

As a senior economist, Madani has advised countries in Africa, Europe and Central Asia. Previously, she was an economist in the World Bank’s Trade Research and Policy, Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network, and a research economist in the International Trade Research Group.

Portrait photo of UC Davis economics alumna Kathy KindertKatharine “Kathy” Lindert

M.A. ’92, Ph.D. ’95
Former global lead for Delivery Systems group, Social Protection and Jobs Global Practice

Lindert retired last spring as global lead for the World Bank’s social protection and jobs delivery systems, capping a 27-year career with the bank in Latin America, Europe and Central Asia, North Africa, and globally. She managed a partnership with the Bolsa Familia Program at the World Bank’s office in Brazil and served as sector manager for social protection for the Europe and Central Asia Region.

— Kathleen Holder, content strategist in the College of Letters and Science, wrote this article for the fall 2019 issue of the College of Letters and Science Magazine.