Partnerships and knowledge sharing are key to achieving more inclusive development in Africa. This was the main message of presentations made by the INCLUDE & NWO-WOTRO research groups during the INCLUDE research-policy dialogue on ‘How to make development policies in Africa more inclusive?’ At the dialogue, which was held on Friday 30 September in Leiden, the research groups presented their interim findings and outlined the implications for policy. The presentations were followed by open dialogues with policymakers, researchers and INCLUDE platform members.
The research-policy dialogue was held to meet the request of researchers and platform members for more detailed discussions on research results and their policy implications. It follows on from the discussions held during INCLUDE’s platform meeting in Zambia last May. The dialogue consisted of three parallel sessions with presentations and discussions on the overarching themes of INCLUDE: ‘Strategic actors for inclusive development, ‘Productive employment’ and ‘Social protection’. The main messages are set out below.
The power to achieve more inclusive development lies with partnerships. This was the red line that emerged strongly from the findings of the research projects on strategic actors. Partnerships can be between governments, the private sector, researchers and/or civil society organizations, which all have their specific contribution to make. These actors also have different interests in building a partnership. Research can reveal these interests and identify the common ground that will lead to a win-win situation for all involved.
The composition of agricultural partnerships in Ghana, as well as the aims of the partners, influence how much smallholders benefit from being part of the partnership in terms of increased decision-making and negotiating power. This was one of the main findings of the research group on agricultural partnerships. A conclusion from the discussions at the research-policy dialogue was that donor governments make an important contribution by having a good overview of the situation and through technical assistance.
However, there are a number of issues that arise when establishing and working in partnerships. These issues often have to do with commitment, the engagement of the private sector, or trust in the government, the private sector, the market or civil society organizations. As the findings of the research project on economic empowerment and sex workers showed, in Ethiopia, sex worker organizations have to build their relationship with the government carefully, due to the sensitivity of the issue of male sex workers.
Furthermore, businesses may be hesitant to join a partnership unless all parties sign a contract clearly setting out mutual expectations beforehand, as the research project on agricultural partnerships found. The research project on inclusive business strategies revealed that there are different levels of ‘trust gaps’ in different countries, which may hinder the setting up of partnerships, but also illustrates the need for cooperation in balanced partnerships.
These issues arise from the different interests of partners within a partnership. The interests of the government, businesses and civil society organizations are often also the main reason for engaging in a partnership. As achieving inclusiveness is not usually the main reason for governments or the private sector to engage in a partnership, the role of civil society organizations is crucial to empower the marginalized, for inclusiveness is not only about including people, but also about empowering them.
The topics discussed under the research projects on productive employment were rather heterogeneous. However, at the same time, there were similarities regarding constraints, the need to differentiate between groups, the need to be explicit about the target group(s), and with respect to implications for donors and especially policymakers. Policymakers insisted on excellent, rigorous and focused analysis in order to be able to draw lessons.
The research puzzle of the project on feeder roads in Ethiopia is that the main use of the new, small feeder roads that connect rural areas with main roads and urban centres is for non-economic activities. This may be due to a lack of vehicles that can be used for transportation. There is evidence of increased economic activity and employment following feeder road construction but not everybody can benefit equally from these opportunities. Further analysis could possibly look at land rights issues and contractors. It may also simply take more time for positive impacts to emerge. Additional job creation could help to reduce any negative external effects of the new roads, such as health issues caused by dust, and increase the positive external effects (e.g., water running off the road, if managed well, can be used for irrigation). The constraints on creating employment through roads can be lifted by filling the transport gap with new types of transport, by using water harvesting techniques (which make water available for irrigation and create additional employment), and through roadside planting (which creates additional employment).
Key to the empowerment of female Ugandan entrepreneurs is their mindset. Another finding of the research project on empowering female Ugandan entrepreneurs is that support from husbands is important, even though opinions differed on whether this is a self-selection effect. Both small-scale household production entrepreneurs and more dynamic, innovative, larger entrepreneurs (‘gazelles’) cannot function without further organization, for example, to share knowledge, strengthen bargaining power and share risks. In addition, most rural female entrepreneurs have no business networks. A suggested option is to establish resource centres within existing organizations to facilitate learning and improve motivational skills, although the impact of such interventions is yet to be evaluated. The kind of organization needed by small and large entrepreneurs differs, which is a finding of direct policy relevance.
In the segmented markets of the avocado sector, training is important. Like the project on female Ugandan entrepreneurs, the findings of this research project also highlighted the difference between modern, programmed versus traditional, non-programmed firms. For the avocado sector, however, the conclusion was less ambiguous than for the dynamic female entrepreneurs: modern, programmed farming is the future of the avocado sector. As access to export markets for avocados is facilitated through certification, smaller firms will probably have to consolidate in order to be able to meet the international production standards. For smallholder farmers, it is too costly to obtain individual certification, so they have to join a cooperative. However, smallholder farmers report issues with the governance of these cooperatives. Therefore, a recommendation from this research project is to make individual certification cheaper. A similar finding also came out of the study on the rose sector by the researchers of the project on multinational businesses in Africa.
The findings of the project on multinational businesses in Africa flipped the research perspective. The three research projects discussed above assume that the ‘benevolent’ Dutch policymaker is the main driver of success in creating conditions for productive employment creation. This project, however, clarified that progress is not possible without clear commitment from the host government – which is the most important strategic actor – despite the good intentions of the Dutch government and a Dutch multinational. Nevertheless, the study of Heineken in Nigeria shows that the inconsistency of host government policies, such as in sorghum cultivation, hampers the sustained supply of sorghum to breweries. This makes it harder for multinationals to support investment in inclusive developmen through business.
Sharing existing knowledge on policy effectiveness and coherence will not help if knowledge production and sharing is driven by the requirements of policymakers in donor countries. Research must meet the needs of African countries and be driven by African stakeholders to deliver viable policy solutions.
The research group on maternity fee waivers in Kenya reported significant overlaps in the coverage of the health packages of the different social protection programmes. For example, the Free Primary Care and Free Maternal Care programmes interfere with the Community Healthcare Plan (a community-based health insurance scheme), as people are less willing to buy insurance for benefits that are available for free under other programmes. The Free Primary Care programme was introduced as a result of a political declaration and implemented hastily, without sufficient coordination between the different actors.
The research project on social and health policies for inclusive growth (SHPIG) also highlighted the importance of political will. The project found that, in Ghana, implementation of social protection policies has more political support, than in Kenya. Related to this is the role that other actors play in the formulation and implementation of social protection policy. For example, in Kenya, UNICEF has urged and supported the government to initiate social protection policies and strategies.
Determining the cost-effectiveness of social protection health-based interventions is far from straightforward. Due to the challenges of determining the cost effectiveness of the interventions, the research group on maternity fee waivers in Kenya is comparing two health programmes using a series of indicators (quality of care, out-of-pocket costs, targeting, leakage rates, antenatal care utilization, number of deliveries in health facilities, mortality rates and coverage). This comparison will make it possible to establish what works best for inclusive development and ensure that no-one is left behind. However, it is important to note that other aspects of health systems, such as reaching the facility on time, may be more important to improving health outcomes than whether or not the health services are free or health insurance is available.
The interlinkages between various social protection policies, including informal ones, makes it difficult to establish the cost effectiveness of a particular intervention, as the research project on social and health policies for inclusive growth found. Recognition of informal institutions, decentralization efforts and conflicting formal institutions are useful in determining the cost effectiveness of interventions and appropriate policy messages.
The central message of the research project on social protection in the Afar region of Ethiopia was that, although the design of the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) seems to be appropriate for sedentary farmers, it does not serve the needs of the pastoralists in the Afar region. The PSNP public works programme does not cover livestock farming and the household assets project has not been realized because implementers fear that the people will default on payments. The pastoralists were expected to implement livelihood strategies that were inappropriate for their context. The PSNP was also being implemented in a region characterized by the marginalization of women, both socially and culturally. In addition, there were capacity challenges and the programme did not reflect livelihood diversification processes in the region.
One of the projects that the research on maternity fee waivers in Kenya studied was a community-based health insurance scheme. The insurance scheme can be viewed as an attempt to solve public health issue through a private approach. What emerged from the research is that it is difficult to establish the cost recovery of insurance in an area where free healthcare is being implemented. Although health insurance appeared to be a private solution to a public problem, it was also not clear whether cost recovery in private health systems could reach the excluded.
The baseline research conducted on weather index insurance for Ethiopian farmers found that, despite the low income of farmers in Ethiopia, weather index insurance has the potential to improve agricultural investment, yields and access to finance. The insurance was also conceived as a private solution to a public problem. The study, which is ongoing, is using a randomized controlled trial to analyse these ideas. Subsequent phases of the study will look at whether or not farmers would be interested in buying the insurance, especially low income earners, and whether or not the model is cost effective compared to other social protection interventions (such as agricultural coupons). Another issue is how this insurance could work with current interventions, especially those targeting vulnerable groups. These questions are of particular interest to policymakers.
The research project on the economic case for social protection in Uganda found that investing in poor and vulnerable households increases human capital (through health and education). Hence, the decision by the government of Uganda to abolish the Vulnerable Family Grant under the Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE) programme may not be the most appropriate in terms of return on investment (value for money). The project found that there is a need to invest in infrastructure that promotes investment in, and return on, health and education, which means that social protection should be part of a broader overall government investment strategy. During the next phase of this research, the focus will be on the multiplier effect of social protection.
Going forward, the research groups will focus more on the cost effectiveness of the interventions so that they can generate evidence-based policy messages for policy actors. The groups have also planned a series of research uptake activities to engage with policy actors.
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