STEG Working Paper

Remotely-Sensed Market Activity as a Short-Run Economic Indicator in Rural Areas of Developing Countries

Tillmann von Carnap


Effective targeting of spatial policies and their rigorous evaluation require relevant and accurate data. With the majority of the world’s poor depending on agriculture and informal businesses for their livelihoods, information on these sectors is particularly valuable. I use high-frequency satellite imagery to map rural marketplaces across large geographies and track activity within them in realtime. I show that the method accurately detects existing markets and that measured activity not only correlates with alternative indicators, but also expands their temporal and geographical detail. Focusing on Kenya and Ethiopia, I present applications of the novel method to the effects of lockdowns and violent conflict on market activity.

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