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Taxing mobile phone transactions in Africa: Lessons from Kenya

19. August 2019 - 12:11

Taxation on mobile phone-based transactions and on airtime has  been introduced in Kenya and is spreading to other African countries. Some countries in sub-Saharan Africa view mobile phones as a booming subsector easy to tax due to the increasing turnover of transactions and the formal nature of such transactions by both formal and informal enterprises. The increasing tax burden on the subsector and the consumers, though, has raised concerns that the massive gains made in financial inclusion in developing countries made possible by retail electronic payments platform via mobile phone transactions may be reversed—resulting in a return to cash transactions.

In addition to a 2003 excise tax on airtime, since 2013, Kenya has introduced and reworked taxes on goods such as mobile phones, computer hardware, software, and, more recently, retail financial transactions. The most recent adjustments in taxation in the Finance Act 2018 increased the excise tax on money transfer services by banks from 10 percent to 20 percent, on telephone services (airtime) from 10 percent to 15 percent, on mobile phone-based financial transactions from 10 percent to 12 percent, and introduced a 15 percent excise tax on internet data services and fixed-line telephone services.

This paper shows that taxation on mobile phone airtime and financial transactions may not expand the tax base significantly but, rather, may reverse the gains on retail electronic payments and financial inclusion. A higher tax rate on low-level retail electronic transactions mostly levied on low-income earners that are sensitive to transaction costs may discourage the use of mobile phone-based transactions, incentivizing them to revert to cash transactions to evade taxes and so less tax revenue. This trend will deal a big blow to the financial inclusion success witnessed so far.

Poorly designed tax policy will have poor outcomes on tax revenue and market distortions will drive consumption behavior on an undesired path, so any future review of excise tax rates on airtime and financial services should be preceded with a thorough analysis of optimal taxation excise taxes, the likely change in behavior around financial services, and, above all, the marginal contribution to the tax effort that policy aims to raise. The data so far available shows that the contribution of mobile money-related taxes is less than 1 percent of total tax revenue, a negligible contribution to Kenya’s total tax income, at high economic costs. These lessons are not just relevant for Kenya but also for other countries in Africa with such tax propositions. Introducing and increasing taxes on mobile phone transactions may risk stalling progress on digitization and fiscal policy design as well as revenue administration.

This article and policy brief is a republication of a Brookings Institution news article; find the original post here or download the policy brief.

The post Taxing mobile phone transactions in Africa: Lessons from Kenya appeared first on INCLUDE Platform.

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How can we tackle youth employment challenges? Revisiting the evidence base for soft skills in Africa

14. August 2019 - 14:54

This two-pager on youth employment summarizes some of the evidence on the impact soft skills interventions and highlights priority areas for policies and programmes.

The post How can we tackle youth employment challenges? Revisiting the evidence base for soft skills in Africa appeared first on INCLUDE Platform.

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How do NGO and company partnerships for inclusive business work?

8. August 2019 - 11:31

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) builds a lot on engaging the private sector. But how to move from philanthropy-driven collaboration, which is an add-on for a company, to strategic and equal partnerships? How to make such partnerships really effective and realize social impact with a business case? Together with pioneering NGOs and Partos/The Spindle, Endeva developed a guide on NGO and company partnerships for inclusive business.

Inclusive business: ‘A commercially-viable business model that integrates low-income people into value chains as consumers, producers, suppliers, employees, or entrepreneurs with the aim of creating mutual benefit’. (Inclusive Business guide, p. 18)

Challenges for NGO partnering with companies

Why this guide? The reason is that the synergy that combines the best of both worlds – between the civic and private spaces, between ‘development and business’ – does not come automatically.  

The interest in partnerships that are more strategic or even systemic in nature (see graph), is immense. “A clear trend”, says Katja Freiwald, Director of Global Partnerships of Unilever, is “co-created partnerships based on complementary assets and skills. True value-added is one of our guiding principles when selecting NGOs for our inclusive business partnerships”.

Inclusive Business Guide, pg. 19

However, both NGOs and companies alike struggle with the how. “Often, NGOs feel very weak in a partnership with large corporations”, says Gitte Dyrhagen Husager, Head of Private Sector Engagement, DanChurchAid. And Alexandra Burroughs, CEO of the social enterprise Live Well, which emerged from a partnership between CARE, GlaxoSmithKline and Barclays, stresses that “it is challenging for an NGO to step out of its traditional mindset and adopt a business approach”.

NGOs do have valid questions like: ‘What would our target group and my NGO gain from partnering with a company?’ ‘Are we not compromising our rights-based focus when we adopt a market-based approach?’ They may also face dilemmas, such as: ‘Should we be a paid service provider and receive funding or an equal partner with a company and invest as well?’ Or, they may find it hard to make the case for inclusion – the way they understand it – among their business partners.

These challenges have two root causes: The two objectives underlying inclusive business partnerships, combining social impact with a business case, are not easy to combine. Partly because NGOs and companies are, in fact, very different from one another. Often NGOs and businesses speak a different language and operate under different performance indicators and timeframes. Making a well-balanced collaboration work requires that all participants understand and respect each another’s motivation, organizational culture, and structure – and find ways to nurture the value of their differences. They need to effectively manage the risks involved, rather than have them stand in the way.

Five key building blocks of inclusive business partnerships

Based on a peer learning event with 10 international NGOs, Endeva, a Berlin-based international thought leader and ecosystem facilitator in inclusive business, took the initiative to develop a guide on this topic. They partnered with Partos/The Spindle and others, collected partnership examples from pioneering NGOs and their company partners, and interviewed academic experts to complement extensive research.

The guide is built around five chapters that represent and show the key building blocks of inclusive business partnerships. In addition it offers deep-dives into four specific cases, an overview of practical tools (from self-assessments to partnership MoUs) and documents for further reading. Here I present insights from the chapters.

Inclusive Business guide, pg. 25
  1. When to choose an inclusive business partnerships: Inclusive business partnerships have great potential to combine social impact with a business case. Yet, because of this duality, they are not suitable in every context or for every organization. Because of the wide variety of inclusive business partnerships, in scope (see figure) and form, parties should explore what suits them best.
  2. Finding the right partner: Who should an NGO choose as a partner? Which companies should they rule out? NGOs tend to look for perfect partners, but in fact there are just good matches. It all starts with knowing yourself as an organization – what you can really offer and what you need – in order to find a partner that is complementary and fits your values. Building a trust-based relationship with a company requires moving out of your comfort zone and respecting other realities and values.
  3. Creating opportunities and managing risks: To realize the full potential of inclusive business partnerships, partners need to successfully build on each other’s strengths and be aligned. It is important they do not jump into implementing ‘yet another project’ and remain critical about whether or not they can play all the roles required. The guide also breaks through the myth that either the NGO or the company has easy money at its disposal. NGOs are called upon to use innovative methods to ensure that social impact and the related key performance indicators (KPIs) are an integral part of the business model.
  4. Changing internally: What are the implications of partnering for inclusive business for your own organization? Inclusive business partnerships diverge from ‘business as usual’ – from managing your development projects or from doing regular business. Hence, both NGOs and companies have to deal with internal critics, develop other competencies and performance criteria, and adapt existing structures. The NGO’s ‘theory of change’, for example, has to incorporate market-based approaches and private sector actors. In short, going for inclusive business partnerships has organizational implications and both partners need to be willing to change internally.
  5. Moving on or scaling up: Successful partnerships can increase their impact through replication or scaling up. Ideally, the NGO partner moves out after a couple of years, the partnership ends, and the inclusive business model sustains itself. Depending on the scope of the partnership, this can be a long-term process, although there are hard realities on both sides

Relevance for different stakeholders

The guide primarily offers practical guidance to NGOs, but is also relevant to companies. Firstly, because it helps them understand their NGO partner better and, secondly, because if can offer inspiration for the inclusive business agenda of their own company. Interestingly, companies and NGOs often have similar questions and challenges, especially those that refer to internal processes. Their issues and realities tend to mirror each other.

For other key stakeholders such as donors, the guide offers insights into the dilemmas and challenges that NGOs – and for that matter, companies – face, e.g. related to the promise of inclusiveness, NGO-company relations and funding. Despite their immense potential, inclusive business partnerships are not the new ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to achieve the SDGs; other approaches remain essential. They are also a practice that cannot emerge without internal changes in and investments by NGOs. NGOs would, thus, also benefit from adequate support to realize the promise of inclusive business partnerships.


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Note conceptuelle 2019–2022 (Fr.)

5. August 2019 - 12:21

Plateforme de connaissances sur les politiques dedéveloppement inclusif (INCLUDE) note conceptuelle pour la phase II (2019–2022).

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Concept note 2019-2022 (Eng)

5. August 2019 - 12:16

Building on our cumulative learning and a consultative process with our platform members and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, platform members Nicholas Awortwi and Ton Dietz developed a new concept note that is available in both English and French. This concept note refines our knowledge agenda and will form the cornerstone of INCLUDE’s work in the next four years (2019–2022).



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Seven principles for inclusive development policy-making

5. August 2019 - 10:11
‘Development is not automatically inclusive, but requires additional and different investments’

At risk of losing important nuances, we summarize INCLUDE’s insights into inclusive development over 2012-2018 in this one key principle. This principle emphasizes the importance of going beyond the assumption that all good things will automatically trickle down, and overarches the 7 principles for inclusive policy-making presented in this factsheet.

Read more about INCLUDE’s insights and knowledge agenda over 2012-2018 and 2019-2022 in this blog post by Marleen Dekker.

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Moving forward in debates on inclusive development policies: INCLUDE’s renewed knowledge agenda

5. August 2019 - 9:36

2018 was a stocktaking year for INCLUDE. With our members and network and at the Secretariat, we reflected on five years of knowledge brokering on inclusive development. This included 14 flagship international meetings, support to 17 projects in the Research on Inclusive Development in Sub-Saharan Africa Programme (RIDSSA), 7 African Policy Dialogues and more. What have we learnt? Are we closer to understanding what is needed to make development in Africa more inclusive? How can we best promote policy relevant research and knowledge brokering to better inform policy makers and practitioners? And what does that mean for our knowledge and activity agenda moving forward?

The INCLUDE Knowledge Platform was established by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2012 to promote better research-policy linkages on development processes in Africa. The core of this work focuses on inclusive development – which is development that goes beyond economic growth and is not just concerned with poverty reduction, but also aims to reduce inequality. In 2014, INCLUDE defined its knowledge agenda, with six key policy domains that were commonly perceived as drivers of inequality, but that could, through strategic action, be transformed into triggers of inclusive development. These six policy areas are: economic growth with structural transformation, productive employment, social protection, access to basic services, territorial development, and inclusive governance.

The focus on inequality has proven to be essential and is gaining more and more attention in national and international policy debates. This is supported by increasing evidence on the detrimental effects of inequality – not only in terms of threatening social cohesion and political stability, but also in reducing prospects for future economic growth. INCLUDE is, thus, staying true to the vision advanced in 2012 and emphasizing even more than before the need for development, and not just economic growth, to be more inclusive. This makes the question ‘what works in promoting more inclusive development’ even more pertinent.

Here, our 2012–2018 findings provide important insights. At the risk of losing important nuances, we summarize our insights into inclusive development in one key principle: Development is not automatically inclusive and inclusive development requires additional and different investments. This principle emphasizes the importance of going beyond the assumption that all good things will automatically trickle down and echoes an important observation from the 2016 World Bank Shared Prosperity report: “a road in itself does not reduce inequality”. We know by now that wealth does not automatically trickle down and that more inclusive development requires an inclusive development lens. What this lens entails is further explained in the Inclusive Development synthesis.

A new knowledge agenda

These advances, as well as ongoing developments in the national and international policy environment, required us to take a fresh look at our original knowledge agenda. Building on our cumulative learning and a consultative process with our platform members and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, platform members Nicholas Awortwi and Ton Dietz developed a new concept note that is available in both English and French. This concept note refines our knowledge agenda and will form the cornerstone of INCLUDE’s work in the next four years (2019–2022). The six policy domains have been sharped into four themes and four lenses. The four themes are: economic growth with transformation, work and income for women and youth, access to and use of basic services (especially education and cash transfers), and political empowerment. The four lenses are: social equity, spatial equity, inclusive governance, and political economy. These themes and lenses will guide us in further shaping our research and dialogue activities. The image below outlines the shift from the old to the new knowledge agenda.

In doing so, we also build on the lessons learnt on ‘how’ to promote evidence-informed policy making. From 2016, INCLUDE launched the African Policy Dialogues (APDs), which are initiated by its platform members. The aim of the APDs is to encourage the use of existing knowledge in policy making in selected African countries. With their alignment to national development processes and policy questions and their visible policy impact, these dialogue activities have developed into a flagship knowledge brokering activity for INCLUDE that will become more prominent in the coming year.

These cumulative lessons are also visible in the development of two new research programmes:

  • First, the INCLUDE Secretariat played a crucial role in the establishment of the NWO/WOTRO Assumptions Programme, which tests the assumptions underlying the Dialogue & Dissent policy framework, with an explicit policy goal (informing the new policy framework). Importantly, this programme emphasized short-term deliverables to kick start the dialogue between researchers and policy stakeholders (including a review of the relevant existing literature) and promoted the strong participation of both policymakers and researchers in these exchanges.
  • Second, the importance of such a committed cohort of researchers, including to short-term deliverables and dialogues with national and international stakeholders, is also central to our international collaboration with IDRC and ILO on youth employment in Africa. This programme combines detailed case studies on clustered youth employment interventions with evidence reviews that link the individual projects to the broader youth employment debate and learning.

We will keep you up to date on these new initiatives, findings and results!

The post Moving forward in debates on inclusive development policies: INCLUDE’s renewed knowledge agenda appeared first on INCLUDE Platform.

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New funding to boost decent employment for Africa’s youth

24. Juli 2019 - 9:00

Harnessing the potential of Africa’s youth is a priority for governments and donors, but progress has been fragmented and slow. In response to that challenge, a multi-donor research initiative aims to generate new and rigorous evidence on how soft skills development and work-based learning may boost economic opportunities for youth.

Boosting Decent Employment for Africa’s Youth is a three-year partnership between INCLUDE, International Development Research Center (IDRC), and the International Labour Organization (ILO) under the guidance of the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth.

As the lead for in-depth research under this partnership, IDRC announced the selection of the following eight research projects in nine sub-Saharan African countries, chosen from among 375 applications. These projects will study the impact of various innovative approaches to inform decisions on youth policies and programs at the national, regional, and global levels.

The projects below must meet IDRC’s administrative and grant-reporting requirements before receiving final approval.

Research on soft and digital skills for youth
  • Soft skills for sub-Saharan Africa youth: the Ghanaian context, led by the University of Ghana
  • Empowering adolescent girls with improved life skills in Tanzania, led by BRAC, in collaboration with the Gender Innovation Lab
  • Soft vs. hard skills: two long-term evaluations of youth entrepreneurship training programs in Uganda, led by Innovations for Poverty Action-Uganda in collaboration with the University of California, Berkeley, and Educate!
  • Addressing youth unemployment in Africa through skills for industries without smokestacks, led by Brookings Institution, in collaboration with the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis, University of Cape Town, Laboratoire d’Analyse des Politiques de Développement and the Economic Policy Research Centre

Research to foster work-based learning programs and mentorship
  • Mentoring young agricultural graduates for decent jobs in the Benin labour markets, led by Université d’Abomey-Calavi in collaboration with DagriVest
  • The impact of a national apprenticeship-based entrepreneurship strategy in Nigeria, led by the National Centre for Technology Management
  • Connecting young, vulnerable women in Mozambique with paid work, led by Associação Académica de Nutrição e Segurança Alimentar in collaboration with Oxford Policy Management
  • Tackling youth unemployment through work-based learning: experimental evidence from South Africa, led by the University of Cape Town, J-PAL Africa

Evidence synthesis will accompany this in-depth research. Led by INCLUDE, these studies will identify practices and strategies from ongoing or completed initiatives on sustainable job creation and gender constraints in the labour market, among other themes.

A key component of the initiative is knowledge sharing to foster cross-country learning and dialogue. The ILO, with IDRC and INCLUDE, will lead knowledge exchange activities and will use the partners’ experiences to connect, capture, and share best practices, highlight innovative approaches, and create opportunities to learn how to boost decent employment for Africa’s youth.

This post was originally published on the website of the IDRC, which you can find through this link.

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Your summer reading list on social protection

9. Juli 2019 - 8:01

During the first half of 2019, the topic of social protection has been firing on all cylinders. So what better time than now to offer a compilation of summer readings, organized around 10 thematic questions, all drawing from about 480 materials.

1. Is social protection a productive investment? 

A great report by the OECD unbundles the effects of social protection on inclusive economic growthvia micro, meso and macro channels. Daidone et al. have an article on the economic effects of cash transfers in 7 African countries: they examine issues around labor reallocation of beneficiaries (e.g., in Zambia they transitioned from wage to self-employment) and explain how design can affect performance, including in terms of targeting, transfer value and predictability, and messaging (see also 29 microsummaries co-produced with Peterman on national cash transfers in Africa).

2. What are the long-term effects of cash transfers?
Baird et al. explore the effects of unconditional cash transfers on adolescent girls after 5 years from conclusion: they find that the program’s effects in delaying marriage and pregnancy rapidly vanished in a matter of months. Similarly, Blattman et al. show that a $300 grant to spur self-employment in Ethiopia has significant impacts in the first year, but effects fade after the fifth year. In terms of conditional cash transfers (CCTs), a 10-country review by Millan et al. shows strong evidence on education-related outcomes, but is more mixed on learning. Evidence is thinner on employment: only in Nicaragua are long-term effects on labor force participation and income positive.

3. Do people always prefer cash instead of services?
A Brookings piece by Khemani et al asked whether people prefer cash or other services in Bihar. Only 13% of the sample chose cash if it came at the expense of spending on public health and nutrition; in contrast, if cash came in lieu of improving nearby roads, the share respondents choosing cash rose to 35%. A subsequent blog expanded on notion that cash transfers’ politics is messy and complex. Bonus on political economy: an article by Zucco et al. shows that in Turkey and Brazil, conditional transfers are only marginally more popular than similar unconditional transfers, but the difference is larger among better-off households.

4. Can cash transfers reduce intimate partner violence?
A summary of evidence on social assistance and intimate partner violence by Hidrobo and Roy shows that in Ecuador, transfers (in food, cash, and voucher) led to significant reductions of 25-35% in physical violence. In Bangladesh, cash and food transfers combined with accompanying measures (behavioral change) led to a 26% reduction in physical violence, but there were no impacts from transfers alone. In Mali, cash transfers led to a 41% reduction in physical violence in polygamous households, but they had no effects on monogamous families. Bonus: see the excellent FAO guidance on gender-sensitive safety nets design and implementation.

5. Do cash transfers improve girls’ access to education?

A working paper by Evans and Yuan shows that the top development programs for such a goal include CCTs – in South Africa, Malawi, and Nicaragua. However, the bottom of the ranking also features an unconditional cash program (South Africa) and a CCT (Uruguay) (see table 3-4, p.26-27). More broadly, girl-targeted interventions and more general measures seem to deliver similar gains (but may differ in costs).

6. Not only cash: can school feeding reduce chronic malnutrition?
A new article by Gelli et al. on school meals in Ghana found these had no effects on stunting and body mass index among children aged 5–15 years. However, subgroup analysis shows the intervention improved stunting among children of 5-8 years (effect size: 0.12 standard deviations), among the same cohort of children living in poverty (0.22 SD), and among girls (0.12 SDs).

7. Whether cash or in-kind, what happens when programs are connected?
A JDE paper by Tohari et al. estimates that the Unified Database in Indonesia substantially improved eligibility and participation in multiple programs– i.e., the chance of participating in 3 core programs (BLT, Raskin and Jamkesmas) rose by 117%, and expenditures among those participants increased by 30%.

8. How long does it take to scale-up social protection in crises? And how to do so?
Examining the performance of nine countries affected by natural disasters, Barca and Beazley show that response time ranges from 2 weeks to 14 months (see table 4 p.41, as well as figure 3 p.22). Cherrier et al. produced an excellent compendium on humanitarian-social protection linkages (e.g., see contrast in objectives and programs on p.12-13), backed by plenty of examples and resources (I especially liked this UNHCR note to align assistance for refugees).

9. What’s new in public works?
An article by Mani et al. shows that in India, parents’ participation in the NREGA scheme enhanced children’s grade progression and learning, including in terms of reading, writing, math and vocabulary scores. Niehaus provides some thoughtful reflections on the program’s achievements by incorporating biometric cards in delivery (e.g., leakages down by 41%) as well as on the program’s effects on employment (+13%) and poverty (-17%). And a paper by Ravallion estimates that the share of Indian households that want to work but aren’t provided an NREGA job ranges from 10% to around one-third.

10. What’s the state of jobs globally, and how can social protection help? 
Merotto et al. have a spectacular quantitative analysis for low and middle-income countries. Here are three nuggets: across jobs, women consistently earn less than men; a staggering 1/3 of the workforce is inactive; and wonder why people migrate? Check out figure 3.4 showing differences in wages across countries for the same economic activities. A fascinating volume by Abramo et al. looks at social protection and  ‘labor inclusion’ in Latin America. And in terms of high-income settings, a fantastic report by the OECD outlines experiences and approaches for covering non-standard, platform, and temporary workers.

This is World Bank original content, reposted by the INCLUDE Secretariat. Please find the original publication by Ugo Gentilini through this link. The boxed entries are highlighted by the INCLUDE Secretariat as the reading material is in line with INCLUDE’s knowledge agenda.

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Dealing with shrinking civic space: it is not just the state we have to worry about!

27. Juni 2019 - 14:11

Two INCLUDE research projects focus on non-state actors (NSAs) to explain the shrinking space for civil society organizations (CSOs) in some countries. These actors, such as businesses, ‘independent’ media and traditional authorities, clot with formal state institutions to intimidate and prevent CSOs from advocating for inclusive development. Acknowledging the plurality of repressive forces is important in two ways: 1) it shows that we have to look beyond the formal institutions of the state to identify the various, and fluid, forms of repression, and 2) it recognizes the need for an even more flexible and tailor-made approach to support CSOs operating within such contexts. 

In 2017, INCLUDE, NWO-WOTRO and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) kicked off the research programme ‘New roles of CSOs for inclusive development’ to scrutinize the assumptions underlying the MFA’s policies to support CSOs. Part of the dismantling of these assumptions is to look at how CSOs can be supported within the context of shrinking civic space. Often, this context is explained as states reducing the operating space for CSOs through laws and in practice, ranging from limiting foreign funding to outright violence.

The importance of laws to protect the operating space of CSOs cannot be overestimated, as is argued by Dina Townsend (Tilburg University) in relation to Ethiopia’s new civil society law. However, on 25 June 2019, in a seminar organized at the MFA, researchers Luc Fransen (University of Amsterdam) and Dominic Perera (CIVICUS) pointed out that there are other actors than state actors to look out for when protecting civic space. Sharing his team’s interim findings on NSAs in Palestine, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, Perera expressed deep concern about the alignment of states with unusual suspects, such as youth wings of political parties, government-oriented NGOs, state-owned media and private security companies. Fransen’s team added to this list by investigating the roles of businesses, religious groups and ‘independent’ media. According to Fransen and Perera, a major driver of their research was the lack of a systematic view on how these NSAs operate to limit civic space.


Extending the imposition of restrictions on CSOs is described by Perera as “clean hands, but dirty gloves”. States ‘outsource’ the task of restricting civil society to parties such as those mentioned above. The methods that NSAs use vary, according to national and sub-national contexts, but also depend on the type of actor involved. Some methods limit CSOS at the level of the organization, while others are geared directly towards individuals within, or affiliated with, the organization. Roughly, three ways of limited CSOs can be identified:

  • Damaging the reputations of CSOs by making accusations of terrorism, resulting in a decrease in funding by international donors, international travel bans and sometimes even violence
  • Influencing public opinion through partisan media, war veterans and youth wings of political parties; this can lead to the disruption of meetings, attacks on activists and even torture, disappearance and murder, the threat of which can affect the mental health of activist and CSO staff
  • The organization of business-friendly (or state-friendly) NGOs countering the narratives of critical CSOs

Some of these strategies target CSOs directly, while others are used to turn public opinion against them. Perera indicated that resistance by CSOs can increase public support for their work and become a ‘badge of honour’. The extent to which this takes place also depends heavily on public opinion towards states, businesses and other NSAs.

Responding strategically: adjust, resist or disband?

The most strategic response to the threats imposed by NSAs depends heavily on the context within which the CSO operates, including the extent of support for CSOs by the public, by other CSOs and by international donors.

Looking at the role of public support, Perera finds very limited support for the tactic of ‘naming and shaming’. Respondents to the research argue that this is futile and possibly dangerous. He opts for a different strategy: to ‘resolve’ the issue through the more direct representation of constituents. The potential of this strategy is one of the focuses of his research, which now enters its final phase.

Fransen categorizes the responses by CSOs into three categories: they can either adjust, resist or disband. Some organizations have disappeared as a result of increasing pressure, while others have chosen to find a balanced mix between adjustment and resistance. Some organizations, for instance, have decided to drop advocacy activities, and focus on service delivery, as such activities are welcomed by the state and less likely to invoke repression.

Perhaps most interesting are the CSOs that are able to continue advocacy by manoeuvring strategically within the little room there is left. Fransen outlined a list of tactics that CSOs employ. Yet, given the sensitivity of the matter, this list cannot be shared here.

What does this mean for donor support?

International donors already have enough of a diplomatic challenge to push states towards more supportive civil society laws (and practices). The issues mentioned above place an additional burden on donors that support CSOs. Hence, the question is: what can donors, Northern NGOs and other partners such as Dutch businesses and citizens do to address the situation?

  • First, the survivalist tactics by CSOs to adjust and resist require the support of international donors and partners. This means flexible assistance beyond financial support. In additional, legal assistance, mental health support and practical training are of equal importance.
  • Second, political bodies are advised to acknowledge the issue of non-state repression and influence policies. This applies to all levels, ranging from Dutch embassies to the European Commission.
  • Third, Fransen argues to broaden the scope in assessing corporate responsibility; within firms supplying to Dutch businesses, we need to look beyond their circumstances in terms of social, human and environmental rights only and assess what partnerships they are part of, and if they are possibly involved in business with actors involved in repression.
  • Finally, human rights ambassador Mariette Schuurman (discussant in this seminar, together with Dina Townsend) encouraged us to look at what consumers can do in terms of consuming products developed within these contexts. Given that civil societies can look good on paper, but can be ‘proxies’ of repressive states, she argued that different routes may need to be considered to empower CSOs for inclusive development.

This seminar was attended by an overwhelming number of interested parties, with over 100 representatives from the MFA, civil society and research. This widespread concern could be a first step towards a broader strategy for supporting CSOs under pressure.

This article reflects interim findings of the research projects. The findings and conclusions should therefore be read as preliminary. Final findings will become available at the end of 2019.

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Kategorien: english

A reflection on youth economic empowerment through community led research and action

20. Juni 2019 - 15:57

The research programme  ‘New roles of CSOs for inclusive development’, investigates the assumptions, solutions and problems underlying the civil society policy framework ‘Dialogue & Dissent’ of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The latest blog is by Edwin Kibui Rwigi, junior researcher of the research project ‘Towards inclusive partnerships: the political role of community based organizations and the official development aid system’.

Our research group, ‘Community based organizations (CBOs) within the official development aid system in Kenya’, was keen to understand the everyday dynamics and practices of CBOs and the communities they are embedded in. This was in a bid to investigate how linkages to the official development aid system constrain or enable the contribution of CBOs in Nairobi to inclusive development. As such we used various qualitative methods and enjoyed the participation of our partner CBOs and their members in the research process. With community led research and action (CLRA) we were able to build rich descriptive contexts of the two communities that our partner CBOs work in. CLRA enabled us to deeply understand how CBOs connect to the everyday experiences – the ‘chaos of urgencies’ – of their members. In doing so, we responded to policy questions examining the relationship between local contexts and the political roles of CBOs. Through CLRA we incorporated community members as community researchers in the project. We developed CLRA as both a method and tool to encourage individuals without a formal academic background to critically interrogate the world around them.

Our project team worked with 20 community researchers, 10 from each of our partner CBOs, for a period of eight months. Through CLRA the community researchers collected auto-ethnographic data and ethnographic data from their communities. This process would start with the community researchers collaboratively formulating their own questions on a weekly basis. The questions addressed different aspects of community life. Each community researcher would collect data and then share their findings at our weekly research and analysis sessions. It was during one of these sessions that the community researchers from the Ghetto Foundation (one of our partner CBOs) described the survival nature of life in the ghettos. The ‘Sheng’ [1] word swara, which loosely means a hex or a curse, was often used to describe this state of affairs. They felt as though the system had been rigged against people living in the ghettos. Escaping the harsh conditions of ghetto life was described as an impossible task.

During one of the sessions, Ernest, one of the community researchers, narrated his life story. He spoke of the challenges poor and uneducated youth face in the ghetto. He said that many are drawn to criminal activities to earn a living, as he was in the past. “There are few alternatives to pursue”, he shared. Hence, our research challenges the idea that young people can ‘entrepreneur themselves out of poverty’, an idea that has become popular in economic empowerment interventions in poor urban communities in Kenya.

“Create jobs, don’t just look for employment.” This was Prof. Margaret Kobia’s message to youth on the eve of International Youth Day 2018 at a forum dubbed ‘Safe Spaces for Youth’. [2] This admonishment from Prof. Kobia, Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs, elicited an online furore among Kenyan youth. Young people accused her of being patronizing and too distant from their everyday realities. One social media user summarized the thoughts of many saying:

Asking young people to create jobs has become cliché. More often than not, those who tell them are well secure in their company or government jobs. It is challenging to dream when you’re merely surviving. It’s challenging to come up with business ideas when you are struggling to meet your most immediate and basic needs like food, clothing and shelter. [3]

In spite of Prof. Kobia’s good intentions, starting and running a successful business – especially as a young person – is not easy.

Perhaps the imperative for African youth to become entrepreneurs has become even more acute with the emergence of young ‘Silicon Valley-type’ self-made millionaires and billionaires. However, interestingly, a 2012 study suggests that up to 75% of venture-backed American start-ups fail. [4] Although the Kenyan context is vastly different, the results of a Kenya National Bureau of Statistics study [5] are not far apart, suggesting that up to 2.2 million micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises shut down between 2011 and 2016 – a failure rate of 440,000 enterprises a year. 

As useful as the above statistics are they tell us nothing about the success rate of youths and especially those living in the margins and operating in social and economic informality. It is in such considerations that we see the relevance of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s question, “Can the subaltern speak?”[6]. This question can help us highlight the limits of not just the state, but also the official development assistance (ODA) system to respond to the needs of communities living in the margins. It is only through such a critical lens that we can see how ‘outsiders’ further contribute to the marginalization of such communities by defining the needs and priorities of these communities. A different rendering of this question, “Can the subaltern be heard?”, points out that those at the margins do indeed speak, but those at the centre need to recognize their voices. At a fundamental level, both these questions share the assumption that the subaltern exists. It is in this realm of existence, or lived experiences, that CLRA finds its relevance. CLRA is a collaborative registry of voices articulating the lived experiences of those in the margins, which provides deep and personal accounts of social realities relevant to policy design interventions.

[1] ‘Sheng’ is a Swahili and English-based urban cant spoken in Nairobi that borrows from various Kenyan ethnic dialects and languages spoken in the city.

[2] Omulo, C. (2018). Create jobs, don’t just look for employment young people urged.–don-t-just-look-for-employment-youth-told/1056-4707362-q7v6mhz/index.htm

[3] NTV Kenya Facebook page,

[4] Gage, D. (2012). The venture capital secret: 3 out of 4 start-ups fail. The Wall Street Journal.

[5] Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS). (2016). Micro, small and medium establishments survey.

[6] Spivak, G.C. (2006). Can the Subaltern Speak? The Post-Colonial Studies Reader, 28–37.

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Innovative approaches to evidence uptake in Africa: key highlights

13. Juni 2019 - 10:44

In recent times, there have been growing calls to use research evidence in the formulation and implementation of policies and programmes. Evidence-based policies and programmes are more likely to bring about expected outcomes, including the transformation of economies and the improvement of people’s livelihoods. To deliberate on innovative approaches to evidence uptake in Africa, over 100 policymakers, researchers, activists, funders and implementors gathered in Nairobi, Kenya from 2–3 May 2019. The conference, which was hosted by the Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR), considered the potential transformation that a strong network of stakeholders interested in evidence-based decision making can achieve. The participants discussed concrete ways that researchers have employed in their work with policy actors to enhance the use of evidence in policy processes.

Utafiti Sera and INCLUDE’s African Policy Dialogues

During the conference, participants debated various approaches to evidence-based policy in Africa and the political economies and cultures that facilitate or inhibit the use of evidence in policy processes. One of the approaches featured was Utafiti Sera (research policy). This approach was pioneered in 2015 by PASGR, INCLUDE and other partners in response to the weakness of approaches to research uptake based on a linear relationship between research and policy needs. Utafiti Sera’s approaches facilitate the building of a community of stakeholders working together to ensure that appropriate and negotiated civic action and policy uptake occur around a particular public problem for which there is research evidence. INCLUDE is proud to have partnered with PASGR and other partners in the use of Utafiti Sera’s approaches in encouraging the use of evidence in six African countries. Notably, after a successful first phase, drawing on the Utafiti Sera model, PASGR is working with other partners to implement four new communities on urban governance and city transformation in Nairobi and Kigali, and social protection and youth employment creation in agribusiness in Kenya. Based on the lessons learnt, INCLUDE is employing an innovative approach known as African Policy Dialogues (APDs), which involves a network of policy actors in a given sector, which identify priority policy issues where evidence is lacking, generate the evidence and use the evidence to inform policies and programmes. In the coming four years, INCLUDE will work with other partners to establish seven APDs.

What are the features of innovative approaches to evidence-based decision making?

The participants discussed the features of innovative approaches to evidence uptake. What is the evidence, or what counts as evidence, was identified as a critical question. Defining evidence narrowly as only peer reviewed research is inadequate. There is a need to consider whose evidence it is and which evidence is dismissed and which is used in decision making. Innovative approaches are approaches that:

  • Consider knowledge exchange and evidence uptake as a socio-political process and not a technical endeavour
  • Embrace networks, collaborations and partnerships between actors in the generation and uptake of evidence, which is achieved by getting donors, research organizations, governments and government agencies to work together to manage the tension between the effectiveness of interventions, the results-based agenda, and an increasingly complex and interconnected world
  • Provide timely and up-to-date evidence in response to the emerging needs of policy and decision makers, which requires the use of rapid response strategies in the synthesis of evidence and translation of knowledge
  • Respond to changing trends, in evidence generation, translation and use

Points to note on enhancing the uptake of evidence

  • Evidence uptake is a political and not a technocratic process. This is because resources allocation is a compromise between competing interests and rarely an aggregation of individual preferences. This requires understanding power dynamics.
  • Personal networks and relationships with policymakers or politicians or individuals trusted by politicians are essential. These networks and individuals can be used as policy champions to influence politicians to use evidence in policy processes.
  • Innovative approaches have the potential to change the narratives that inform decision making. It is important to show politicians and decision makers how they can benefit from evidence in decision making. In addition, emphasis should be on the institutionalization of evidence in government, rather than merely demand engagement.
  • Adopting a culture of evidence making within government is a long-term, systemic investment that needs to go beyond rhetoric and sporadic short-term interventions.
  • The uptake of evidence requires involvement beyond research dissemination and is about active involvement in the entire policy process and chain.
  • There is a need to understand the policy environment, how it is changing and how these changes are being dealt with. This includes understanding the political economy context and policy cultures, and how they influence and impact on evidence uptake.
  • Youth should be involved in evidence uptake policy processes, which may require building their capacity to be practitioners.
  • Because use of scientific research evidence in policy and programme processes remains relatively limited in Africa, there is a need to document the limited capacity for the use of evidence as a key factor in increasing evidence use. Consequently, there is need to be realistic about evidence use and what can be achieved.

Questions whose answers can enhance evidence-based decision making

Based on the experiences of the delegates, several questions were raised whose answers can enhance evidence-based decision making in different fields. Those involved in the use of evidence in the formulation and implementation of policies and programmes were encouraged to consider the following questions:

  • Are there certain political climates that make it easier or possible to share evidence and counter narratives?
  • Which strategies are effective in bringing together diverse actors and building partnerships?
  • To what extent, and how, should the naysayers be incorporated and engaged in evidence-based decision making?
  • Which innovative ways should be employed to reach out to diverse stakeholders?
  • How do we measure evidence use and how do we measure the success of evidence-based policy strategies?
  • What is the value of evidence in decision making, especially for governments?
  • Which strategies can strengthen the capacity for the use of evidence in policies and programmes and which aspects of capacity most influence the use of research? 

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Here’s how to truly leave no one behind!

7. Juni 2019 - 9:29

That the most marginalized and poorest people are off the radar for many development agencies has now been widely acknowledged. Good intentions alone have proven to be insufficient to reach these people. Based on original field research in Bangladesh (rural), Benin (rural) and Ethiopia (rural and urban), I suggest the following measures for the sustainable inclusion of those currently left behind.

Development agencies generally have little knowledge of, and interaction with, the poorest and most marginalized people in their working areas.

Recommendation 1: Any attempt to include the poorest and most marginalized people should start by acknowledging that they are not a sub-category of poor people, but belong to a different category altogether – nor do these people belong to one homogenous group. A solid, context-specific conceptualization and understanding of the poorest and most marginalized is needed, including:
(i) the multiple dimensions of human wellbeing and the interrelations between these dimensions;
(ii) lifetime dynamics (how people’s wellbeing/illbeing can change over the course of their lives), and;
(iii) the relationship between agency and structure (e.g. political, economic, cultural).    

Apart from exclusion by development agencies, institutional exclusion and exclusion by family and community were also found. Family and community members often mistreat and verbally and physically abuse the poorest and most marginalized people. These people are made fun of or simply ignored, as if they do not exist. Negative encounters with family and community members, whereby their inferiority was implicit, appear to be internalized. Ill-treatment and social exclusion, or adverse incorporation, can leave the poorest and most marginalized feeling dehumanized, eroding their self-image and confidence. These people feel unwanted and unwelcome in their community and wider society and, consequently, tend to self-exclude.

Self-image was found to be spatially different: positive self-images dominated in the urban area, while in rural areas self-images were mostly negative. This is most likely due to the fact that, in both cases, they predominantly interact with people in a similar situation to themselves and, thus, mirror a certain attitude. Moreover, in urban areas, they did not tend to self-exclude on a community level and most of them were included in a development intervention. However, voluntary interaction with people outside of their own socio-economic group did not take place. Interaction with people in the wider society was reported as unpleasant and often insulting. These negative interactions may explain why the poorest and most marginalized people tend to self-exclude and remained excluded from society. The research uncovered an important interrelation between social exclusion/adverse incorporation and self-exclusion.

Recommendation 2: To deal with the interrelation between social exclusion/adverse incorporation and self-exclusion, context-specific exclusionary mechanisms need to be identified before designing instruments to counter them.  

Development agencies exclude the poorest and most marginalized people through the set-up of their interventions. This can happen as a result of conscious exclusion (e.g. agribusiness intended for middle class farmers), lack of transparency in the targeting process (e.g. using methods that are susceptible to nepotism and elite capture), and lack of (consistent) monitoring and evaluation (to prevent elite capture, for example).

Recommendation 3: Holistic interventions are necessary to assist the poorest and most marginalized people. Interventions need to pay attention not only to asset transfers, but also to skills training and coaching to tackle self-exclusion and should take a community approach that includes local elites. However, carrying out such interventions requires high capacity organization and administration (financing, complex targeting systems, analysing complicated data, expertise, and thorough monitoring and evaluation). These types of interventions are hard to reproduce and implement and, therefore, require additional capacity building, on top of the investments that holistic interventions already require.  

Development interventions that have been able to address people in extreme poverty, focus on those who are considered ‘economically active’. This means that those perceived as ‘economically inactive’ are, and will be, excluded from these interventions.

Recommendation 4: People who require long-term or permanent assistance should be assisted through social protection policies. Taking responsibility for the wellbeing of these people is a collective responsibility of society.  

Development agencies showed neither attention to the (interrelations between) relational and cognitive aspects of ill/wellbeing, nor to the individual causes that trigger extreme poverty and context-specific structural causes that keep people trapped in extreme poverty. Some agencies even contributed to or reproduced existing causes (such as by collaborating with corrupted government officers and local leaders). The effect of this is that people continue to fall into (extreme) poverty.

Recommendation 5: Address the (interrelations between) relational and cognitive aspects of ill/wellbeing and individual and context-specific structural causes. This will help to prevent rather than cure (extreme) poverty; in other words, development agencies should work systematically instead of symptomatically.  

Although we are battling poverty, are we living up to the promise of ‘leaving no one behind’? Keeping with the military roots of this mantra, it appears that we are assisting those wounded by a grazing shot and still capable of moving, but leaving the heavily wounded behind. The recommendations above focus on the individual and community level. However, attention to macro causes, such as corruption, lack of citizenship, elitism, climate change, trade liberalization, tax evasion and cultural traditions sustaining value systems that reproduce extreme poverty, is equally important. There is a need to diverge from the neoliberal agenda and move towards paying attention to power inequities and focus on the human dimension. Only then will we truly leave no one behind. 

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Youth are the present, not only the future!

6. Juni 2019 - 10:16

The rights and voices of youth matter! Youth should be properly represented and actively involved in solving today’s complex problems, especially if these problems are related to their future and their work opportunities. However, youth are not a homogenous group – not all youth are the same, want the same, or have the same opportunities.

Rome, Italy: “We need to stop saying that youth are the future, we are the present and we are relevant!”, declared Sania Haider Shikoh, a member of the United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth (UNMGCY). Sania is one of numerous young leaders invited to this year’s annual conference of the International Labour Organisation´s (ILO) ´Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth’. The conference was held in Rome on 28 and 29 May and brought together more than 200 participants from different sectors across the globe. Under the tagline ‘Rights and Voices of Youth’, the event aimed to catalyse conversations and collaborations around innovations for decent jobs for youth, with a focus on the rights and voices of youth.

To ensure that the voices of youth are properly heard, the young speakers suggested that they should be involved at every stage of policies and interventions affecting youth: starting from the design phase, through to implementation, and finally monitoring and evaluation. Nothing for the youth, without the youth. This means that youth should also be at the table where the real decision-making power is, including advisory committees, steering groups, and trade union boards. Mainstreaming youth engagement should become the norm.

During the conference it was confirmed that ensuring decent jobs for all young people requires collective action and an inclusive approach. It is, therefore, important to acknowledge the heterogeneous nature of youth as a social group. Governments, academia, civil society organizations, and others need to introduce more nuances to the debate, accepting that different groups have different needs, which requires diverse representation. Otherwise, those lacking the proper recognition, access and representation will be left behind.

The research initiative ‘Boosting decent employment for Africa’s youth’ – a joint effort by  INCLUDECanada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) – aims to deepen the knowledge and country evidence base on enhancing soft and digital skills for youth; fostering effective work-based learning and mentorship programmes; tackling gender constraints that hold women back; and identifying strategies for boosting the demand for labour. This is done under the umbrella of the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth. The conference allowed us to share this initiative.

On the first day, we presented the initiative in the plenary session on the collective impact of partners for Decent Jobs for Youth. This panel included speakers from the International Trade Centre, the International Telecommunications Union, and ILO. Then an interactive presentation was made on the initiative during the marketplace sessions, where the eight research projects that kicked off the initiative were showcased, as well as plans for the synthesis of evidence, reviews and policy engagement. The second day started with the moderation of a round table discussion on how to close the evidence gap at the strategic partners’ breakfast meeting, which brought together several representatives of organizations working in the knowledge field, such as JPAL, the Geneva Graduate Institute, UNICEF, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and ILO. This was followed by a contribution to the expert session ‘Supporting the transition to decent jobs among youth in the rural economy’ and participation in the post-conference meeting of the Youth Employment Funders Group, under the theme ‘Keeping Youth Voices at the Forefront of our Investments’. This meeting brought together over 20 multilateral organizations and international donors, including private foundations, working together to generate and share knowledge on what works in the field of youth employment.

These various exchanges and interactions confirmed that our joint research initiative is well aligned with the spirit of the Global Initiative and has an important role to play in bringing together the resources and expertise of diverse partners and integrating youth not only as beneficiaries, but as key actors in the research process to maximize the positive impact of investments in youth employment and to make the existing knowledge more accessible.

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Is inclusive growth an oxymoron?

4. Juni 2019 - 15:54

After participating in two events on inequality at the Spring Meetings – Making Growth Work for the Poor and Income Inequality Matters: How to Ensure Economic Growth Benefits the Many and Not the Few, I received a surprising number of emails asking whether my remarks on the importance of addressing rising inequality meant I had abandoned growth as the main priority for developing countries. One thing I certainly took away from this correspondence: Inequality is too complex a phenomenon to address in a brief session at the Spring Meetings.

This is why the Institute of Fiscal Studies in London (IFS) has put together an ambitious, multi-disciplinary project, headed by Nobel Prize winner Angus Deaton, the so-called Deaton Review, to understand the multiple aspects of inequality and propose appropriate policies. Pointedly, the project is called “Inequalities in the twenty-first century” – note the plural.  The multi-disciplinary project brings together experts from Economics, Political Science, Sociology, and Public Health aiming at a comprehensive yet nuanced, and most importantly balanced discussion of “inequality.”

Recognizing the complexity of the issues, the project has a four-year timeline. I hope by its completion, we will have a better grasp of why “inequality” (I am going back to the singular following convention) is such an important concern today, both among policy makers and the public, and what we can do to address it. But, for those of you who may not want to wait that long, here are my two cents.

Both theoretically and empirically, we expect growth and changes in the income distribution to go hand in hand. But this positive relationship neither means an increase in income inequality is inevitable nor implies that it is desirable. Growth is simply the size of the pie increasing. In principle, a bigger pie makes it feasible to give everyone a piece of at least the same size as before, and possibly more. This is the essence of the so-called Pareto criterion invoked by economists. But markets do not guarantee that as the pie grows, all its slices will increase – some can get smaller. Policy is needed to encourage inclusive growth.

Why should we care about equal distribution of the pie?  I have three responses.

First, people care about “fairness”. Large inequalities in income or wealth are often viewed as unfair. To be clear, I am not advocating complete equality where everyone receives exactly the same piece of the pie independent of competence, effort and the demands of the market. This would create the classic moral hazard problem economists worry about. But the vast inequalities observed today are hard to justify based on these factors alone. Conversely, there is little evidence that a more equal distribution of income or wealth by itself reduces incentives to work and contribute to society.

Second, even if one does not care about inequality at all, in practice large inequalities create social unrest. We do not need to go as far as invoking the French or October revolutions. In recent years, sound economic policies that produced large aggregate gains have also generated considerable backlash where they generated winners and uncompensated losers. And this backlash can impede further growth when those left behind block further change. Trade reforms and the hyper-globalization of the past three decades are prime examples. The backlash against globalization we currently experience in many advanced economies shows not only that inequality matters to people, but also that the perception of being left behind interferes with policies that would promote growth.

Lastly, big inequalities in income and wealth often translate in inequalities in opportunity. There is evidence that rising income and wealth inequality in many advanced economies is driving disparities in health and education (which is why the Deaton Review is devoting particular attention to these aspects of inequality). People who emailed have asked me why focus on inequality in a developing country where 70% of the population live on less than $1.90 per day?  But a country will not grow rapidly unless it utilizes its productive potential. Stunting, poor health, and inadequate education among the poorest segments of a society mean that people will be unable to realize their potential and contribute to the economy. Countries where women have limited rights and cannot contribute to the economy on equal terms not only miss the opportunity to draw on the labor and talent of half of their population, but also tend to face demographic challenges due to high birth rates. This points to the importance of a different dimension of inequality, gender inequality, and may serve a reminder that inequality goes beyond disparities in income and wealth.

So, “inclusive growth” is not an oxymoron. Rather, inclusiveness may be the only way to achieve growth today, in developed and developing economies alike.

This article was originally published in the World Bank’s Let’s Talk Development blog

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ITC’s contribution to export competitiveness and farmer livelihoods

21. Mai 2019 - 11:38

Wageningen University & Research (WUR) published the following report on a research project that took place in the same context as the research project by NWO/WOTRO and INCLUDE on Productive Employment in the Segmented Markets of Fresh Produce:

‘ITC’s contribution to export competitiveness and farmer livelihoods: verification of ITC’s intervention logic in the avocado sector in Kenya

Both organizations have collaborated on some specific components of this research, particularly on farmer groups and livelihoods.

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The rise of cash+ programmes in Sub-Saharan Africa: towards integrated approaches at last?

20. Mai 2019 - 13:12

The evidence base for the positive impact of cash transfers on inclusive development is overwhelming, and still increasing. In the meantime, policy discussions on nationalized social protection in Africa are turning from asking ‘if’ to ‘how’: drawing on insights from programmes that integrate cash transfers with other social policies. These ‘cash+’ programmes seem to be the road ahead in expanding social protection in Sub Saharan Africa.

The recent Transfer Project workshop, which took place in Arusha, Tanzania in April 2019, illustrated how the evidence on the various ways in which cash transfers contribute to social and economic development is stacking up. The vast majority of studies shared in the workshop show how the various intermediate indicators of economic development, such as nutritional status, household resilience, women’s empowerment and the possession of productive assets, are improved through cash transfer programmes. These benefits are not only enjoyed at the household level, but spill-over effects also contribute to the development of local economies and communities.

To read more about the findings discussed in the workshop, see:
– The special edition of Ugo Gentillini’s (World Bank) weekly newsletter
– A video of the top 10 takeaways from the workshop
– The Transfer Project website, containing all presentations and a workshop summary
– INCLUDE’s poster presentation at the workshop:  ‘Improving cost-effectiveness of social protection through better coordination and implementation’, based on findings of the 7 research projects on social protection in INCLUDE’s RIDSSA research programme From evidence…

This positive image of cash transfers aligns well with the conclusions of INCLUDE’s synthesis study on the contribution of social protection to inclusive development in Sub-Saharan Africa and the conference ‘Social protection for inclusive growth in Africa’, hosted by INCLUDE and the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) in Kampala, Uganda on 21 June 2018. Both the synthesis study and the report show the need for a change in thinking about social protection as a mere safety net, towards seeing it as a driver for social and economic development.

This apparent consensus on the various benefits of social protection should not stop us from undertaking new research on the conditionalities for effective and inclusive social protection. There is still a large demand for research on effective policies, albeit with slightly changing priorities. Some of the issues identified in INCLUDE’s synthesis study are:

  • The long-term benefits of cash transfers and other forms of social protection
  • Effective governance, including cooperation with the private sector and civil society
  • How complementarity between various social (protection) policies can be increased
  • What modes of social protection best benefit the extreme poor and marginalized people
  • Context-specific studies, focusing on spatial and social equity
  • What types of social protection policies have the best cost-benefit ratios

Knowing that social protection works, a central question is: for whom does it work? To answer this question, research needs to continue to carefully examine the various mechanisms driving lack of impact, exclusion from programmes and unintended negative consequences. For instance, effective programmes that are ‘gender blind’ are likely to increase, rather than decrease, gender inequalities. Moreover, while cash transfers can reduce the economic need for child labour, they can also increase or maintain the need for child labour. Using an ‘inclusiveness lens’ in research, including focusing on the specific additional constraints of women and other vulnerable groups, becomes even more essential in the context of rising inequalities in Sub-Saharan Africa.

…through action…

In their 2016 book From Evidence to Action, FAO and UNICEF showed the evidence base on cash transfers, which in the past was predominantly built on studies in Latin America, but now includes impact evaluations of programmes in Sub-Saharan Africa. This book marks the rise of social protection in Africa since the turn of the century, and shows how evidence has contributed to the policy dialogue between national governments, international donors, researchers and implementing partners leading to this rise. Building on the 2010 Yaoundé Tripartite Declaration to install national social protection floors, the number of social protection programmes in Sub-Saharan Africa has tripled in the last two decades, with more and more programmes being funded by national governments instead of international donors.

Representatives of African governments in the workshop underlined the importance of evidence in this shift. As one official put it: “In Malawi, evidence has helped to install the Social Cash Transfer Programme […] The impact evaluation is my Bible”. However, the limited use of evidence is also acknowledged, and a different official pointed out that: “evidence had a backseat in the way we were doing things, but now I realize that it should be put in the forefront. You cannot create a social protection policy without evidential support”.

…to improvement: horizontal and vertical expansion

Backed by evidence or not, the rise of social protection continues. With the number of programmes increasing, challenges lie in upscaling, integrating and increasing coverage.

According to World Bank’s The State of Social Safety Nets 2018, in terms of spending on safety nets as a percentage of GDP, Sub-Saharan Africa almost heads the list, with Europe and Central Asia the only regions with higher relative spending. However, this figure is misleading: comparing absolute spending (as per capita expenditure) between regions, the median annual spending on safety nets in Sub-Saharan Africa is only USD 16 PPP, bringing up the rear. Looking at coverage, Sub-Saharan Africa also trails, with only 24% of its population receiving any type of formal social protection, including labour programmes. Moreover, between country differences are large. The Seychelles, Mauritius, South Africa, Namibia and Lesotho together have higher annual spending on social safety nets than all other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa combined. Coverage of the poorest quintiles are as low as 2% for countries like Rwanda, Burkina Faso and Zimbabwe. While the number of households receiving cash transfers has increased tremendously in the past decade, there remains a huge challenge in the horizontal expansion of social protection, including increasing equity between regions and social groups.

Another challenge is how to increase the benefits of programmes, including through the integration of various interventions. While old age pensions exceed USD 100 per month in various countries, other cash transfers can be as small as USD 8 per household in other countries. A key challenge, therefore, is to increase transfer sizes and avoid households falling back into poverty when they ‘graduate’ from programmes and lose entitlements.

The rise of cash+ programmes

The most notable development we see is the start of integrating cash transfers with other social protection programmes or social policies (cash+ programmes). This is essential for three main reasons: first, the rise of social protection has led to a highly fragmented landscape, where programmes overlap and exclude some people. Integrating efforts can result in more efficient resource allocation. Second, integrated approaches can benefit those with multiple constraints (such as a lack of income combined with ill health) and lift them out of poverty. Such sequential, multifaceted programmes have the potential to lift the extreme poor out of poverty. Third, establishing linkages between cash transfers and other social policies also enables strategic linkages between various ministries and their objectives. This, in turn, can increase support and invoke additional investments in social protection under various umbrellas.

While countries like Ethiopia (through its Productive Safety Net Programme) and Tanzania (through its Productive Social Safety Net) have integrated cash transfers with public works programmes, the number of integrated approaches is limited at the national level. However, recently, various new cash+ initiatives have commenced:

  • in Mali, cash transfers are combined with asset transfers (livestock and agricultural inputs) to combat food insecurity
  • in Burkina Faso, cash transfers are combined with parental coaching, education, water, sanitation and hygiene and other interventions for improving child development
  • in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, cash transfers and public works are combined with the promotion of employability and the strengthening of institutions to fight poverty in the context of urbanization
  • in Malawi, cash transfers are aligned with interventions for nutrition
  • in Mozambique, child grants are combined with nutritional support and individual care plans

This shift towards cash+ is certainly commendable and marks a multidimensional approach towards poverty. However, it poses new (and old) challenges for effective and inclusive design and implementation. For instance, more than before, there is a need to evaluate the conditions under which interventions are complementary. As shown by the research project ‘Social and Health Policies for Inclusive Growth‘, the complementarity of programmes is not a given, but depends on adequate design and implementation.

Also, gaining political support for integrated programmes is challenging and conditional on the support of the various objectives of governments. And while integrated programmes are more likely to support vulnerable groups, a close eye needs to be kept on their inclusion. These issues constitute a major challenge for researchers, policymakers and practitioners in the near future. With various conferences on social protection coming up in 2019, there is ample space to discuss these.

Some of the events on social protection coming up in 2019:
– The PEG-NET annual conference ‘Promoting social, economic and socio-political development through social protection’
– The IFSW European conference ‘Social protection and human dignity
– ILO’s ‘Global social protection week

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Kategorien: english