I studied economics at University of Antwerp (BA, MA) and KU Leuven (PhD) and sociology at KU Leuven (BA) and Georg-August Univ. Göttingen (MA).  My MA thesis in economics was a critical analysis of economic theory in the light of environmental policy with an application to environmental taxation.  My MA thesis in sociology applied the habitus concept of Pierre Bourdieu to socialisation in catholic families in Flanders (Belgium). And my MSc thesis in economics investigated the returns to education in Ehtiopia.

When, at the end of nineties I was looking out for a topic for my doctoral dissertation, Belgian media revealed that the Belgian government, other governments and international organisations had detailed information on the organisation, the extend and the targets of political violence by the then Rwandan Government prior to the start of the 1994 genocide. The mass of information at their disposal in the period 1990-1994, was never put together and analysed in a holistic, systematic way. When I learned about this, I found this so intriguing that I decided to write my dissertation on this topic. I wanted to write a dissertation on development and genocide in Rwanda whereby I could apply my training in development economics with input from political economy, agrarian studies, political science, anthropology and demography. Between 1997 and 2001, I read everything on Rwanda that I could find (that was still doable at that time) and undertook my own field work. The study of genocide allowed me to get a thorough understanding of many aspects of human behavior such as poverty, farming, cash crops, peer pressure, ethnicity, public finance, aid, human rights, international politics, violence, propaganda, population policy, refugees, UN peacekeeping and much more. It was all but a 9 to 5 job. I defended my dissertation in January 2003. Recently, I published a book (see publications) with updated material from my dissertation as well as completely new chapters and insights.

My doctoral work was supervised by prof.Stefan Dercon and prof.Lode Berlage. Since then I specialise in the economic causes and consequences of conflict at the micro-level. I have done quantitative work on the death toll of the genocide and on the demography of post-genocide Rwanda. I was a Fellow of the Belgian-American Educational Foundation (in 1998-1999) and a Fulbright-Hays Fellow (in 2004), both at Yale University. I worked for the World Bank as a Poverty Economist. In 2004 I received the Jacques Rozenberg Award from the Auschwitz Foundation for my dissertation. I taught Development Economics at the Institute of Social Studies (now Erasmus University of Rotterdam) in The Hague and at the Universities of Antwerp, Leuven and Utrecht and was a research fellow from the Fund for Scientific Research (Flanders, Belgium) and visiting fellow at ECARES (2007-2009). I held the Marie and Alain Philippson Chair in Sustainable Human Development at the Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management, Université Libre de Bruxelles from 2010 to 2015 after which I was tenured at ULB. I am engaged in longitudinal studies of health, schooling and nutrition in Burundi where I was the lead researcher in a partnership between my university and UNICEF-Burundi, involving a.o. impact evaluation. In the Fall semester of 2013 I visited the Economics Department of UC Berkeley. At ULB I am also a senior fellow at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Innovation in Healthcare (I3h). I spent a sabbatical year at the Chair of Development Economics with Prof.Andreas Fuchs at the University of Göttingen, 2022-2023. 

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