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Equity in COVID-19 mitigation and policy responses

29. Juli 2020 - 14:00

The world is currently facing many insecurities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has exposed several weaknesses and risks of the globally connected world and there are similarities and differences in the impact and policy responses of various governments to the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic. This presents a timely opportunity for INCLUDE to conduct a study looking at the various mitigation measures and policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic across the African continent, and the impact of these measures on work and income, access to basic services, and political participation and empowerment, which are central to transformation processes. 

The INCLUDE COVID-19 research programme  – launched July 2020 and running until april 2021 – aims to systematically reconstruct, document and analyse how national African governments and other stakeholders are taking equity into account in policy responses and interventions during the COVID-19 pandemic. The research programme consists of two main elements, 1) country case studies of the 12 INCLUDE focus countries, and 2) a synthesis providing overarching insights into lessons learnt from the country case studies and situating these findings in ongoing debates. The synthesis will also propose new directions for policy, research and practice with regard to taking equity into account in mitigation and policy responses and interventions during (epidemic and pandemic) crises.  

On the 16th of July the kick-off meeting for the country case studies was held digitally. The research groups, all led by African researchers, from the 12 INCLUDE focus countries participated in this kick-off. The aim of this meeting was to align the different case studies and build the research cohort. All groups were very committed to making this research a success and positive vibes and ideas were shared during the meeting. A follow up meeting will be organised in September. By the end of December the country case study papers will be ready and shared through our website. A dedicated webpage to the COVID-19 research programme is currently being developed and will be shared next month.

Het bericht Equity in COVID-19 mitigation and policy responses verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

Kategorien: english

Africa’s varied COVID landscapes

23. Juli 2020 - 9:12

There is not a single African COVID-19 trajectory, but rather multiple, distinct risk profiles. Recognizing this can facilitate a better understanding of and response to the pandemic threat in Africa.

The number of reported COVID-19 cases in Africa has been steadily increasing since the first confirmed episode in Egypt on February 15, 2020. Since May 1, the number of reported cases has been doubling every 3 weeks. Africa’s experience with past pandemics suggests the fight against the novel coronavirus is still in the early stages of what is likely to be a multiyear challenge.

Precise analysis of COVID-19 in Africa continues to be hindered by limited testing and reporting of cases. There is a wide variance in testing capacity, commitment to testing, and reporting of coronavirus cases and deaths. As a result,  countries that are undertaking the most tests or reporting the highest number of cases may not necessarily match those countries most impacted or at risk from the pandemic.

Recognizing these data limitations, it is noteworthy that the pattern of reported transmissions of the coronavirus in Africa is shifting over time. At the outset of the pandemic, the Africa Center for Strategic Studies mapped out a series of nine risk factors reflecting levels of international exposure, urbanization, demography, fragility, and governance that collectively represent the varied vulnerabilities to the pandemic faced across the continent. In the earliest phase of the pandemic (through May 1), reported cases were most strongly correlated with three primary factors—international exposure, size of urban population, and strength of health sector—underscoring the influence of external contact and ability to test for the virus.



Since that time, and once COVID-19 had emerged in all 54 African countries, the influence of international exposure has slowly diminished, and transmissions have become more dependent on internal risk factors. Presently, the size of urban population, relative age of total population, and level of press freedom have emerged alongside  international exposure as the risk factors most closely correlating with reported cases across the continent. As the scatterplots show, South Africa stands out in the number of reported cases with 43 percent of the continental total. Vitally, however, the Africa-wide correlations of key risk factors remain robust even when South Africa is excluded.

The takeaway is that as in-country transmissions grow, each country’s unique risk profile will become increasingly relevant in shaping the course of the pandemic. Recognizing the vulnerabilities—and strengths—that these different risk profiles represent, therefore, is central to mitigating the effects of COVID-19.


Africa’s Diverse Risk Profiles

Examining the spread of COVID-19 in Africa since its onset shows there is not a single African coronavirus trajectory. Rather, there are multiple, distinct patterns of experience in grappling with the pandemic, reflecting the continent’s great diversity. To better appreciate these varied COVID-19 experiences, the Africa Center has created a typology of seven COVID-19 profiles in Africa. These are based on a combination of factors: size of population, dimensions of urban landscapes, magnitude of conflict and displacement, demography, and governance. While certain countries could arguably fit more than one profile, by organizing countries into groups with similar features, the Africa Center aims to facilitate a more precise analysis of the COVID-19 threat on the continent—and ultimately deepen understanding of how best to mitigate its effects.


Gateway Countries

Gateway countries have among the highest levels of international trade, travel, tourism, and port traffic on the continent. Not coincidentally, this group is distinctive in that it accounts for 64 percent of all reported COVID-19 cases and 69 percent of reported deaths on the continent, even though it represents just 18 percent of the total population. This category includes some of Africa’s largest countries and economies. In other words, this group was exposed early and widely to the pandemic and has been fighting to bring the transmission under control from the outset. This group also has a relatively large segment of their populations in urban areas, including the megacities of Cairo and Johannesburg-Pretoria. The Gateway category is similarly typified by some of the strongest health systems on the continent. Therefore, these countries have, by and large, been proactive in conducting tests and reporting cases throughout the crisis. To this point, Gateway countries represent approximately 53 percent of all tests conducted on the continent.

Less well recognized, this group also has a median population age that is nearly a decade older than the African norm—28.5 vs. 20—contributing to the vulnerability of these populations once exposed to the virus. This category also has a relatively low level of press freedom, with some, notably Algeria and Egypt, having arrested journalists for reporting on COVID-19. These restrictions have likely reduced awareness of and trust in these governments’ communications, thereby hindering the effectiveness of a response to the pandemic. In fact, this group scores an average 17.5 out of a possible 20 in risk vulnerability along the 4 factors most strongly correlated to reported cases—international exposure, urban population, age, and press freedom. The African median for these 4 factors is 11.

Complex Microcosms


The Complex Microcosms category represents countries with large urban populations, widely varying social and geographic landscapes, and complex security challenges—reflections of the great diversity seen across Africa. The average population size in the Complex Microcosms category (87 million) is larger than any of the other categories, and these countries, on average, occupy territories of 1.1 million square kilometers. They also have urban populations that are in the top quintile across Africa. Many of their inhabitants live in densely populated informal settlements, making them particularly susceptible to the rapid transmission of the novel coronavirus. As many of these individuals work in service roles such as drivers and domestic staff, they are in daily contact with other social networks, highlighting their vulnerability for exposure and transmission. Yet, reported cases of COVID-19 for this profile represent only 13 percent of Africa’s total, even though the category comprises 35 percent of the total population.

Part of the seemingly more muted effect of the pandemic in this group is that it has relatively lower levels of international exposure than the Gateway countries, which resulted in a slower initial transmission of the virus. Moreover, the Complex Microcosms have younger populations than the African median, on average. This demographic feature is likely mitigating against the most devastating effects of the pandemic. The more moderate current vulnerability is reflected in the Complex Microcosms’ median risk factor of 13 out of 20 for the 4 most strongly correlated factors.

Still, this group has higher levels of risk on other important factors that are likely to make them vulnerable for the duration of the crisis. Namely, these countries have relatively weaker health systems, which limits the capacity for testing, reporting, and responding to transmissions. In other words, there is likely significant undercounting of COVID-19 cases among the Complex Microcosm countries. Moreover, four of the five countries in this category have active conflicts and all five have high levels of refugees and internally displaced persons. In addition to being a potential accelerant of transmission, conflict is a major distraction for governments attempting to mobilize resources to stem the flow of the virus. The large numbers of forcibly displaced populations, moreover, present a unique risk of rapid transmissions that could quickly devastate these already vulnerable groups while also advancing the spread of COVID-19 within these countries. The growing number of reported outbreaks within refugee and internally displaced persons communities in Africa underscore these risks. As a consequence of these and other vulnerabilities, the Complex Microcosms have the highest level of total risk factors (35 out of a possible 45) of any of the groups reviewed. Therefore, these countries could very well become concentrations for transmission as the pandemic unfolds.

Stable Hubs


The Stable Hubs category represents countries with populations of between 20 and 50 million that serve as regional economic centers. A defining feature of the countries in this group is that they do not face active conflict. Reflective of the baseline nature of this group is that their risk factors closely mirror the African median. As such, the Stable Hubs face a lower COVID-19 vulnerability than the Gateway or Complex Microcosms groups given the former’s relatively smaller and less dense urban populations, as well as comparatively more robust independent media. This group is further distinct from the Gateway category in that it has a moderate level of international exposure, limiting the flow of transmissions from outside the continent.

The relative stability of this category enables these countries to dedicate more attention and resources on the COVID challenge. Some countries in this category, such as Uganda, face greater vulnerability as a result of the sizable forcibly displaced populations they are hosting. Overall, however, the Stable Hubs’ lower levels of international exposure, smaller urban populations, relative youth, and more open media environment represent a risk factor total of 11.5 out of 20 among the 4 most correlated variables.

While less vulnerable to COVID-19 risk factors than some of the other profiles, this group is noteworthy for its range of government transparency. In fact, there is an inverse relationship on these governance factors and reported cases of the coronavirus. In other words, relatively more transparent countries like Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, and Senegal are reporting considerably higher numbers of cases than Angola, which has among the lowest levels of reported cases per million people on the continent. Accordingly, lack of transparency coupled with health systems too weak to conduct sufficient tests could enable a surge in transmissions in some of the Stable Hub countries without timely public awareness and responsiveness.


Clustered Cities / Fragile States


The Clustered Cities/Fragile States category of Africa’s COVID-19 exposure reflects the nearly dozen African countries, mostly in the Sahel and Greater Horn, characterized by having dense urban areas, while also facing an active conflict or large forcibly displaced population. This combination is not coincidental as instability tends to drive people into towns and cities. The end result is a compounding mixture of risk factors, including dense urban populations, weak public health systems, and a strain on resources to combat both the pandemic and security concerns.

Urban density may not immediately jump to mind when thinking of many countries in this category. Their median population is only 14 million, and many of these countries have wide expanses of sparsely inhabited territory. Yet, a disproportionately large share of the population in these countries lives in cities and towns. With an average of 4,200 persons per square kilometer living in urban areas, this group has the highest level of urban population density on the continent, comparable to cities like Bogota and Kabul. This level of population density creates a COVID-19 transmission risk similar to more urbanized countries, even though, at the national level, countries in the Clustered Cities/Fragile States category are among the least densely populated in the world.

The COVID-19 risk for this category is compounded by the fact that most countries in this group are facing some level of active conflict. Moreover, all are hosting significant numbers of displaced populations (averaging 6.5 percent of the total population). These factors make these countries more vulnerable to rapid—and potentially undetected—transmissions. Further exacerbating the pandemic challenge for this group is that most of these countries also have relatively weaker public health systems, contributing to the limited amount of testing and reported cases (and uncertainty over the seriousness of the threat). Relatively low levels of transparency and press freedom, furthermore, create an environment where an upswing in transmissions would go underreported, potentially facilitating a wider spread.

These potentially dangerous risks are mitigated by this group having among the lowest levels of international exposure and youngest age cohorts on the continent. These characteristics contribute to the Clustered Cities/Fragile States group’s risk factor total for the 4 most correlated variables of a relatively modest tally of 10 out of 20. This is mirrored by the 11 countries in this profile accounting for only 6 percent of reported COVID-19 cases in Africa, even though they comprise 12 percent of Africa’s total population. Nonetheless, the underlying risk factors for this group make it vulnerable to a sudden shift.

Small/Open and Small/Restricted


The Small/Open and Small/Restricted categories have very similar COVID-19 risk profiles with regard to their structural features. They comprise nearly two dozen African countries with a median total population of 5.5 million people, relatively small urban populations and urban density, similar median ages, and low levels of international exposure. Moreover, these two groups are relatively stable with low levels of conflict and forced displacement. In short, their collective COVID-19 vulnerability is relatively low, which is borne out by the relatively smaller number of reported cases compared to total population (6 vs. 11 percent of African totals).

The important difference between these two smaller population groups is in their governance. The Small/Open category reflects those countries within this typology that have stronger press freedom and transparency. The Small/Restricted category captures those that fall below the median on the combination of press freedom and transparency measures. Given the vital importance of information for educating the public, building trust, organizing collective action, identifying and responding to cases, and adapting to the shifting realities of the pandemic, this distinction is a defining feature of each group’s COVID-19 risk profile.

This difference in governance is mirrored by their divergent COVID-19 experiences. Countries in the Small/Open group have, on average, been conducting 30 percent more COVID-19 tests as the Small/Restricted group (43,673 vs. 33,593). Despite this, countries in the Small/Restricted group have reported 75 percent more cases and cases per million people (348 vs. 201).

In short, Small/Open countries appear to be testing more and flattening the curve of transmissions more rapidly than the Small/Restricted countries. A high level of transparency, for instance, is cited as a key factor in enabling Tunisia to dramatically reduce the number of cases it has faced.

Low Transparency



The final category of African COVID profiles are those countries—Tanzania, Burundi, and Eritrea—that are not actively testing or reporting on their coronavirus cases. As a result, it is very difficult to say with any confidence how seriously the pandemic is affecting these countries. To the extent that they are reporting, Tanzania, Burundi, and Eritrea indicate that their cases per million of population are 8, 16, and 41 respectively. The African median is 189 cases per million. Using this as a baseline suggests the actual caseload in these 3 countries could be anywhere from 5- to 24-fold higher than currently reported. While not included in this category given their more consistent reporting, other African countries with notably limited reported cases per million include Angola (12 cases per million), Uganda (21), Mozambique (34), and Zimbabwe (51).

As African economies gradually reopen, the risk of transboundary transmissions via travel and cargo means the lack of reporting by any given country has consequences for their entire region. National disparities in testing and reporting of cases, public education, and treatment of individuals who are exposed, in turn, inhibits regional coordination.

Ironically, with relatively low international exposure and youthful populations, the countries in the Low Transparency category are not necessarily at high risk. In fact, the median risk factor total for the 4 most correlated factors is only 11 out of a possible 20, placing it at the same level as the Small/Restricted profile. However, by not conveying the seriousness of the threat to their populations and taking precautions, these countries may be significantly amplifying the scale of the problem they face.



This analysis highlights the importance of avoiding a single African coronavirus narrative. While uneven testing and reporting limits deeper analysis, several distinct COVID-19 experiences are unfolding across the continentEach of these profiles face different levels and types of COVID-19 risk. Certain profiles, notably the Gateway countries, have been most susceptible at the initial stages of the pandemic given their higher levels of international exposure. However, other categories, especially the Complex Microcosms and Clustered Cities/Fragile States groups, may have greater vulnerability over time due to their large urban populations, ongoing conflict or large refugee and internally displaced communities, and relatively low levels of transparency and press freedom.



Managing these vulnerabilities will vary by risk profile. While the levels of risk may differ across groups, continued vigilance will be needed across the continent as all categories continue to see rises in the number of reported cases. Moreover, given the risk of transboundary transmissions, vulnerability in one country creates a vulnerability for the entire region.

Countries with higher risks due to structural factors such as international exposure, large urban populations, and relatively older age cohorts will need to continue their efforts to contain transmissions among vulnerable populations. This will include continuing to limit large or high-density gatherings, especially indoors, and educate citizens on the value of mask wearing. Likewise, protections for Africa’s health professionals in what is a marathon rather than a sprint will be a vital force multiplier for keeping the wider population safe. The strength of Africa’s public health system is its community health extension networks, which emphasize prevention and behavior change. Prevention continues to be the priority response to the pandemic in Africa and, therefore, requires keeping health workers safe.



This analysis has also highlighted the compounded challenges that conflict-affected countries face in their COVID-19 responses. Political leaders and the public must navigate competing interests with limited resources to respond to both sets of threats. Large numbers of people living in informal settlements, as well as refugee or displaced persons communities, often in close quarters, represent potential hotspots for surges in transmissions for these countries. Best practice calls for proactive engagement with community leaders in these high-density settlements to apply practical steps to enhance social distancing, handwashing, alternative transportation options, isolation of individuals with symptoms, and contact tracing.

Competing pressures created by conflict can inhibit such initiatives—the rationale behind United Nations Secretary General António Guterres’ call, adopted by the United Nations Security Council, for a global ceasefire during the pandemic. The links between COVID-19 and conflict likewise should give further impetus to the African Union’s “Silence the Guns” initiative. Limits on testing in conflict-affected contexts may enable the spread of the coronavirus without it being immediately apparent. This ambiguity is further complicated by the fact that government transparency and press freedom tend to be more limited in conflict-affected countries.

Even outside of conflict zones, this review has underscored the importance of governance, transparency, and a free press for combating the pandemic. Reported COVID-19 cases tend to be correlated with more open governance. As the pandemic expands across Africa, a free press will continue to be an integral component for mitigating the outbreak by serving as an early warning system and helping to target public health responses.  Likewise, government transparency will be critical for engendering trust and compliance with the public health measures needed to slow the virus. A free press, therefore, is a crucial tool to Africa’s pandemic response and the continent’s resiliency strategy more generally.

Additional Resources This blog was first published on the website of the Africa Center For Strategic Studies. Access the original post here.


Het bericht Africa’s varied COVID landscapes verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

Kategorien: english

COVID-19 and governance in Africa: emerging issues

22. Juli 2020 - 14:01

COVID-19 has taken multiple narratives across the African continent. Coronavirus cases continue to rise exponentially in some countries, while others have seemingly avoided a huge outbreak. Some leaders chose to enact strict and sudden lockdowns with equally rapid reopening; others went for partial restrictions with more cautious easing. Even similar interventions have been shown to work in certain contexts but not others, with the impacts of restrictive and protective policies varying between countries and population groups. Enough time has passed to identify exemplary performers and those who are struggling, though longer term outcomes are still unknown and to some degree malleable.

In addition to looking at pre-existing risk factors, researchers are increasingly exploring governance factors to explain the discrepancies in COVID-related policy choices and health and socioeconomic outcomes. Governments have been given a (temporarily) expanded role in order to abate public health disasters, protect the vulnerable and stabilise economies. It is important to consider how variations in the existing quality of governance (including the capacity and perceptions of states, as captured by the World Governance Indicators) have impacted the effectiveness of African responses and, in turn, how current interventions will affect state governance going forward.

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation defines governance as “the provision of political, social and economic public goods and services that every citizen has the right to expect from their state and the state has the responsibility to deliver them to their citizens”. Governance therefore encompasses authority, decision-making, participation and accountability with regard to how interventions are selected, managed and enforced.

The debates around governance and COVID-19 include whether national or decentralised responses are most appropriate in low- and middle-income countries; the particular vulnerability of resource rich economies; the abuse of citizen trust by governments; and corruption and resource misuse. Another important discussion surrounds the balance of power and responsibility between different actors, with strong cooperation occurring between CSOs, the private sector and communities on the one hand, and these actors (who often fill gaps in governance) being significantly inhibited in terms of space and capacity on the other. This article summarises some of these debates and includes evidence on the potential impact of COVID-19 on governance in Africa.


Several reports suggest that the implementation of COVID-19 measures has not been based on democratic principles. In South Africa, for example, The state cannot save us report shows how the implementation of health and economic interventions did not consider citizens as partners, right bearers and social actors. Another report claims that COVID-19 is being used to diminish democracy and governance in Africa by enabling leaders to claim power without following stipulated democratic institutions, a situation that otherwise occurs during wartime. Lack of adherence to the rule of law has also been reiterated in the report ‘How COVID-19 is putting the rule of law to the test across Africa’.

Corruption and authority

Another theme is misuse and misappropriation of resources, including those mobilised for the COVID-19 fight.  For example, in Uganda, government officials were arrested over claims of inflating COVID-19 relief food prices. In South Africa, The state cannot save us report shows that agricultural support measures tended to exclude smallholders and subsistence farmers, and that crucial food interventions have been suspended or suffered due to corruption.

Enforcement of some COVID-19 measures by police and the military has been characterised by human rights violations. The COVID-19 pandemic- a nursery for violation of constitutionally guaranteed rights report documents police and military personnel violations of constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens through torture, deprivation of dignity, inflicting bodily harm and injuries and extrajudicial killings in some Nigerian states. In Kenya, ‘Human rights implications of the COVID-19 pandemic in Kenya’ highlights neglect of human rights principles and delayed economic and social rights enjoyment.

Civic unrest

The effects COVID-19 and its containment measures provide conducive conditions for civic unrest and conflict. The governance implications of epidemic disease in Africa report suggests that social unrest could result from COVID-19’s effect on food security, unemployment and reduced household incomes. Further, a call for coordinated governance, improved health structures and better data argues that COVID-19 is likely increase fragility which could fuel unrest and conflicts. UNECA’s impact of COVID-19 in Africa report claims that the economic and social impacts can reduce the ability to police criminal groups which could worsen vulnerability, and fuel unrest and conflicts. Relatedly, governance implications of epidemic disease in Africa reports shows that COVID-19 can adversely affect state capacity to provide public services, lead to distress and social crisis and ignite social unrest.

On the other hand, COVID-19 has enhanced multi-actor cooperation to address the pandemic. UNECA’s impact of COVID-19 in Africa reports that African civil society actors, government agencies and the private sector have worked together to address COVID-19 and its effects. The same report also reiterates that the pandemic is likely to boost Africa’s health facilities and provision, testing capacities, and strength political dialogue among stakeholders. Relatedly, from the reaffirming state-people governance relationships in a pandemic report, COVID-19 has rejuvenated the state’s role in provision of public goods through testing and hospitalization for COVID-19 positive cases, distribution of food stuffs and essential commodities to poor and vulnerable people in Rwanda and Uganda, continued supply of water and electricity in Ghana.

Further Resources The GSDRC publishes a weekly list of resources on COVID-19, governance and corruption aimed at informing and supporting development cooperation during crises. These resources cover a broad range of topics such as gender inequality, migration and refugees, perceptions of government and leadership. Find all publications here. INCLUDE also welcomes external contributions to the debate regarding knowlege sources and experiences in this area of development.


Het bericht COVID-19 and governance in Africa: emerging issues verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

Kategorien: english

Learning from the best: Evaluating Africa’s COVID-19 responses

21. Juli 2020 - 13:26

The COVID-19 pandemic is testing health care and disaster management systems of countries and the agility of policy responses to effectively handle a public health catastrophe. Since the first reported case in Africa on February 14, countries in the region have responded to the disease with varying levels of success, with many countries taking the lead in various ways. For example, on March 4, Nigeria was the first African country to sequence the SARS-CoV-2 genome. South Africa is now leading the continent in testing per capita—27,485 tests per million people as of July 1—currently ranked 19th globally.

Indeed, from Cape Town to Cairo, many countries have seized the opportunity to combine both existing emergency health care protocols and innovation to improve response effectiveness, from building affordable ventilators to using digital and emerging technologies for tracking and other economic activities.

In the sections that follow, we share some of the outstanding responses to COVID-19 from the region, derive key insights and important opportunities from the responses, and recommend policy actions for moving forward. For a wider look at global, as well as African, success stories, see the our recent paper, “Learning from the best: Evaluating COVID-19 responses and what Africa can learn.”

Necessity is spurring great innovation across Africa

In Senegal, researchers developed an immune-based diagnostic test for COVID-19 available for only $1 while engineering students built a multifunctional medical robot to lessen the load on health care workers. Ghana has also produced a low-cost COVID-19 antibody test currently undergoing regulatory reviews. Kenya converted existing factories to mask production, with a production target of tens of millions. Other African countries quickly followed with the countries with stronger manufacturing capabilities coming out on top.

The breakdown of supply chains has offered opportunities for e-commerce solutions. Rwanda, for instance, was able to go cashless because of its high level of preparedness for a digital economy. Notably, to reinforce barrier and distancing measures, the government of Rwanda waived transaction fees on mobile payment transactions while mobile companies further optimized features on mobile payments.

Ghana is using Zipline drones to take samples to testing sites. In a good example of reverse engineering, the United States is also using Zipline drones for similar tasks after successful pilot programs conducted in Africa. Rwanda has used locally assembled drones to increase awareness through in-flight public broadcasts, and robots to screen and monitor COVID-19 patients.

Right now, 297 million learners in Africa are out of school because of the pandemic. As a result, KenyaSouth AfricaEgypt, and Morocco, alongside many other countries, have launched e-learning platforms in partnership with national broadcasters, telecoms, and private players. However, while maintaining and increasing access to education is a vital step during the pandemic, it is too early to tell if students are actually learning.

Despite the pivotal role technology is playing in responding to COVID-19 as illustrated in the examples mentioned above, data and privacy protection challenges expose the tensions that exist between rights and responsibilities during a crisis.

More needs to be done

Given the continent’s weak medical systems, many have turned to other solutions. Several African countries such as the Republic of the CongoGuinea-Bissau, and Tanzania have ordered and received shipments of Madagascar’s COVID-19 organic “remedy;” notably, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) have offered to support the design of a study to test the efficacy of the organic product. Pursuant to this matter, the Malagasy government (as the primary sponsor) has since registered a clinical trial to test the efficacy of the product (now in capsule form) on a Pan African Clinical Trials registry.

Results from these trials will be critical in how Africa responds to future shocks. In fact, there are many medicinal plants that have been part of the treatment plans in African homes. It is time for the continent to take these treatments seriously and take them through systematic validation processes to establish efficacy. Indeed, consistent investment in the research of indigenous plants and scientific trials before getting to market are crucial for protecting and prioritizing the health and safety of African people.

Where available, contextual data modeling has been impactful, but more is still needed

Data modeling assists governments in predicting the evolution of the pandemic against the prescribed confinement and de-confinement measures. It can also provide innovative solutions for Africa’s context. For example, to counter the limited availability of diagnostic test kits, Rwanda adopted mathematical modeling to implement a pool testing method that reduces the number of tests required for an accurate infection count.

The South African government proactively set up a National COVID-19 Modelling Consortium as the primary source for all COVID-19-related projections. A Ph.D. student there developed an intuitive web-based COVID-19 dashboard to share real-time updates on the pandemic in South Africa and other countries.

However, data modeling capacity on the continent is still very low. Centers like the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), which launched a master’s degree program in machine intelligence in 2018, are critical for building data modeling capacity. Investments to scale these centers and other training and research institutes in data science are vital for the development of human capital in the field.

Beyond capacity building, more needs to be done to build resilient infrastructure as well as provide researchers access to data with specific research and policy goals given that the devastation of the climate crisis will only get worse, and Africa is already feeling its impact.

So far, data collected on the continent presents marked differences in infection rates between urban and rural areas. For example, Senegal’s capital city of Dakar has accounted for the majority of the country’s infections—providing an important incentive for building better urban health and planning foresight capacity.

Key lessons for Africa

Given these success stories, here are the most important lessons that emerge from our recent assessment:

  • Decisive leadership that stands on sound and contextual scientific, economic, and social advice, not political expediency, is key to accelerate containment and recovery.
  • Full lockdowns are not sustainable in Africa for periods longer than a couple of weeks, even with some social protection.
  • African countries with strong local manufacturing capabilities will recover faster.
  • Strong willingness to adopt and deploy new technologies has been to Africa’s advantage, but this should be more systematic (see NEF Innovation Framework) with clear financial instruments.
  • Countries like Taiwan set up a task force to review and fund innovative startups. Like in Taiwan, African innovation task forces and funds need to be more agile without sacrificing safety and quality.
  • The continent needs to invest in data modeling capacity to assist governments in contextual decisionmaking.
  • More funding should be made available toward the improvement of Africa’s indigenous plants research and clinical trial capacity more generally.
Policy Recommendations

We recommend governments adopt the following strategies contextually to prepare for future public health shocks. Governments should:

  1. Put in place sustainable, early response mechanisms supported by an innovation-friendly regulatory framework, sound infrastructure, and adequate funding to operationalize such plans. Governments should start building strategic funds early to build reserves of strategic stocks for health care emergencies.
  2. Promote multiple helix partnerships to unlock innovative capacity across sectors and explore the use of emerging technologies with ethical oversight and leverage the ongoing efforts to promote local production over imports.
  3. Adopt a common Pan-African vision and strategy for research and development that effectuates funding mechanisms from research to industrialization.
  4. Support this vision by leveraging a data-driven knowledge ecosystem, increasing centers of excellence and regional laboratories as well as investing in clinical trials capacity.
This blog was first published on the Brookings Website. Access the original post here.

Het bericht Learning from the best: Evaluating Africa’s COVID-19 responses verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

Kategorien: english

Protected: Launched: new African Policy Dialogues focussing on youth, women & smallholder farmers

20. Juli 2020 - 10:23

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Het bericht Protected: Launched: new African Policy Dialogues focussing on youth, women & smallholder farmers verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

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Rapid evidence during COVID-19: results from the RECOVR survey in Ghana

9. Juli 2020 - 14:50

Innovations for Poverty Action’s (IPA) Research for Effective COVID-19 Responses (RECOVR) program has been working to track the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis in real-time, and share data quickly with decision makers to enable rapid and informed responses in low- and middle-income countries. The program include two separate surveys, the COVID-19 Economic Impact Surveys and the Rapid Response Surveys. The initial findings of these surveys reveal some expected (and some surprising) trends. What comes through most strongly is the deep interconnection between livelihoods, social protection, and food and wellbeing security that must be considered more explicitly in forming policies for recovery and longer term resilience.

The COVID-19 Economic Impact Surveys, a joint initiative with the International Growth Centre (ICG), are collecting information on how the pandemic has affected different economic agents (including large companies, informal businesses and SMEs, self-employed, workers, and farmers), with raw data already available for Nigeria. Of the 876 informal market vendors who were part of the survey in Lagos, only 132 (15%) were receiving government support, and an equal portion did not know how to apply for such support, showing a large gap in social protection coverage and transparency.

The Rapid Response Surveys, conducted in 8 developing countries so far (including 6 in Africa), are planned to run multiple times in each country in order to generate valuable longitudinal data on a range of socioeconomic trends, which can be aligned with the timing of various policy interventions to assess their effectiveness. The surveys have a core component, with additional modules adapted to country-level knowledge demands. Questions mainly surround the size and scope of disruptions to government service provision; the extent of vulnerability across geographies and demographics; and the impacts on work, education, healthcare and nutrition at the household level.

RECOVR research hub In addition to its surveys, the RECOVR Research Hub contains a growing portfolio of IPA and non-IPA studies related to the COVID-19 response in low- and middle-income countries. Some of these studies evaluate the impact of existing development programs on a population’s ability to cope with the pandemic-related crisis; others inform the creation of new programs aimed at mitigating its impacts on health, livelihoods and other outcomes. The hub also contains articles on the collection and use of data (see phone survey in Senegal) and the experiences of groups or sectors in specific contexts (see women in the garment industry in Ethiopia).


Results from Ghana

On July 2, IPA held a webinar to discuss the results of the first round of the Rapid Response Survey in Ghana, which was conducted from May 6-26 and had 1,357 participants. The sample was acquired via random dialling of phone numbers, and although it was not fully representative (on average, participants were younger, more male, more urban and more educated than the national averages), the re-weighted results did not differ greatly from the raw results, so the evidence was considered valid for informing policy. The following key points came out of the survey:

  1. 3 in 4 respondents believed that they were not at risk of contracting COVID-19. The vast majority of these individuals attributed their lack of risk to following preventative measures – over 90% reported washing their hands more frequently and wearing masks, with the assumption that these make them immune. This has led to some risky behaviours, such as the breaching of social distancing rules, which increase the chances of disease spread.
  2. Households in Ghana have experienced significant losses in jobs, working hours and earnings as a result of lockdowns and border closures. While 65% of respondents reported working in February, only 41% did in the week prior to the survey in May. Of those still working, 41% had experienced lower earnings, and 29% reduced work hours, with more than 20% of interviewees scaling back inputs to their businesses. Retail and manufacturing firms were found to have been hit hardest by workplace closures and reduced demand. These trends are expected to have increased since the survey was carried out.
  3. Around 40% of children had not spent any time on education during school closures, and the ones who had been learning had spent, on average, just 6 hours per week on education. The main reasons for the lack of time learning included a lack of engagement from parents and a lack of support from teachers and schools. There was also a clear gap in interactive methods for learning – 60% of school children reported using their own school books, compared to less than 15% learning via internet resources.
  4. Despite government service subsidies in place since April 1, as well as new and expanded transfer programs, the number of beneficiaries from these interventions remains low. Just 14% of respondents reported benefiting from the free provision of electricity or water, since many of Ghana’s poorest households remain unconnected to the national grid. Moreover, just 2.8% were benefiting from cash or food programs, which could be due to inadequate eligibility criteria or delivery methods. Subsequently, over half of those surveyed had to deplete their savings since February 2020 in order to afford food, healthcare or other expenses, and poor households were more likely than non-poor households to have sold off assets.
  5. Food insecurity came through as a stark and pervasive problem. Issues on both the supply side (29% experienced shortages in food supplies, and 64% higher prices) and the demand side (57% struggled to afford food due to income losses) had resulted in two in five of households skipping meals, and many more limiting portion sizes and the variety of food they consumed. Food insecurity was more common in households with school-aged children, which poses risk to their development in addition to their immunity to the virus.


Implications for Policy
  1. More awareness is needed around transmission and comorbidity related to COVID-19. For example, knowing which types of masks work to protect people, and who is more at risk of serious illness. Many young African’s have already taken up this role of information sharing. Strong support is also needed from community leaders to spread important messages in local languages and encourage adherence to the rules. This would alleviate the need for enforcement through police coercion, which has caused social tensions to date.
  2. There is an urgent need for social protection to protect small businesses. Only 20,000 SMEs have received support from the USD 1 billion disbursement fund approved in April, even though small businesses contribute over 70% to Ghana’s GDP. This has already had a large negative impact on livelihoods at the household level, and will continue to worsen unless more support is given to get SMEs back on their feet.
  3. A lot of effort is needed to make up for missed education and create more resilient sectoral education plans for the future. It is first vital that all children return to school, including those that have not been learning. It is also important to improve communication between parents, teachers and schools to facilitate continued learning and, where feasible, to adapt learning content and methods to suit the variety of learner circumstances and make sure no child is left behind.
  4. Rethinking of subsidies and transfers is required to reach vulnerable households and avoid them falling (back/deeper) into poverty and exacerbating inequalities. Particular attention should be given to remote households who are not connected to the grid or who are financially excluded. Interventions should prioritise the availability and affordability of nutritious food to avoid knock-on effects in wellbeing and development later on. Household size could be a factor in determining the eligibility and adequacy of transfers to ensure that children in large households do not suffer disproportionately.


The information in this article was extracted from IPA’s webinar on July 2, which you can watch here. Stay updated on further rounds and locations of the survey through the RECOVR webpage.


Het bericht Rapid evidence during COVID-19: results from the RECOVR survey in Ghana verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

Kategorien: english

Gendered power relations – a prerequisite for inclusive and impactful youth employment research

8. Juli 2020 - 10:16

A meaningful gender analysis is a prerequisite for research projects that seek to have an inclusive and sustainable impact on economic opportunities for youth in Africa. Young women continue to face a number of barriers to labour market participation and context-specific gender norms, which are a powerful force influencing the outcomes of youth employment programmes and studies. Policy-oriented research in this domain must integrate gender into its design and throughout project cycles. To ensure that women’s specific voices and experiences are heard and taken into account, scholars should deepen their understanding of the context, challenges and opportunities, as well as possible unequal gendered power relations that may influence the results of their study. Research teams in the frame of the Boosting Decent Employment for Africa’s Youth joint initiative are actively integrating gender analysis into their respective research frameworks. During our second roundtable discussion, the researchers shared their tools, strategies and methods to successfully include gender in qualitative and quantitative research

The second virtual roundtable discussion in the frame of the Boosting Decent Employment for Africa’s Youth partnership took place on 24 June. In a similar set up to the first virtual meeting, the discussion had two objectives: First, the group explored the context of female youth employment in Africa with the presentation of a newly-released evidence synthesis paper Young, female and African: barriers, interventions and opportunities for female youth employment in Africa. Secondly, the eight research teams engaged in a practical conversation on the integration of gender analysis into their research on youth employment in Africa.

A synthesis of relevant literature by Themrise Khan, independent consultant, indicated that there are four key barriers that prevent young women in Africa from joining the workforce. These are social and cultural, economic, conflict and fragility, and skills development. Her evidence synthesis paper also pointed out that the most successful interventions in addressing these four barriers were a combination of those that support wellbeing, capacity building and access to jobs for women, as well as entrepreneurship. Programmes promoting microcredit and those tackling only one of the barriers generally yielded disappointing results. In addition, two emerging areas of opportunity were identified as holding great potential for employment for young women: mobile telecommunications and the digital economy, and the informal economy, although its relevance and importance depend on the region of the continent. Ms Khan also shared the methodological challenges she encountered during the process of synthesizing and distilling the available literature, including: lack of regional and gender disaggregated data and the inconsistent definitions of youth used by different interventions.

Using this portrait of gender inequalities in the African labour force, research teams discussed the practicalities of integrating gender analysis into their research designs and approaches. According to the Nutrition and Food Security Association (ANSA) team from Mozambique, who started the conversation, projects must incorporate an intersectional approach that acknowledges that boys and girls experience life differently based on their cultural, economic, religious, ethnic and age context. The team also highlighted that no research activity is neutral, but is influenced by power relations that must be recognized throughout key phases of the study, including between researchers and research participants. Furthermore, the team emphasized the importance of making sure that female and African authors are represented in the literature to be reviewed.

The research teams complemented ANSA’s rich experience by sharing their strategies and approaches for integrating gender equality throughout the research cycle. To ensure the better integration of gender into research projects, it was suggested to consider the following key takeaways:

Structure of the research team:

  • Build mixed research teams of men and women to reflect diversity considerations
  • Train and sensitize teams on unequal power relations
  • Include and encourage female trainers and mentors

Research methods:

  • Make research hypotheses gender sensitive and formulate gender-sensitive research questions
  • Use gender-sensitive research methods and methods that take into account the needs, opportunities and constraints of men and women
  • When selecting data collection tools and elaborating fieldwork plans, pay specific attention to invisible barriers, such as women’s absence from public spaces or their lack of confidence in public expression; for interviews or group discussions, identify ‘safe’ spaces where women are willing and able to spend time and respond freely to your questions
  • Go beyond purely economic matters and include an interdisciplinary lens to complement your research with other dimensions of gender-specific constraints such as demand for soft skills or mental challenges
  • Pay attention to the politics of informed consent for all research, which should be more than just ‘paper permission’; take measures to increase the power of young women to say no

Data collection:

  • Collect sex disaggregated data
  • Understand the context-specific gender norms and possible unequal gendered power relations, and adapt your data collection methods according to the potential barriers:
    • Women’s lack of access to, and familiarity with, digital technology may rule out the use of some survey methods
    • Language and literacy are key to unlocking women’s full participation in research
    • Time issues are crucial when scheduling interviews and work with women
    • Be aware of local household decision-making dynamics. If necessary, interview/survey both male and female household members to capture diverse perspectives

Data analysis and reporting:

  • Analyse data in a gender-sensitive way (it is not only about how many women were trained, but what impact the training had on them and why it mattered)
  • Consider gender-specific norms and possible unequal power relations, also on the institutional level, during data analysis and reporting
  • Engage in meaningful reporting by highlighting the individual and collective reflections of young female respondents

Research dissemination:

  • Use gender-sensitive language and report data in a gender-sensitive way
  • Give preference to communication strategies that include women’s voices directly alongside results
  • Consult with respondents on whatcan be shared and when, and invite them to dissemination events

Gender blind research is no longer an option – for lasting change, researchers must consider the differentiated impacts that their initiatives can have on vulnerable and marginalized groups, including young women. Research teams and partners in this initiative collectively concurred that all youth employment programmes and research projects should integrate gender and diversity analysis to tackle the systems that perpetuate inequality. To do so, researchers must have aprofound and holistic understanding of the context in which women operate to tackle these inequalities and offer sustainable solutions that address root causes that affect young women’s economic opportunities.


This article is based on discussions during a virtual roundtable organized by IDRC in partnership with INCLUDE and ILO on 24 June 2020.

Het bericht Gendered power relations – a prerequisite for inclusive and impactful youth employment research verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

Kategorien: english

COVID-19 as an amplifier of youth employment challenges in Africa: implications for research

17. Juni 2020 - 9:35

COVID-19 is not merely a health crisis, it is also an economic crisis. While it impacts on workers of all ages, it is youth who are disproportionately at economic risk.  More than one in six young people – often young women – have lost their job since the beginning of the pandemic. In Africa, the pandemic has amplified a number of challenges that young people were already facing, including an increase in insecure or informal work and the lack of social protection. Consequently, researchers undertaking studies in this domain must be mindful of the possible COVID-19 implications. Research teams in the frame of the Boosting Decent Employment for Africa’s Youth joint initiative have recognized this and are taking measures to update their plans for data collection and analysis using novel and creative means. The researchers shared their context-specific approaches and the challenges encountered, and highlighted the importance of integrating gender and diversity considerations in their projects during our first virtual roundtable discussion.

The first virtual roundtable discussion on Boosting Decent Employment for Africa’s Youth took place on 28 May. It brought together the eight teams conducting in-depth research on the topic and invited guests from INCLUDE, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC). The discussion’s objectives were twofold: First, it explored the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on youth employment in Sub-Saharan Africa and highlighted the winning and losing sectors in which youth are represented. Thereafter, the discussion pivoted to the operational impacts on the ongoing research projects and how the teams are responding to these challenges in practical ways.

Young, mostly informal, workers and entrepreneurs are facing a triple shock due to the pandemic. COVID-19 is exacerbating youth’s vulnerabilities in the world of work, disrupting their plans for education and training, and delaying their transition into the labour market. This also has consequences for mental health. These were some of the global findings of the latest edition of ILO Monitor: COVID-19 and the world of work presented by Susana Puerto Gonzalez, ILO’s Senior Youth Employment Specialist and Coordinator of the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth. Although the data collected for Africa may be scarce, with 95% of young people in Africa (±15–35 years old) working in the informal economy, it can be assumed they are among those who are, and will be, hardest hit, by the long-term economic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis.

Building on this global picture, the research teams carrying out field work in a number of Sub-Saharan countries (Benin, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda) shared the following context-specific implications of COVID-19 on the labour market for young people:

  • Lockdown, or partial lockdown, and the subsequent scaling down of economic activities has had serious implications for youth employment in all countries focused on by the researchers.
  • Import-dependent sectors, service delivery, personal services like hair salons, retail and tourism are among the hardest hit sectors.
  • Youth with wage jobs face a reduction in available working hours, fewer training opportunities and shorter-term job contracts with less security.
  • An increase in gender-based violence and fertility rates caused by the pandemic is expected to lead to a reduction in the economic opportunities for young women in the long term.
  • Opportunities are emerging as well. IT-related jobs, personal protection products, new global value chain models and diverse services, such as new delivery services in Ghana, among other things, hold promise. New skills will be in demand, including soft skills and digital skills, but there is a concern that this new demand will exacerbate existing vulnerabilities for different groups of youth.
  • Gender and diversity considerations, such as socioeconomic status, ethnicity, location etc., will affect how youth access new job opportunities post-pandemic.
  • The pandemic highlights the importance of decent employment and exposes the risks and fragilities associated with informality. A number of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) now have an incentive to register. There is hope that opportunities in the key productive sectors will be prioritized to create decent jobs for youth post-COVID-19.
  • Political engagement plays a critical role. The COVID-19 crisis may provide an excellent opportunity to adjust or completely redesign a number of national policies related to stimulating youth education and employment.

The research teams also discussed the implications of this changing landscape on short-term data collection activities and how it might taint the results of their studies. Nicholas Awortwi, Director of the Institute of Local Government Studies (ILGS) in Ghana, kick-started the discussion. Nicholas shared the importance of being flexible in terms of planning and creativity in finding ways of using the COVID-19 crisis to generate knowledge and integrate it into primary research plans. He experienced this first-hand when conducting a survey on how Ghanaian local governments are reacting to COVID-19 on the local level, in preparation for the launching of the Democratic Development Local Governance (DDLG) platform. One way is to adapt field activities and transition to phone surveys and interviews. Although it has some shortcomings, this method may be possible for a number of researchers. The experience of ILGS shows that in addition to new problems, COVID-19 has amplified a number of challenges already faced by respondents prior to the pandemic. Thus, such an approach may generate new, but also more profound, insights into the ongoing research.

The importance of possible COVID-19 implications for respondents, such as the emergence of new or exacerbation of existing challenges, and the consequent need for adjusted data collection plans was agreed on by all research teams. The researchers are also using new technology and social media to remain in contact with respondents and stakeholders (including WhatsApp groups). This said, remote data collection may prove challenging for certain groups of young people, especially young women, as not all have access to the Internet or control over their mobile phones. As a result, teams are putting in place mitigating strategies to ensure that no respondent is eliminated unfairly. The researchers agreed that the data collected prior to the pandemic will have to be revisited and adjusted, and that additional data may need to be collected to capture the growing demand for new skills and sectors post-COVID-19. Other teams have taken the opportunity to include a dedicated COVID-19 lens to their research by adding a short survey module to gain a better understanding of how the lives of youth are impacted by the current pandemic. In one case, these findings will complement the initial analysis and shed light on the role of soft skills in how young people weather the crisis. The research teams collectively agreed that the pandemic will surely have consequences for the recommendations that emerge from the ongoing studies for policymakers and practitioners.


This article is based on discussions during a virtual roundtable organized by IDRC in partnership with INCLUDE and ILO on 28 May 2020.

Het bericht COVID-19 as an amplifier of youth employment challenges in Africa: implications for research verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

Kategorien: english

From charity to fair chances: spotlight on Social Protection during COVID-19

16. Juni 2020 - 9:27
Update on COVID-19 in Africa

In a single week between the first and second drafts of this news item, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Africa has risen by more than 50,000, from 190,000 on June 8th to over 240,000 on June 15th. To date, Africa has reported surprisingly low infection and mortality rates linked to coronavirus. Low-income and lower-middle income countries make up almost half of the global population but have, until now, accounted for just 2 percent of the global COVID-19 death toll. Subsequently, it has been frequently cited that Africa’s youthful population, along with strict and early lockdown measures in many countries, has led the continent to escape a disastrous pandemic, spurring arguments to relax restrictions, reopen borders and resume business.

A recent World Bank report offers contrastingly sober predictions of shifting epicentres and increasing mortality across the developing world. Using simulations based on local demography and environmental factors, which account for COVID-specific transmission, age and comorbidity patterns, the report suggests that the discrepancy in mortality between rich and poor countries has been vastly misjudged. It highlights that, despite Africa’s population structure with its significant youth bulge, developing countries actually hold twice as many people aged 60+ as high-income countries, because of their enormous overall populations and significant aging in recent years. The report concludes that the seemingly low death toll in low-income countries (majorly in Sub-Saharan Africa) is partly due to unequal data quality, but mostly because the pandemic has not yet run its full course in these parts of the world.

The narrative around lockdowns has therefore increasingly swung into a dilemma between causing economic stagnation, poverty and starvation on the one hand, and the mass spread of COVID-19 on the other. The responses to this dilemma have varied greatly. Some African governments (e.g. Nigeria and South Africa) are gradually allowing their economies to open up in order to restart their economies and mitigate the food and income crises which social protection systems have been unable to abate. Others (e.g. Kenya and Uganda) remain under tighter lockdowns until greater testing can provide greater certainty, and a third group (e.g. Tanzania and Burundi) have maintained a more open approach throughout. It is yet to be seen which strategies will yield the best outcomes for their populations, and which (new) inequalities will emerge as a result.

The CPR Portal monitors the number of new, extended and phased out measures in a range of policy domains – including population restrictions, social protection, trade, health, fiscal, and monetary measures – for multiple African countries. The Portal also examines the different types of institutional collaboration governments have used to manage the pandemic, as well as different degrees of citizen compliance. Since many responses to COVID-19 have been spatially differentiated (focused on cities or devolved responsibilities), the CPR also includes details at the subnational level. A complementary Geopoll survey montors citizen perceptions and experiences of these policy changes. The Evolution of Social Protection during COVID-19

Social protection and social safety net programs – especially cash-based programs – have been promoted worldwide to mitigate the fall-out of lockdown measures, especially for those without the luxury of working from home or the ability to self-isolate. Not only governments have stepped up: GiveDirectly has pledged more funds to its UBI program in response to COVID-19, and even (extra-)ordinary citizens have been distributing food in Nigeria. The what, where, who and how of social protection is being scrutinised in order to reevaluate its purpose and increase its effectiveness.

This edition of INCLUDE’s COVID-19 news item zooms in on recent social protection measures in Africa and what these (could) mean for vulnerable groups of citizens. It reflects on how social protection plays an important role in the immediate response as well as longer-term strategies to reduce poverty and inequality and to mitigate against the impacts of future crises.

Pandemic Responses
  • As of June 12, 49 African countries had introduced COVID-19 related social protection measures, compared to just 6 countries on March 27. The design and structure of these measures (particularly the type, timing and targeting) have varied greatly across the continent. For example, the governments of Namibia and South Africa have implemented emergency grants, Burkina Faso announced cash transfers in early April, and Ghana implemented utility waivers for water and electricity.
  • Despite the apparent effort and improvement, just 2% of the population had received a COVID-19 related cash transfer by June 12th. Moreover, spending per capita on these measures was just $3 in Sub-Saharan Africa compared to, for example, $42 in Latin America, and $58 in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. This is insufficient to compensate for the job and income losses experienced by millions of vulnerable people due to the global crisis.
  • Social assistance, consisting of social cash transfers or other non-contributory measures such as utility waivers, has made up 83% of the social protection response to COVID-19 in Africa, higher than any other region. Social insurance, entailing health insurance, unemployment benefits or other contributory measures, and labour market mechanisms, including wage subsidies, hazard pay or work time support and paid leave, have been less common.
  • Existing government social protection policies form the foundation for additional responses to COVID-19. This has made successful implementation largely contingent on the coverage and adequacy of the systems that are already in place, which vary greatly. For example, the Somalian government had announced its World Bank funded Shock Responsive Social Safety Net in September 2019, which was timely launched in April 2020. Governments across the continent are grappling with the challenge of rapidly expanding existing systems, often not taking into account gender, as women around the world are most vulnerable to risk in health care jobs or forced lockdown situations.
  • Financial constraints of African governments play a major role in the extent to which social protection can be enhanced (in terms of expanding coverage, adequacy or duration). Limited fiscal space has been created through a triple shock involving high debt, constrained foreign aid and a contraction in domestic production. Richer countries and donor organisations should step in to help fill the estimated 2,5 trillion USD needed worldwide to provide sufficient protection for the poor and vulnerable.
The emerging challenges of social protection during COVID-19 The sudden increase in demand for social protection has exposed certain cracks in the system and presented multiple new challenges. First, identifying those who need support typically involves creating or expanding an accurate and representative social registry or database for recipients, which is often lacking in countries with high informality and weak information systems. Governments have taken immediate action to expand their social registries like in Senegal, or to open innovative systems of self-registration like in Kenya and Congo. Non-traditional sources, such as municipal tax registries, mobile phone records of telecom companies, lists of informal market vendors, or public works payrolls, can complement government registries to improve targeting for social protection programs.

Timely and safe delivery of social assistance is another major challenge. The provision of social protection comes with additional risks for those delivering and receiving it that need to be mitigated, as shown in this video of the Cash and Learning Platform and its CVA-guidelines. During the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, health care workers lacked sufficient hazard pay which led them to strike. Mobile money is seen as a low-risk method of delivering cash grants in the context of a pandemic, providing that cashing out is done safely. In a webinar by the Betterthancash Alliance, experts of the government and a telecom provider gave insights into how they collaborated with civil society actors to introduce and expand mobile money cash transfers and make sure health care workers were paid sufficiently.

Apart from highlighting opportunities for partnerships in the response to COVID-19, this reveals structural problems regarding decent wages and working conditions for health workers on the front lines of this pandemic, as medical personnel strikes have again been reported in different countries. In the current pandemic, some multinational telecom providers are facilitating the financial inclusion necessary for the scaling up of cash transfer programs, among others in Kenya and the kingdom of Eswatini. Impacts on vulnerable groups

It has proven a challenge for governments to introduce or scale up social protection to meet the needs of people who were already vulnerable as well as those who have been made vulnerable due to this crisis. This includes young workers, the elderly, informal workers, people with disabilities, rural farmers and women. Women have been placed significantly at risk, both economically and socially, through lockdowns due to their overrepresentation in health care, domestic roles (such as home schooling) and informal work, either paid or unpaid. Various policy briefs have offered recommendations for how to make social protection responses more gender-sensitive.

Emergency food and cash measures are widespread, but they do not yet reach informal workers like street vendors or waste pickers that have been directly affected by public health measures that often expose them to police harassment, health risks and loss of livelihoods. Informal workers are often left behind as they are not accounted for in formal social protection, and not targeted by measures for the extreme poor. This exemplifies the need to include the voices of informal workers and those who are left behind in shaping adequate measures.

Africa is often portrayed as a young continent with its elderly population mostly concentrated in villages, where the virus would not reach so easily. This is a potentially dangerous simplification if it informs social policy. COVID-19 poses higher health risks for elderly, especially those with pre-existing (respiratory) conditions. Furthermore, a lockdown may impose increased vulnerabilities on elderly and disabled persons who depend on informal care, informal work or social networks. Social pensions and other targeted programs for elderly and disabled, including health insurance, typically have low coverage in many African countries but could be expanded.

Impacts on inclusive development

The sudden need for expansion of social protection worldwide presents the mixed uncertainty of a challenge and opportunity to create social protection architecture that will last beyond COVID-19 and prevent the loss of lives and livelihoods in future crises. This calls for more flexible social protection programs which can be scaled up and adapted during emergencies, more inclusive modes of targeting and delivery, and more sustainable modes of financing. The argument is made for a human rights-based, instead of charity-based, system of social protection to form the legal foundations of a quick response in a crisis.

The social protection responses of African governments so far have been leaning heavily on the social assistance side. Additional measures to ensure universal access to health care, safety nets in case of unemployment or other livelihoods shocks and working conditions including personal protection equipment and paid sick leave are necessary for a more resilient economy. This entails using the lessons of COVID-19 and building a more inclusive system of social protection that acknowledges vulnerabilities in all layers of society.

Some of the implementation challenges of sustainable social protection can be met by forming partnerships between government, civil society and NGOs and private sector actors such as banks, telecom providers and other companies, to build on knowledge, funds and networks and provide more cohesive and effective responses. Humanitarian actors, who are often experienced with cash grants, emergency registers and delivery, systems could complement national social protection strategies. More comprehensive social protection policies coordinated by governments and supported by civil society actors can be a first step to governing with compassion and building back better.

Stay updated:

Access and abundance of knowledge on ongoing social protection and cash-based interventions:

Read more about social protection:


Despite the unprecedented and uncertain global situation, INCLUDE acknowledges the need for strong and valid evidence to drive effective policy action. The news item therefore makes use of what we already know about governance, policy implementation and cooperation in African contexts, particularly during crises and emergencies. Where possible, we draw upon lessons learned in the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak and other relevant experiences of infectious diseases. In preparing the news item, we filter the information available from reliable sources in our network to provide up-to-date and factual insights on the effects of the current pandemic and subsequent policy interventions on inclusive development.

We are open to any input and suggestions that could contribute to this debate. We invite you to send us an email.

Het bericht From charity to fair chances: spotlight on Social Protection during COVID-19 verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

Kategorien: english

Job creation: a means or an end?

15. Juni 2020 - 16:40

Not all youth employment programmes in fragile and post-conflict settings contribute to peace, even if they create jobs. It is important for funding agencies to decide prior to designing such programmes whether job creation is their main goal or if employment is a mean to achieve peace. To achieve impact beyond employment, there is a need to focus on decent jobs, as well as conduct in-depth analyses of labour markets and the political economy, which must inform programmes’ theories of change and monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) frameworks. Donors should remain open to programme adaptation and encourage iterative learning for improved practice. Finally, connecting the body of knowledge on youth employment programmes and programmes in fragile and post-conflict settings can teach us important lessons on how to design more effective youth employment programmes for peacebuilding in specific fragile contexts.

These were some of the main points raised by Valeria Izzi (PhD) and Marjoke Oosterom (PhD) during the plenary (webinar) session on ‘Promoting Decent Employment for African Youth as a Peacebuilding Strategy’ organized by INCLUDE for the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Sustainable Economic Development Department (DDE) on 9 June.  The objective of this plenary session, which attracted over 50 participants, was to share important reflections and a set of recommendations on youth employment programmes in fragile setting. The presentation was based on the findings from the evidence synthesis paper of the same name by Valeria Izzi prepared within the frame of the ‘Boosting decent employment for Africa’s youth’ partnership between INCLUDE, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), under the umbrella of the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth.

Youth employment programmes are commonly used as a tool to promote peacebuilding in post-conflict and fragile settings. Yet, despite their popularity, evidence of impact is scant. The rather disappointing results of these programmes cannot be blamed only on contextual factors and implementation challenges. Programmes have long been based on the assumption of a straightforward correlation between employment and security. However, based on extensive evidence review, it is increasingly evident that a narrow focus on employment status is reductive and that there are other factors at play. To improve youth employment programmes and let them contribute to the peacebuilding process in fragile and post-conflict settings, Drs Izzi and Oosterom shared the following insights and recommendations.

Context analysis

The quality of jobs created matters, as well as who gets which jobs, and how. The assumption that on the macro or regional level the unemployed cause violence is not supported on an individual level, as illustrated by one of the examples in Dr Izzi’s paper and highlighted by Dr Oosterom during the plenary session. In the area where Boko Haram is active, many youth face unemployment, yet only a few join this violent path. Therefore, youth employment programmes must look at the experience of work more broadly, what kinds of jobs are available and what they actually provide participants with (livelihood, prospects, security). To achieve this, we must acknowledge that labour markets are also political arenas, and this should be reflected in the context analysis prior to programme design.

Context analysis (that includes economic, political economy and conflict) is crucial to good programming; yet, so far, youth employment programmes are rarely accompanied by such in-depth analyses. Unfortunately, youth employment programmes can be real assets for political regimes and non-state political actors. Political dynamics interfere with local labour markets and, consequently, youth employment interventions can be used to strengthen the political capital or support base of the ruling party, (former) combatants or other ‘big men’ (as seen in Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia). Youth interventions can feed into the patronage networks of these actors.

Implementing agencies must be mindful that fragility comes in many shapes and forms. The more autocratic regimes (i.e. Egypt, Tunisia, Zimbabwe and, increasingly, Uganda) are more likely to appropriate an intervention (by influencing who gets to participate, who receives grants, where an intervention can operate, or by requiring ‘fees’ from participants). Where power is more diffused, different kinds of problems appear, such as weak institutions. In the case of cyclical violence between communities in Nigerian Middle Belt States, a problem can be that participants are not fairly drawn from different communities, fuelling perceptions that the programme is biased. Adequate context analysis in fragile and post-conflict settings requires expertise on political economy analysis and conflict dynamics. Firstly, it should be determined whether an employment programme is the best solution in the given context or a different type of programming would fit better at that stage. Secondly, once implementation starts, the changing contextual dynamics should be monitored closely. Therefore, in-depth context (economic, political economy and conflict) analysis must take place before programme design, as well as during the implementation phase. 

Programme design and risk analysis

The evidence shows that it is important to distinguish between youth employment programmes in fragile and post-conflict countries and youth employment programmes for peacebuilding. The main goal of the former is job creation, while the latter see employment creation as a means to promote peace. Both types of programmes must be conflict and fragility sensitive, but youth employment programmes for peacebuilding cannot assume that jobs alone will make society more peaceful. To achieve peace, a suite of interventions and approaches is required, including components of governance and peacebuilding. Such interventions need complex design, implementation and MEL frameworks.

It is recommended that youth employment programmes implemented in post-conflict and fragile settings distinguish between two different types and levels of impact: impact on employment and peacebuilding and impact on programme participants and society at large (see Table 1). The 2016 report ‘Jobs aid peace’, which conducted an extensive literature review with the meta-analysis of over 400 programmes implemented by four main multilateral agencies  in post-conflict and other fragile settings between 2005 and 2015, revealed that most evaluations of youth employment for peacebuilding programmes are able to only assess the impact of employment on participants ([A] in Table 1) and ignore the possibility of deadweight loss effect (where programme outcomes are no different from what would have happened without the programme); substitution effect (where workers hired in a subsidised job are simply substituting for unsubsidised workers, who would otherwise have been hired); or displacement effect (where a firm with subsidised workers increases output, but displaces/reduces output by firms that do not have subsidised workers). These programmes simply assumed that the jobs created would have a catalytic effect on making society more peaceful. However, what should also be considered in official evaluations is how impact on participants actually translates into impact on society in terms of peacebuilding in fragile contexts and whether the programme has any unintended negative effects. This can be done by preparing a detailed risk analysis of the programme capture and other negative externalities, such as reinforcing existing grievances.

Table 1. Different levels of impact of youth employment programmes in post-conflict and fragile settings[i]

On programme participants Beyond programme participants Employment impact [A] The programme makes participants better off in terms of employment [B] The programme has a positive net impact on employment Peacebuilding impact [C] The programme reduces participants’ involvement in violence, and/or strengthens their contribution to peace [D] The programme makes society more peaceful


Clear criteria and transparent processes for the selection of the participants/beneficiaries in youth employment programmes is equally important. One of the fundamental weaknesses of youth employment programmes is their broad selection criteria (e.g. ‘vulnerable youth’, ‘youth at risk’), which can apply to the majority of youth. In practice, jobs created through youth employment programmes have the capacity to reach only a limited number of beneficiaries and are at risk of being captured by local political elites. Participatory selection methods are one of viable and recommended options, although checks and balances must be improved to avoid the possibility of the programme being hijacked for political and patronage purpose. Although a clear and transparent selection process will not guarantee the success of the programme, it will minimize the risk of unintended consequences.

Monitoring, evaluation and learning

Developing a clear theory of change that links programme activities and impact (on participants and society), based on adequate economic, political economy and conflict analysis, is necessary. The common flaw in youth employment for peacebuilding programmes is a weak link between the assumptions made in the theory of change and the indicators in the MEL framework. Adequate peacebuilding indicators are often missing in MEL, which ultimately provides very little information on how the programme is progressing towards assumed goals. It is recommended that programme designers learn what type of peacebuilding indicators have been used, and work, in other programmes implemented in fragile and post-conflict settings and apply them to the MEL framework for youth employment for peacebuilding programmes. Such cross-programme learning can be done, for instance, by incorporating a conflict specialist within the evaluation team or increasing exchanges between different thematic departments. The attribution of intended changes assumed in the theory of change should also be approached more critically by conducting counterfactual thinking analysis, which takes into consideration other possible explanations for this change.

To prove and improve programmes, donors and implementing agencies should encourage learning and adaptive programming. It must be clear from the start what it is that you want to learn from programme implementation and that there is a room to share both good and bad practices. This is also an opportunity to bring youth voices to the fore and to strengthen local institutions that are related to the world of work through multi-stakeholder dialogue. As an increased number of funding agencies encourage learning, working with like-minded partners will facilitate exchanges. Ultimately, an iterative learning processes should be used to contribute to improving practices in general.

Finally, to assess whether the programme actually made a difference, MEL should be conducted a few years after the end of the activities.

These recommendations are based on the synthesis of available evidence on youth employment and peacebuilding programmes in Africa. However, although the specifics may differ, the underlying principles also apply to other regions of the world. Youth employment remains a challenge globally (also in the North) and the programmes addressing it are at risk of being captured for political purposes everywhere. With the latest crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of countries have started funds explicitly targeting youth. These programmes, especially those implemented in fragile settings, run the risk of being used by regimes to strengthen their political position and network. Therefore, funding agencies must be mindful of such a possibility, conduct appropriate risk analysis, and develop appropriate mitigation measures.


[i] Izzi, V. (2020). Promoting decent employment for African youth as a peacebuilding strategy. INCLUDE’s Evidence Synthesis Paper Series no 4/2020. Available at: ; adopted from Brück, T., Ferguson, N.T.N, Izzi, V. and Stojetz, W. (2016). Jobs Aid Peace: A Review of the Theory and Practice of the Impact of Employment Programs on Peace in Fragile and Conflict-affected Countries. Berlin: International Security and Development Center. Available at:—ed_emp/—emp_ent/—ifp_crisis/documents/publication/wcms_633429.pdf

Het bericht Job creation: a means or an end? verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

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A ‘COVID revolution’ in Africa?

8. Juni 2020 - 11:00

Think up new principles to guide the policies made by African governments in response to the COVID-19 crisis; organize African intellectuals to reinvigorate their public engagement; and establish durable alliances between progressive and concerned intellectuals to support better – innovative, responsive, and ethical – government in Africa. These are three things that need to be achieved by African leaders to deal with the current COVID-19 crisis – and beyond – according to a letter signed by dozens of prominent intellectuals, writers and academics from across Africa. 

The Coronavirus pandemic has imposed a worldwide freeze on ‘business as usual’, catching governments around the world off guard. The result is untold misery, but also a hiatus that inspires hope that better times will come when the freeze ends. In Africa, for the last three decades, progressive intellectuals have felt compelled to wait in the wings and watch the continent sink into economic crisis, weighed down by violence, insecurity and massive social injustice. The ‘open letter to leaders over COVID-19’, which has been circulated and published by African intellectuals, writers and academics, is an attempt to seize the moment and offer a silver lining to the current suffering. 

New principles for policy

In Africa, the first casualties of COVID-19 were members of privileged groups. The disease was carried by travellers from developed countries in the North, including Europeans and local African elite. The first Senegalese known to die of it in Dakar was Pape Diouf, a well-off football agent and the first African ever to run a major European football club – Olympique de Marseille. A Burkinabe deputy and a Nigerien minister have since succumbed to the virus, and many leading politicians have endured it. In many countries, COVID-19 has particularly hit university professors, who are frequent participants in international conferences in the North. Because of this experience, Africa’s ruling and intellectual elite felt, from the very beginning, a sense of urgency about the disease. But this was not shared by the common people. 

In many African countries, people distrust the political leadership, and in some places ‘Corona-scepticism’ is rampant. Uncertainty, emergency and issues of trust combined to shape policies that were sometimes rash (Niger, a 99% Muslim country, ‘suspended’ Friday prayer, including in remote rural areas and regions overrun by Jihadists), inconsistent (at the same time, Niger left crowded markets open), timorous (in Kano, Nigeria, now recognized as a COVID-19 hotspot, the governor caved in to popular Muslim clerics who claimed that the disease did not exist), and repressive (around the continent people have been beaten for violating curfews and a child was killed by a stray bullet in Kenya). While some of these policies demonstrate a degree of care, the problems they have caused also highlight the lack of leadership principles among Africa’s governments. The task at hand for progressive intellectuals is not to prescribe specific policies on the coronavirus, but to lay the ground for the principles upon which such policies should be based in the African context.

Better government for Africa

Epidemics are not rare in Africa. Aside from Ebola, there are recurrent outbreaks of infectious disease like meningitis and cholera in many parts of the continent. But their impact is usually limited to the urban common people and rural populations, and they have not raised hard questions about governance, as they should in fact have done. If common people find it so hard to believe in a sense of care from the elite, it is largely because they have not seen much evidence of the same at times when disease was killing only them. 

The coronavirus pandemic is different in its equalizing impact on unequal regions of the world (North and South) and on unequal groups in society in the South (there’s less evidence of that in the North). Some African governments are angling for responses in their conventional toolbox, calling for aid and debt relief, and engaging in repression. But they are also forced to innovate and have discovered that they can actually release a great number of people from jail (an old demand of humanitarian NGOs) or design funding strategies for the social sector. In the words of Samuel Johnson, fear ‘concentrates the mind wonderfully’. This demonstrates that the potential for better government in Africa exists, despite the so-called lack of resources and ‘weak states’. The task is to make it depend not on the grip of emergency, but on a plan. The conversation of the progressive intellectuals is about how to massage this potential toward an actuality. It is about triggering, as it were, a ‘COVID revolution’ in Africa.   

Developing public engagement

Progressive intellectuals have been side-lined in Africa since the 1990s, part of a worldwide phenomenon. Now that the world order that has shut them out is in a freeze, there’s an opportunity for their revival. To succeed in this, one idea is to organize and develop strategies of public engagement, connecting intellectuals with African leaders, local public, and international partners. The open letter to leaders over COVID-19 is a step in that direction. In a follow-up, a call was launched in networks of progressive intellectuals to propose ideas for research programmes, public engagement initiatives, and projects for the durable organization of the emerging intellectual alliance. Responses are in the process of being collected and will be followed by virtual meetings to plan for the way forward. The goal is better government for Africa.

Het bericht A ‘COVID revolution’ in Africa? verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

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Hard work and hazard: youth livelihoods in rural Africa

4. Juni 2020 - 12:41

Many young people use the rural economy to build their livelihoods. However, it is often the experience of working at home as children, rather than formal education, that enables them to engage with the world of work. Family plays an important role in co-constructing livelihoods with young people, and they often capitalize on family assets, including access to land, capital and skills. Contrary to popular belief, land availability does not appear to a constraint on young people’s engagement in crop production. In addition, many combine farm and non-farm work, but they are not free from vulnerabilities, nor from personal or business-related hazards. These are some of the main findings of our latest open access paper that explores how young people build rural livelihoods in agricultural commercialization hotspots in Ghana, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

It is increasingly acknowledged that productive youth employment is among the major development challenges of our time. In Africa this challenge is magnified by the small size of the manufacturing and formal service sectors, the domination of economies by the informal sector, and the likelihood that a significant proportion of young people will continue to live in rural areas for decades to come. These realities support the proposition that the rural economy – built around agriculture, but encompassing much more – will need to, and can, provide employment opportunities for many millions of young people into the foreseeable future. Indeed, what might be called the ‘rural prosperity gospel’ has become a pillar of policy discourse around Africa’s rural youth.

But, to date, there has been little or no systematic research that explores the steps, pathways and outcomes associated with the efforts of young people in rural areas to build their livelihoods. Our new open access papercontributes to closing this gap by exploring how young people build rural livelihoods in agricultural commercialization hotspots in Ghana, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

Schooling, family help and asset accumulation

The research highlights young people’s disappointment with their experience of formal education, particularly with having to drop out because they could not afford school fees (despite in many cases working at the same time as attending school). Rather than formal education, it was their experience of working at home as children that initially enabled them to engage with the world of work. Thus, while many did not have a favourable start regarding their working lives, with hard work, the skills they learnt as children, persistence and resilience they have generally been able to build livelihoods and, in some cases, accumulate assets (e.g. in the form of housing, furniture and savings). To varying degrees, the rural commercialization sites also attract young migrants.

Another important finding is that many young people co-construct livelihoods together with, and through, family members. Family and broader social relations enable them to access the land, capital and skills to begin their ventures. Between access through family and rental markets, there is little evidence that land availability constrains young people’s engagement in crop production. The commercialized rural economies within which they operate offer a variety of non-agricultural income opportunities, and many youth combine farm and non-farm work. Those who do not farm at all are still dependent on a thriving agriculture economy.

The darker side of this picture is that the assets these young people accumulate, and the economic activities that generated them, are vulnerable to hazards. Two main types of hazard were identified: The first is personal and most often health-related, including accident, injury, illness and family tragedy. The second is business-related hazards, which include prolonged drought and unreliable rainfall, low demand for produce or services, theft, police harassment, non-payment by clients, loss of savings, agronomic mistakes, and economic upheaval. Whether working on one’s own farm, as a wage worker, or a business operator, personal and business-related hazards such as these are part of daily life, and to navigate them successfully requires experience, social capital and, sometimes, the liquidation of hard-won assets.

And the future?

One way to see the early livelihood building efforts of young people – their stories of hard work and hazard – is as a training ground in which they gain valuable experience and accumulate some capital, as a result of which are better placed to take advantage of new opportunities in the future. But will the rural economy, even in commercialization hotspots, be able to provide those opportunities?

The fact that young people seek to build livelihoods in rural economies challenges the assumption in policy discourse that young people are not interested in agriculture or rural areas; are unable to access land or capital even if they want to farm; and see migration to towns or urban areas as the default option. While it is safe to assume that some young people have already left the study villages, the research provides no indication that those remaining are driven by a strong desire to pack up and go. On the contrary; overwhelmingly, their plans for the future include the expansion or diversification of activities within the rural economy.

These findings also call into question the most common proposals for youth-specific interventions in rural areas including the provision of preferential access to land and credit. It is not at all clear whether additional training or skills would make a material difference to the lives of young people like these, and neither is it clear whether or not existing markets and their own management skills would allow them to make effective use of additional resources or absorb additional capital. On the other hand, without better basic education, including but not limited to literacy and numeracy skills, it is hard to see how the pathways and outcomes of the next generation of young people will change for the better. The sense of disappointment that many young people express regarding their experience with formal education highlights, again, the need to address both the quality of education in rural areas and, just as importantly, the cash costs that put ‘free’ education out of the reach of many rural children.

Finally, this research draws attention to a potential new area of intervention – the use of social protection measures to help minimize the risks associated with hazards, so that young people’s hard-earned assets are less vulnerable to loss. Preventative social protection measures, including both formal and informal social insurance mechanisms, might play a role in de-risking the initial phase of rural livelihood building. A new focus along these lines would better align policies addressing Africa’s rural youth with the reality of their lives.

This post is based on the open access article by Yeboah, T., Chigumira, E., John, I., Anyidoho, N. A., Manyong, V., Flynn, J., & Sumberg, J. (2020). Hard work and hazard: Young people and agricultural commercialisation in Africa. Journal of Rural Studies, 76, 142-151.

Het bericht Hard work and hazard: youth livelihoods in rural Africa verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

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Building roads where few exist can pay big dividends by raising people’s incomes

3. Juni 2020 - 17:12

Roads are one of the most basic forms of infrastructure. More than half of all official development assistance for economic infrastructure between 2005 and 2013 – at least $60 billion worldwide – went to road projects. Is all that investment worthwhile?

New roads raise incomes and consumption for people living near them, and they produce the largest impacts in countries with very low road densities, such as Ethiopia, Madagascar, Peru, Tanzania, or Uganda. In addition to raising agricultural outputs, new roads also appear to promote non-farm employment. Benefits are smaller in places where road networks are already denser.

In places with few existing roads, new road investments seem to provide far more economic benefits than they cost. One study from Uganda found that the economic payoff was seven times larger than the cost of the roads’ construction. It estimated that an investment of US$10,000 at 2013 prices would lift 261 people out of poverty if invested in similar Ugandan roads. But cost analyses have been conducted infrequently and it is difficult to measure all of the economic changes that new roads produce, leading to methodological challenges and uncertain estimates.

All this evidence comes from a DFID-funded systematic review of road investments for poverty reduction. This review combines results from 56 studies conducted around the world, yielding more robust findings than individual case studies, where location-specific quirks can shape results. The studies in the review looked at a range of different outcomes, including health, education, and agricultural activities.
The finding that new roads raise income and consumption for nearby residents is supported by the strongest base of evidence in the review, with 27 separate studies investigating those outcomes. Many of those studies found very large positive effects, some found smaller effects, and a few found no effects. However, no studies found negative income or consumption effects.

“There is a strong indication that road impact is influenced by road density,” the review’s authors write. The largest positive effects came in places where road networks were extremely limited with respect to space and population, such as Ethiopia. In contrast, some studies in places with dense road networks – like Thailand – found negligible effects.

Some studies also found that basic feeder roads, and lower-quality roads in rural areas, yielded greater economic benefits than the construction of higher-quality, paved roads in denser areas which already had basic roads. These findings, however, are based on fewer studies than the general results above.

Benefit-cost calculations were included in only five of the studies. These benefit-to-cost ratios ranged from a high of 9.13 in Tanzania – where the road network was not dense – to a low of 0.86 in Thailand, which had a relatively dense road network. All of these studies with benefit-cost calculations were conducted in association with the International Food Policy Research Institute.

These benefit-cost estimates should only be viewed as ballpark figures, because of how much methodological choices can change the results. For example, in the paper on Thailand, some of the estimated benefit-cost ratios changed by about a factor of two between the initial working paper and the final published version. The underlying data and general modeling approach remained identical, the only difference was the addition of a few control variables.

This limited base of benefit-cost evidence and the instability of the results are even more worrisome given that road projects have been cited as one of the types of development interventions where cost-benefit analyses are more prevalent. During one of 3ie’s panels on cost-evidence during our Virtual Evidence Weeks, Mark Sundberg, deputy vice president and chief economist of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, said that benefit-cost analyses of large infrastructure projects like road construction were relatively “straightforward,” especially when compared to policy or institutional reform projects. Much of the panel focused on the need for more attention on benefit-cost analyses in impact evaluations.

Another methodological challenge in evaluating the impact of roads is picking the right counterfactual comparison. As the systematic review notes, “rural road investments are not ‘dropped at random’ across the countryside.” The papers in the review addressed this challenge in a variety of ways, frequently using propensity score matching to compare communities along a new road to similar communities elsewhere. Others used a difference-in-difference approach, comparing changes in economic activity where the roads were placed with changes in areas where no roads were built. These strategies are not perfect, as the review’s authors write: “time-varying factors such as roads being built in areas of high growth potential cannot be addressed.”

For more details, the whole systematic review is available here. Beyond this study, our Development Evidence Portal has hundreds more systematic reviews and thousands more impact evaluations.

This blog was first published by the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie), as part of the campaign ‘2020 Hindsight: What works in Development‘. Read the original article here.

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Never giving up: youth voices and participation in the time of COVID-19

2. Juni 2020 - 10:18

The coronavirus pandemic is expected to have long-lasting social, cultural, economic and political impacts on the whole of societies, including young people, as highlighted by the UN Secretary General’s Report “Shared Responsibility, Global Solidarity”. While a lot of attention has been given to restoring and enabling youth employment and entrepreneurship in order to secure the livelihoods of young Africans, the importance of empowering young people to have their rights and voices heard and to co-lead the response has also been recognised.

So far, youth engagement and action to help fight the pandemic have taken many shapes, from grassroots initiatives led by youth themselves, to organisations and platforms sharing youth opinions and experiences, to involving youth more formally in higher institutions. Young people are increasingly being seen as resourceful players in developing continental and national COVID-19 solutions and response plans. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs also published a report placing young people at the heart of development cooperation in the region. INCLUDE’s own evidence synthesis papers reiterate the importance of distinguishing youth-specific issues within relevant policies, as well as involving youth more broadly in decision-making and accountability processes, both during the crisis and beyond, in order to help shape their own future.

This news item is part of a series exploring different aspects of the COVID-19 crisis in Africa. Through this series, INCLUDE shares evidence around current and needed interventions in these areas, looking at the various impacts on both specific vulnerable groups and reflecting more broadly on the linkages to inclusive development within the region. 1. Pandemic Responses

A number of current interventions, both by and for youth, facilitate the active participation of Africa’s youth population in multiple aspects of the COVID-19 response (from fighting the pandemic and related ‘infodemic’ to ensuring continued education and creating income opportunities) and allow their needs and experiences to be heard and recognised. Each week, the United Nations Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth presents 10 young people leading the COVID-19 response in their communities. Below, we share some of the many ways that youth are engaging (or being engaged) in the response.

2. Impacts on vulnerable groups

Vulnerable groups are at risk of becoming even more marginalised and invisible during this crisis. Power has become more centralized and, in many cases, a focus on overall development and immediate survival has taken precedence over inclusion. Here, we present some of the most at-risk groups, along with some interventions offering ways to prevent further widening of inequalities and help vulnerable youth populations regain a sense of agency.

3. Impacts on inclusive development

Not ignoring the short-term damages, COVID-19 offers a chance for Africa to become more inclusive of youth. It opens doors for youths to participate in policy making and institutional reform, and to harness their skills, knowledge and ambition for positive change. Important youth networks have been identified as a result of the Virtual AU Youth Consultations Series on COVID-19 which convened over 300 youth leaders from 40 countries in 12 virtual sessions. This momentum must continue in order to strengthen youth leadership and allow them a seat at the table to determine their own future.

  • The African Union Youth Volunteer Corps launched the video “African Youth fights the COVID-19” on Africa Day 2020 to show appreciation and support for the courage and engagement of youth in the emergency response. This helps to position young people as essential agents of development going forward.
  • The World Bank Africa’s ‘Youth Transforming Africa’ (YTA) initiative and the Youth Alliance for Leadership and Development in Africa (YALDA) partnered to organize regular roundtables on development topics to allow dialogue among Africa’s youth and prepare some youth-grown solutions to influence policy making in Africa.
  • Young people are gradually being included in a more direct and impactful way at higher levels of governance. For example, a young representative from the Youth Café actively participated in addressing policy-makers at the African-European parliamentary initiative COVID-19 conference. The Nigerian government is also engaging youth in debates about the fight against COVID-19.
  • Parallel to their survey on youth employment during COVID-19, the Decent Jobs for Youth (DJFY) initiative by the ILO launched the #MyVoiceMyFuture campaign and blog series ‘Youth Rights & Voices’The blog features contributions of youth representatives and youth employment experts, and discusses action-oriented policy responses and solutions to prevent exclusion of young people going forward.
Despite the unprecedented and uncertain global situation, INCLUDE acknowledges the need for strong and valid evidence to drive effective policy action. The news item therefore makes use of what we already know about governance, policy implementation and cooperation in African contexts, particularly during crises and emergencies. Where possible, we draw upon lessons learned in the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak and other relevant experiences of infectious diseases. In preparing the news item, we filter the information available from reliable sources in our network to provide up-to-date and factual insights on the effects of the current pandemic and subsequent policy interventions on inclusive development.

We are open to any input and suggestions that could contribute to this debate. We invite you to send us an email.

Het bericht Never giving up: youth voices and participation in the time of COVID-19 verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

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Financial inclusion of urban street vendors in Kigali

1. Juni 2020 - 8:57

Policy makers in Rwanda are targeting formal financial inclusion (“having a financial account”) as part of the strategy to alleviate poverty. Our research shows that the actual use of financial accounts should become the focus of policy. Background interviews with local officials revealed their believe that individual characteristics are not important for the formal decision to accept an individual as an account holder at a financial institution. Our analysis, however, supports the importance of gender for the use of bank accounts by the self-employed in the informal sector –  with clear implications for targeting policies.

During the summer of 2017 we studied financial inclusion of street vendors in the Nyarugenge District (Kigali, Rwanda), a group of underprivileged that very often cannot be reached by traditional surveys or a census. Street vending is prohibited in the Kigali, Rwanda Nyarugenge District, and during the field work several raids by local security agencies were observed. Just a few weeks after the field work, street vending was officially forbidden.  Our fieldwork offers a unique and no longer existing opportunity to survey street vending as a truly informal activity in this area. The peer reviewed publication of our innovative multimethod field research appeared in Journal of African Business.

Policy makers need to focus on actual use

Having a financial account is an important policy issue for poverty reduction in Rwanda, where most of the small businesses (tailors, masons, vegetable sellers, welders, and so on) are in the informal sector and run by people with no or limited formal education. A recent Finscope survey finds that the government’s goal to accomplish 90% of ‘financial inclusion’ by 2020 is realistic and attainable.

The government’s target, however, relates to de jure financial inclusion, that is: formal financial account holdership. But simply having an account is not what matters for effective poverty reduction. In our sample the majority of financial account holders does not use the financial account frequently: 57% accessed it once or less a month (half of these accounts have been inactive over the past 12 months). Our findings point out the need for the government to reformulate its policy in terms of actual use (de facto inclusion) and our investigation indicates which tools could be useful to achieve that target.

Individual characteristics do matter for use of an account

We have collected several individual characteristics of the respondents to our survey including gender, age, marital status, and education in order to be able to test if individual characteristics matter for being formally and/or de facto financially included. In our analysis we also control for weekly sales and four types of products that were traded (edibles, clothes, shoes and cosmetics). Gender turned out to be the single most significant driver of de facto financial inclusion (Figure 1) and this was confirmed in our ordered probit model (a higher level of education is associated with a higher frequency of use, but not with formal financial inclusion). Policies supporting female financial inclusion would thus seem to be necessary to correct this imbalance.

Figure 1: Frequency of use of an account by gender

Financial infrastructure is key

The presence of a financial institution in the home location of the street vendor is the most significant determinant identified by our research. From a policy perspective this underlines the importance of a good financial infrastructure: the economic geography of financial inclusion is important. Being close to a financial institution is associated with better financial inclusion. The importance of geography and location has also been established by earlier research on the differences between urban and rural areas, but our results are more specific. According to our findings the driver is the availability of a financial institution in the street vendor’s hometown, thus providing policy makers with a concrete tool to improve financial inclusion in Rwanda.

Het bericht Financial inclusion of urban street vendors in Kigali verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

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COVID-19 and the future of work in Africa: How to shore up incomes for informal sector workers

28. Mai 2020 - 16:25
As the COVID-19 global pandemic continues to disrupt the global economy, not only the health but the livelihoods of millions are at stake through reduced earnings and increased poverty.

In a previous blog, Brookings noted that during the 2008-2009 global recession, African economies performed better than other developing countries, because of (a) higher commodity prices, which supported export earnings; (b) lower debt, which provided needed fiscal space, avoiding public sector layoffs; and (c) the resiliency of the informal sector, which continued to supply the domestic economy, maintaining incomes and consumption for the majority of households.

Africa will not be able to count on these mitigating factors this time. Commodity prices are not favorable, fiscal space is extremely limited, and, as a result, the informal sector, where 60 to 80 percent of Africa’s labor force works, will struggle to earn a living. In this blog, they elaborate on the threats to informal employment and earnings, and what governments should consider as they strive to counter these threats and support the informal sector workers.

What are the threats to informal sector livelihoods?

Informal sector employment—both in family farms and non-farm businesses—accounts for over 70 percent of hours worked in Africa and is a main income source for at least 60 percent of African households and over 80 percent of rural households. As the International Labor Organization (ILO) wrote recently, “[t]o die from hunger or the virus is the all too real dilemma faced by many informal economy workers.” The ILO estimates that as of April 22, 68 percent of informal sector workers in Africa lived in countries that already had implemented full or partial lockdowns.

Own-farm agriculture accounts for about one-third of total hours worked in Africa—even more in rural areas. As African farmers face COVID-19, any income not already affected by natural disasters such as locusts, drought, and flooding will be reduced in the near term as shutdowns—which stop production from moving off the farm to wholesalers—and reduced income in urban areas deprive farmers of markets. Harvested food stuck in rural areas is already causing food shortages as well as inflation in urban food prices. Farmers will continue to work their fields and feed their families with their own harvest (mostly), but may not have the cash needed for next season’s inputs or to pay for health care or schooling for their children without help.

Households in rural areas and small towns tend to have a non-farm household business on the side to earn extra cash and reduce seasonal underemployment. The majority of these businesses involve retail trade (kiosks for household consumables or farm inputs); other popular sectors are informal agro-processing (milling grains, pressing oilseeds) or farm-based craft manufacturing (making and selling baked goods, beer, or, charcoal), and services such as hairdressing. These businesses depend on household incomes from agriculture for demand, so their short-term future is grim. To cope with immediate needs, households may sell business assets for cash, compromising their bounce-back potential; although these businesses are undercapitalized in general.

Informal retail traders and service business operators are even more common in urban areas, accounting for almost half of total hours worked. These livelihoods are particularly vulnerable to social distancing rules and have less access to clean water and sanitation, although they will try to work somehow. Already, global value chain disruptions have resulted in a shortage of products and the inability of small traders to do business and generate income. Workers in Africa’s large urban gig economy—contract truck, bus, and taxi drivers, and operators of motorcycles for delivery and taxi—also face high risks to their health, income, and savings (if they have them in the first place).

The projected loss of wage and salary incomes when private firms or the public sector lay off workers and/or cut or delay wages will have knock-on effects for informal urban businesses. About half of urban households in Africa have a wage income, and this income is often the anchor for the riskier, entrepreneurial activities of other members of the household. Additionally, wage workers are the main source of demand for the goods and services sold by the urban informal sector.

More than half of the owners of informal business in Africa are women. Women-owned businesses tend to be smaller and less productive in Africa, as elsewhere. Their income is often a source of empowerment for them, within their household and in the broader community. These women already report challenges in keeping their businesses going without schools or child care options. If they must reduce hours or close their business to look after their children, they will face a double threat—not only less income but possibly more domestic violence. Then again, premature school openings could expose them to increased health risks.

Youth face different outcomes in urban and rural areas

In sub-Saharan Africa, about 7 million to 8 million youth will enter the labor force this year, facing even more limited prospects than in normal times. Urban youth are mostly educated, with high aspirations that will be dashed as the urban economy collapses. Experience suggests that those who can afford it will delay entering the labor force and just stay home. Those who cannot will join previous cohorts in trying to find a hustle on the street, in the informal sector, where reduced demand and social distancing rules have already limited opportunities. Unlike in rich countries, however, there is no evidence that this experience results in long-term damage to income-earning prospects.

In rural areas, most youth will stay at home and work on family plots, possibly trying to get access to a plot of their own to work for the next harvest season in countries where land is abundant. Without savings (their own or from their friends and family), however, they will struggle to establish livelihoods.

What should governments do to support informal sector livelihoods?

Donors and international financial institutions have promised substantial funds to support public sector budgets and the health sector, but support for informal sector workers, so far, is scant. Governments cannot ignore the damage already occurring to the livelihoods of these millions of people. The policy response should:

  • Maintain household consumption among the bottom 75 to 80 percent of households, who have very limited savings. Limiting short-term household welfare damage, speeding up the overall economic recovery, and unlocking Africa’s business potential will depend on supporting demand in the economy. People need resources to buy needed consumption items. As in the U.S., cash transfers are the best option, and as Berk Ozler writes for the World Bank, experience shows that these programs are not hard for developing country governments to implement. Already, 22 sub-Saharan African countries have announced COVID-19 cash transfer programs, and an additional 13 are not providing cash but have announced in-kind transfers (e.g., food vouchers or food distribution, school feeding) instead.
  • Protect the incomes of urban wage and salary employees. Although wage and salary work accounts for a small share of total non-farm employment—and tends to be more remunerative than informal sector work—wage and salary earners use their incomes to buy from informal sellers of goods and services, thus supporting the sector.
  • Protect the health of urban informal sector workers by improving access to soap, water, and alcohol-based sanitizers for handwashing at urban markets and trading zones, and distributing masks and gloves to informal traders and service providers.
  • To reduce food spoilage and support incomes, declare transport of food from the farm gate to markets an essential service.
  • Ensure that police protect the livelihoods of informal vendors and service providers, especially in urban areas, rather than using the COVID-19 emergency to harass them.


This article is reposted from the Brookings blog Africa in Focus. Read the original blog here.

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Impact of COVID-19 on micro, small, and medium businesses in Uganda

27. Mai 2020 - 10:28

Thankfully, the incidence of COVID-19 in Uganda is very low in comparison to other countries—the country has so far recorded 260 cases, with 63 recoveries, and no COVID-19 related deaths as of this writing. Indeed, early on, Uganda adopted a number of containment measures to curb the spread of the virus, including the closure of schools, restrictions on internal and international travel, use of hand sanitizer, improved handwashing stations, social distancing, and even lockdown, among others. While these measures may have contributed to the successful reining in of the virus, those same restrictions have hit business operations hard.

A recent rapid survey of businesses by the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) in Uganda reveals that three-quarters of the surveyed businesses have laid off employees due to the risks presented by COVID-19 and subsequent containment measures. Indeed, the results suggest that lockdown measures have reduced business activity by more than half. In terms of sectors, we find that businesses in agriculture have experienced the largest constraints in access to both inputs and markets for outputs due to control measures such as transport restrictions, quarantine, social distancing, and bans on weekly markets.

In short, we find that micro and small businesses experienced a larger decline in businesses activity compared to medium and large firms—an unsurprising finding since most of the country’s micro and small businesses halted operations due to their inability to implement preventative health measures such as provision of on-site lodging for employees, and sanitizers and handwashing equipment for customers. These preventive measures have resulted in an increase in operating expenses for businesses that continued to stay open. Consequently, a majority of micro and small businesses, particularly in the service sector, predict they will have to close within one to three months if the pandemic persists and current restrictions are maintained (Table 1). On the other hand, the majority of the medium and large firms do not foresee closure. Sectoral analysis reveals slightly higher resilience among agriculture and manufacturing firms compared to service sector firms.

Unemployment in agriculture already high; service sector expected to follow suit in 6 months

The survey results reveal that the workforce in Ugandan agricultural businesses has undergone the largest restructuring. About 80 percent of businesses in the agriculture sector have reduced their workforce by more than a quarter. Results indicate that a severe decline in agricultural demand may be to blame: Close to 71 percent of surveyed businesses in agriculture reported severe decline in demand compared to 47 percent in manufacturing and 49 percent in services. At the same time, a significantly high percentage of manufacturing businesses have laid off employees, with 41 percent of them reducing employees by more than one half.

Unemployment will likely worsen if the risks associated with COVID-19 persist and containment measures are sustained or escalated. Surveyed businesses indicated they would lay off a total of 1,662 workers temporarily and 406 permanently if the threat of COVID-19 and associated containment measures persist for the next six months. Applying sample weights obtained from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics on these numbers, we estimate that 3.8 million workers will lose their jobs temporarily while 625,957 risk losing their employment permanently if the threat of COVID-19 and associated containment measures persist for the next six months (Figure 1). Such layoffs would constitute a reduction of 42 percent in temporary employment and 7 percent in permanent employment. Notably, over 75 percent of employees projected to lose their jobs permanently are from the service sector. Given most services in Uganda involve face-to-face interaction that contravenes the social distancing requirement, this finding is not surprising.

In addition to the lower demand and higher costs of safety measures, responding businesses shared other worrying concerns, including lessened production and productivity, reduced supply of inputs, and credit and liquidity constraints. Indeed, risks associated with COVID-19 have exacerbated preexisting credit and liquidity constraints among micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). Indeed, 69 percent of businesses surveyed reported a decline in access to credit, with 34 percent experiencing severe decline (a more than 50 percent decline in credit) (Figure 2).

Notably, a relatively high percentage of small and medium businesses in the services sector in particular reported a decline in access to credit and financial liquidity compared to large businesses. This trend may be because lending institutions already consider them highly risky, and those businesses are more likely to become insolvent if COVID-19 persists and restrictions are maintained. On a sectoral level, high percentages of businesses in manufacturing and services reported a decline in ability to repay outstanding debts due to the outbreak of COVID-19 compared to those in agriculture. This finding might suggest that fewer businesses in agriculture qualify for credit. Even for those with loans, the amounts are relatively small—a sign of how poorly agriculture is resourced as far as access to credit is concerned.

Our analysis also shows that the majority of small and medium businesses, particularly in manufacturing, have experienced a severe decline in access to inputs, alluding to the risk of overreliance on international rather than regional or domestic supply chains for raw materials and intermediates. This finding calls for firms, especially MSMEs, to explore the possibility of regional or domestic value and supply chains to stabilize their sources of inputs, while also saving on scarce foreign exchange.

Recommended actions

From the survey, we see that micro, small, and medium enterprises in Uganda are getting the squeeze in the face of COVID-19 and associated business restrictions. From the analysis, we recommend that the authorities offer liquidity interventions to support firms in addressing immediate liquidity challenges, reduce layoffs, and avoid firm closures and bankruptcies. In order to free up more cash for businesses, the government may also consider the following: (i) tax rate reduction, (ii) reducing taxable income, (iii) offering tax credits, and (iv) offering tax refunds. In addition, the government should pay all the outstanding arrears against supplies made to government.

Commercial banks should consider proactively providing emergency loans to MSMEs with flexibility in repayments. The government could recapitalize commercial banks and micro-financial institutions by extending cash loans or by loosening the liquidity reserve requirements to provide financial institutions with the extra liquidity required to provide flexible emergency loans. The above efforts could be complemented by extension and diversification of partial credit guarantee schemes for loans provided by private banks. Alternatively, the government could offer concessional loans through the Uganda Development Bank. In this vein, the government of Uganda has already sought and received a $500 million loan from the International Monetary Fund. The government is also seeking debt repayment rescheduling, which would free up to $2 billion for such purposes.

Use of technology for access to credit should also be escalated during this crisis. For example, mobile money and other e-platforms can simplify loan application processes and reduce turnaround times of MSME loans.

Finally, the Credit Reporting Bureau should be on the lookout for unintended defaults. In this case, all financial institutions should continue to share credit information with regulators. Finally, the government should consider amending the legal framework on bankruptcy with temporary measures to prevent liquidation.

This blog was first published on the Brookings Website. Access the original post here.

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Frugal Innovation during the COVID-19 crisis: Examples from East Africa

26. Mai 2020 - 8:59
Frugal Innovation during the COVID-19 crisis: Examples from East Africa

It is now two months since the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 as a global pandemic. Incidentally, sub-Saharan Africa so far has among the lowest expected reported cases and deaths from the pandemic relative to predictions. This has been attributed to the aggressive restrictive measures that countries in the region rapidly put in place to control the spread of the virus. However, these measures—among them, closing of international and regional borders, closing of schools and universities, dusk-to-dawn curfews, social distancing restrictions, business closures, etc—have had adverse effects on local economies and social structures. These effects have been felt most among low income households in informal settlements and rural areas, and lower-middle income households in cities.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared a 21-day lockdown from March 30, curtailing movement within the country and shutting most shops.  Jekesai Njikizana/AFP via Getty Images

Innovating amidst increasing resource constraints
Amidst the emerging health, social and economic challenges, the continent has seen a new wave of innovations. Efforts to innovate are occurring in informal settlements, rural areas, local governments, enterprises and universities, all of which currently face increasing resource constraints due to the crisis. It happens that the restrictive measures to control the pandemic also control the flow of capital, materials and even human resources across borders at the municipal, regional and country levels. Therefore, any innovative endeavour must employ a frugal mindset. In other words, innovators—big and small—must figure out how to use the resources currently within their reach. This may entail recombining existing materials, knowledge, skills in creative ways, or repurposing existing technologies to cope with the crisis. As a consequence, the emerging innovations are frugal in nature.

“Any innovative endeavour must employ a frugal mindset. Innovators – big and small – must figure out how to use the resources currently within their reach.”

Frugal low-tech grassroots innovations
The most visible and prevalent low-tech frugal innovations on the continent address basic hygiene requirements for combating the pandemic, i.e. sanitisation and face coverings. Examples include the local manufacture of hand sanitisers and soaps using locally available, affordable materials at the grassroots level. Mechanical and automatic water and soap dispensers are being built and installed in public stations. They use pedals or thermal sensors to minimise human contact with sanitisation equipment (see more examples in Tanzania and Uganda). A burst of entrepreneurial activity has also emerged from the small-scale manufacture of face masks using for instance, kitenge fabric and other locally available materials. To distribute them, vendors are using informal supply chains to ensure they reach the grassroots.

Hand washing machine by Joseph Sanga Taifa – Twende-Tanzania

Repurposing existing technologies and business models
Frugal innovation in the hygiene space is not limited to individual and small-scale actors. Large companies are adapting existing manufacturing capacity to produce and distribute sanitisation and other medical supplies. A pertinent example in Kenya is the partnership between Haco Industries and East African Breweries Limited to manufacture and distribute hand sanitisers. Similarly, a coalition of leading technology firms in Kenya formed Safe Hands Kenya together with community groups and other organisations. They are now using their digital platforms and supply chains to distribute sanitisers, surface disinfectants, soap and face masks among targeted vulnerable communities especially in densely populated informal settlements. These efforts piggy-back on capabilities and business models that have optimised how to cost-effectively reach customers in challenging business environments

In the healthcare space, local manufacturers are making frugal medical equipment so as to address demand gaps in public health facilities. For example, automotive companies linked to the Kenya Association of Manufacturers’ (KAM) have developed a portable, robust, compact and economical ventilator dubbed the PumuaIshi 2.0. This ventilator can be used by untrained medical personnel and can operate off grid for up to four hours.

Ashit Shah and Job Mathenge explain how the PumuaIshi 2.0 ventilator works to Industrialisation Cabinet Secretary Betty Maina and CAS Lawrence Karanja on April 21, 2020. Photo by Sila Kiplagat, Nation Media Group

Medical and engineering students from various universities in Kenya have also collaborated to build portable ventilators using mostly locally available materials (see examples here and here). A variety of mobile phone-based e-health applications have emerged in other parts of Africa to, for instance, help individuals assess their COVID-19 risk category through a digital triage tool, run interactive COVID-19 FAQs via WhatsApp-based chatbots, and create public awareness through text messaging.

We also see efforts by government agencies to innovate during the crisis. The Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) has begun to manufacture COVID-19 Point of Contact Rapid Test kits. KEMRI has further repurposed existing diagnostic machinery and knowledge developed during the HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis and Avian flu epidemics to further address gaps in mass testing for COVID-19. Ugandan researchers at Makerere University have similarly developed a low-cost rapid test kit prototype. Personal Protective Equipment are also being manufactured by Kenya’s Kitui County Textile Centre (KICOTEC) and Shona Export Processing Zone, both of which have reengineered their processes to supply goods that would otherwise have been imported from China and other places overseas.

Kenya Medical Research Institute Deputy Director Matilu Mwau explains how the Cobas 880 automated testing machine works in Nairobi on April 8, 2020. It is capable of testing 5,000 Covid-19 samples in a day. Photo by Evans Habil, Nation Media Group

In the consumer goods sector, frugal electronic commerce models—which were previously associated with the middle class consumer—have started up, begun to scale up, or been adapted. Individuals who are quarantined in their homes or neighbourhoods can remotely purchase and receive essential goods such as groceries, toiletries and pharmaceuticals at their doorsteps. These ecommerce models run on mobile apps, cashless transactions supported by fintech solutions such as mobile money transfer, and motorcycle taxis repurposed into couriers and delivery services. An example is the Ugandan Market Garden app that has connected female fruit and vegetable vendors to their customers. Similarly, the Kenya Association of Manufacturers has created a digital directory that micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises can use to source for raw materials.

Digital technologies have also been a game changer for frugally delivering online education to fill the gap created by school closures. High-end private schools and universities have adopted popular video conferencing platforms such as Zoom for teaching. Educators of underprivileged learners in poorer households, on the other hand, have to think out of the box. They are self-organising to restructure curricular for delivery through mobile phone-based media that are more readily available, e.g. through mobile apps, or using platforms such as YouTube and Facebook live. Examples include the mobile app Kisomo SmartLearn in Tanzania, and the SAIDE Community Library in Kenya which runs a makeshift video recording studio that teachers from the region can use to deliver their content.

Lessons for the future
In recognition of the latent innovative capacity of individuals, students, communities and enterprises revealed by the crisis, African governments have now formulated innovation challenges to harness these capabilities. The temporary closure of borders, and thus, slowdown of international trade and importation of goods has stimulated local innovation in a new and even surprising way, thus injecting a new dose of confidence in local capabilities.

The examples above are only but a few cases of innovation and creativity to address the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on the continent. These cases reveal that innovative endeavours during a crisis need to be contextually relevant, i.e. robust, adaptable, affordable and accessible given existing resource and infrastructural constraints and opportunities. While many of these innovative endeavours are local responses to short-term impacts of a global pandemic, they may have longer terms impacts that build resilience in communities. However, they do not obscure the need for structural changes in the delivery of basic services such as healthcare, clean water, energy and education towards more equitable and sustainable access.

Finally, it is also evident that different countries in the region are busy inventing the same wheel. They face similar issues, and their solutions are largely similar. We also see efforts in Europe to develop frugal innovations in healthcare using the same mindset. Looking ahead, there is an opportunity for collaboration, learning, scaling up of innovations locally and reverse innovation. However, contextual peculiarities must be taken into consideration in these processes.

This article was originally published by the Centre for Frugal Innovation in Africa. An academic research centre and global network on frugal innovation.  Access the original post here.

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Connecting the dots: results of the evidence synthesis on youth employment programmes in Africa

25. Mai 2020 - 12:31

The quality of jobs matters and the success of youth employment programmes depends on a much deeper understanding of the choices young people make and the contexts within which they make them. Moreover, both urban and rural youth face a number of different and context-specific constraints on obtaining decent jobs. Finally, young women are consistently more disadvantaged than men in terms of their economic ability, as well as their access to employment in many sectors. These are some of the insights that have emerged from the evidence gathered for INCLUDE so far in the frame of ‘Boosting decent employment for Africa’s youth’ research initiative.

The evidence synthesis paper by Ismail and Mujuru on ‘Work-based learning and youth employment in Africa’ stresses that the progress of technical and vocational education (TVET) students and traditional or informal apprentices is generally hindered by problems with literacy caused by sub-optimal primary and secondary education. Moreover, it should be kept in mind that, so far, most workplace-based learning in Africa occurs through informal or traditional apprenticeships. The evidence suggest that workplace-based learning is more effective as a youth employment intervention if supported by policies that stimulate demand for young workers. Such policies encompass developing priority sectors in the economy and providing effective labour market information systems to better coordinate the supply of skills with the demand for workers.

The private sector, through job creation, was and will be the key to addressing the current youth employment crisis in Africa. Private sector development (PSD) interventions seek to improve firm performance and increase labour productivity in firms. However, micro and small firms often lack access to the more successful direct PSD interventions and rely mainly on training programmes and microfinance services. According to Quak and Flynn in the evidence synthesis paper ‘Private sector development interventions and better-quality job creation for youth in Africa’, PSD interventions alone will not automatically create the (better-quality) jobs needed for African youth. A balance must be struck between creating much needed short-term jobs and tackling underemployment in low-productive sectors in Africa and creating better-quality jobs in high-potential growth areas and large firms.

Khan, in her evidence synthesis paper ‘Young, female and African: barriers, interventions and opportunities for female youth employment in Africa’, confirms that young women are consistently more disadvantaged than men on the labour market. This is due to four key barriers faced by women, namely: social and cultural, economic, conflict and fragility, and skills development. The most successful interventions in addressing these four barriers were found to be a combination of those that support wellbeing, capacity building and access to jobs for women, as well as entrepreneurship. In addition, interventions that focus on providing women with access to, and control over, finance ensure greater success for women starting and maintaining businesses. Two emerging areas of opportunity were found to hold great potential for employing young women – mobile telecommunications and the digital economy – as well as the informal economy.

A straightforward correlation between employment and security is not confirmed by the evidence to date, according to Izzi in the evidence synthesis paper ‘Promoting decent employment for African youth as a peacebuilding strategy’. The quality of work is, therefore, a crucial variable to explain the connection between employment and peacebuilding. Moreover, youth employment programmes do not happen in sterile lab conditions – they are strongly intertwined with the local political economy context. Who gets which jobs, and how, is just as important from a peacebuilding perspective as the overall quantity of jobs created. The paper also suggests ‘connecting the dots’ more carefully between the extensive literature on employment, the world of work in Africa, and the body of research on new forms of violence and conflict. This can be done through an interdisciplinary approach and further evidence synthesis.

All authors of the evidence synthesis papers reiterate the importance of distinguishing youth-specific issues in relevant policies and stress the need for the much broader involvement of youth in decision-making processes. They also recognize that, for now, it is the informal sector that provides the most labour market opportunities for young men and women. Finally, to gain a clearer picture of the state and potential of employment opportunities for youth in Africa, the authors encourage better and more in-depth disaggregated data collection and analysis on young men and women in the labour market, across regions and income distribution levels.

INCLUDE's evidence synthesis papers series In 2019, INCLUDE commissioned a series of evidence synthesis papers on topics pertinent to youth employment challenges, as part of the ‘Boosting decent employment for Africa’s youth’ research initiative, in partnership with Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), under the aegis of the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth. All four papers are now available open-access on our website:

  1. Work-based learning and youth employment in Africa (Ismail & Mujuru, 2020)
  2. Private sector development interventions and better-quality job creation for youth in Africa (Quak & Flynn, 2019)
  3. Young, female and African: barriers, interventions and opportunities for female youth employment in Africa (Khan, 2020)
  4. Promoting decent employment for African youth as a peacebuilding strategy (Izzi, 2020)

INCLUDE’s 2020 evidence synthesis papers series will address the following topics: digital skills and literacy in light of the future of work, youth employment in the rural economy, green jobs for youth, governments’ actions for youth employment and the impact of different types of crises on youth employment outcomes.

The series of evidence synthesis papers provides valuable lessons and recommendations, which may also be relevant in the current crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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A sector worth billions whose employees now lack food and jobs

19. Mai 2020 - 12:31

High food prices and loss of income have emerged as the major concerns for women working on flower farms in Kenya. A rapid assessment of the effects of COVID-19 by Hivos East Africa Women@Work indicates that food security is a major concern mainly due to job losses and increasing food prices.

The analysis further shows that whereas vegetable and fruit farms enjoy a steady workload and consistent orders (hence hardly any job losses), flower farms have seen their workforce reduced by 50 percent. The other half of staff has been either sent home on unpaid leave, or made to work on rotation basis and do twice the work. The horticulture sector in Kenya is thus probably one of the worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic. It is Kenya’s third largest foreign exchange earner, and last year alone contributed KES 120 billion to the country’s gross domestic product. But now it is at less than 10 percent of its normal operations.

In one of the farms sampled there was a significant reduction of workers from 500 to 180, with close to 100 permanent workers being among those sent on unpaid leave. Additionally, on only four out of 12 farms sampled have employers retained their entire workforce as the effects of COVID-19 rage on. For some of these farms, the decision to retain workers was the result of dialogue between company management and the Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU). They agreed on a rotational schedule of two weeks of paid work and two weeks of unpaid leave.

Marginalization of women

Doing more work for less pay (reported in eight of the 12 farms sampled) has led to an increase in the number of employees off sick, with women reporting higher fatigue and stress levels as they live in constant fear of termination. “I feel tormented both mentally and physically. It is like life has turned upside down. I am doing more than double the work I used to do. And yet when I go back home, my children need my full attention,” said one of the interviewees.

Further, patriarchal insistence on maintaining gender roles has compounded the marginalization of women. The obligation to do domestic chores, child care and homeschooling is leaving women overwhelmed and frustrated. A majority of workers interviewed (83 percent) reported an increase in care-work, tension at work and a sense of financial inadequacy. This combination is straining women’s family relations as they find themselves too exhausted to properly engage after a hard day’s work. Domestic violence is a clear risk for them.

Positive Outlook

Key industry players in the supply chain, Fairtrade and Waitrose Foundation, have committed to support workers with monthly cash payments and food packages, respectively, to cushion them from the current hardship. The money will be drawn from the Fairtrade premium (a communal fund for workers and farmers*) from May 2020 for an unspecified period of time.

Some farms have expanded the sorting area and hired extra buses to transport workers in compliance with social distancing measures. One of the farms has introduced night shifts to deal with the dusk to dawn curfew for its packing workers. It also emerged that one company had introduced a variety of breeds on their farms in order to reach new markets.

Way Forward

The fate of hundreds of workers sent home on unpaid leave in March and April 2020 remains unclear. The study recommends expanding COVID-19 social safety net programs for vulnerable workers who have lost their jobs. Or for those in low income and precarious employment, such as the horticulture sector.

The government needs to regulate the prices of food and other essential goods to ensure increases are only triggered by normal supply and demand forces, not price manipulation.

Thirdly, the government should urgently roll out mass testing for the horticultural and other densely populated sectors. This should include free personal protective equipment; free quarantine services for those who have tested positive and free healthcare for workers who fall ill, irrespective of their employment terms.

Further, the government should also ensure standardization of sanitation equipment to prevent employers from purchasing substandard materials that may further expose workers to contracting the coronavirus.

* The Fairtrade Premium is an extra sum of money paid on top of the selling price, which farmers or workers invest in projects of their choice.

This article was originally published by HIVOS East Africa. Access the original post here

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