Jonathan Castellon via UNSPLASH

The INCLUDE team’s reading list: May 2021

One of INCLUDE’s core beliefs is that so much knowledge already exists, it just needs guiding to the right places and the right people in order to reach its full impact for policy and, ultimately, for development. May was another abundant month in terms of research output and knowledge gained, and we are excited to share here what our secretariat have been reading. Whether you are seeking information to guide policy, embarking upon a piece of research, or simply interested in broadening your knowledge and staying updated on inclusive development in Africa, we hope this source can be a good starting point.

  • What have we learned about cash transfers? – Four big-picture messages from the vast research on cash transfers for high-level policymakers, extracted from a recent World Bank brief. 1) Conditional cash transfers (CCTs) are part and parcel of social protection strategies in many countries. 2) Unconditional cash transfers (UCTs) are becoming more popular. 3) UCTs and CCTs can be deployed together to better achieve the twin goals of current poverty reduction and human capital accumulation. 4) Economic inclusion programs can build on cash transfers to achieve sustained poverty reduction.
  • “Two Birds, No Stones”: A Global Initiative to Combine Rural Social Protection with Climate Resilience – The need for more robust social protection programs in lower-income countries is clearer than ever, and we have a chance to tackle the other most pressing problem of our time, climate change, in the design of those programs. The CGD proposes a three-part initiative by the G7 and G20 leadership, supported by both the international development and climate change communities, to tackle this dual challenge.
  • Do Workfare Programs Live Up to Their Promises? Experimental Evidence from Côte d’Ivoire – This World Bank working paper evaluates the longer-term impacts of a public works intervention among urban youths in Côte d’Ivoire, who self-selected to work for seven months at minimum wage and received training on basic entrepreneurship or job search skills. Fifteen months after the program ended, savings stock remain higher, but there are no lasting impacts on employment or work habits and behaviours, and only limited impacts on earnings.
  • Social protection for agriculture and resilience: Highlights, lessons learned, and priorities for One CGIAR – A collection of research on the impact of social protection programs and complementary interventions on agricultural growth and nutrition, including impact evaluations of national food and cash transfer programs (e.g., the Takaful and Karama Program in Egypt, the Productive Safety Net Program in Ethiopia, and the Programme de Filets Sociaux “Jigisemejiri” in Mali), and pilot studies, policy papers and review studies in many low- and middle-income countries.
  • Tanzania is making education financing work better for all children to leave no one behind – Five years ago, Tanzania ended all fees to attend school, leading to a surge in enrolment among poor and disadvantaged children and children with disabilities. Part of GPE’s current grant to Tanzania is incentivizing the government to spend its education resources more efficiently and equitably in order to deal with this increased enrolment.
  • Following FACTS to Recover and Revamp Nigeria’s Education System During and Beyond COVID-19 – This brief, written by the Centre for the Studies of the Economies of Africa (CSAE) for RISE (organisation for Research on Improving Systems of Education), highlights a simple and smart approach to recover the expected learning loss and revamp Nigeria’s education system, conveniently summarized in the acronym FACTS: Foundational learning, Assessment, Curriculum alignment, Technology and Special needs.
  • Should Governments and Donors Prioritize Investments in Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN)? – This essay by the CGD examines the potential channels by which FLN skills—which most systems teach in the early grades of primary school—may impact later schooling and subsequent life outcomes, and the existing evidence for each channel. The authors find widening trajectories in school between students who master FLN skills in early grades and those who do not, but mixed evidence on the returns to FLN skills in earnings and other adult outcomes. They discuss the allocation of investment at different levels of education and between different skills, as well as the political obstacles to FLN investments.
  • From Evidence to Policy and Practice: Improving Urban Education in East Africa – This is the second phase of the urban education project by the African Population and Health Research Centre (APHRC) that seeks to ensure improved access to quality education for children living in urban informal settlements through evidence-based advocacy in three countries in East Africa – Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. The first phase created a strong voice among state and non-state education stakeholders on the need to focus on the education of urban poor. The second phase aims at consolidating existing evidence and conducting population and education projections in order to gauge the future demand for education in the context of urbanization in East Africa and as evidence tool for planning and engagement.
  • Digital financial services, enabled by fintech, have the potential to lower costs, increase speed, security and transparency and allow for more tailored financial services that serve the poor at scale. This World Bank Group report from last year addresses the binding constraints and enablers for developing and growing digital financial services (including regulatory frameworks, infrastructure, and ancillary government support systems) and examines different approaches at the country level.
  • Keeping class in session: A case study of EdTech and the COVID-19 response in Kenya – In this study, the African Population and Health Research Centre (APHRC) synthesise existing evidence and examine stakeholder responses with regards to the use of distance learning solutions during COVID-19 period and beyond in Kenya. The study focuses on the different EdTech solutions employed, their effectiveness in terms of reach and usage for marginalised and vulnerable children, and decision making around EdTech.
  • From digital promise to frontline practice: new and emerging technologies in humanitarian action – New and emerging technologies can support the shift from reaction to anticipation by enabling earlier, faster and potentially more effective humanitarian action This study by the United Nations Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) examines opportunities for solving technology-related problems across the humanitarian programme cycle, challenges posed by new and emerging technologies in humanitarian contexts, and enablers of technology in the humanitarian sector.
  • A new system for digital education in Malawi – A secondary teacher developed digital resources to ensure more students have access to quality learning materials in Malawi, a crucial need during the pandemic and school closures. The Padziwe Ecosystem for Digital Education is a collection of software applications and hardware aimed at supporting learners, teachers and schools in the teaching and learning process. This is the second blog in a series showcasing the winners of the African Union ‘Innovating Education in Africa’ program.
  • Increasing immunization in low- and middle-income countries – In this brief, Innovations for Poverty Action’s (IPA) Path-to-Scale research team has compiled evidence from demand-side interventions to increase vaccination acceptance and uptake in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to help inform COVID-19 vaccination programming
  • Africa’s processed food revolution and the double burden of malnutrition – With rapid urbanization, higher incomes, and employment opportunities for women, demand for convenient (processed) foods is expanding rapidly and supply chains have transformed—shifting production towards cheap processed foods and distribution through supermarkets and local convenience stores, mostly in urban areas. A recent study involving the IFPRI associates Africa’s rapidly changing food markets with the double burden of undernutrition and obesity.
  • 2 decades on, Nigeria falls short of landmark health pledge – A report by the Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family Health at Scale (or PACFaH@Scale) and the development Research and Projects Centre (dRPC), a local group dedicated to capacity building for the expansion of social capital and accountability in Nigeria, shows that the Nigerian government has fallen short of its Abuja Declaration commitment to ensure 15% of its annual budgetary allocation goes toward health, reaching just 4.7% over the last two decades. This article by Devex highlights key takeaways from the report explaining this outcome.
  • Measuring children’s development in low and middle income countries: getting it right – Through a systematic review (SR) soon to be published in the Journal of Early Childhood Research, the authors of this UCL report identified 43 current tools to provide comparative robust data about children’s development and their learning contexts. It includes 34 tools for assessing children’s development across countries, five to measure the home environment and four to measure early childhood education settings to inform research and practice.
  • Enterprise Formalization: Tailored registration, tax and social security requirements for MSEs – This Thematic Brief is part of a series of publications by ILO on Enterprise Formalization. It investigates ‘entry level’ mechanisms and related business registration, tax and social security reforms to tailor existing requirements to the needs and characteristics of micro and small enterprises. Such schemes can make the formalization process easier and more attractive.
  • Employment creation potential, labor skills requirements, and skill gaps for young people: A Senegal case study – In this paper, Brookings analyze specific “industries without smokestacks” and their potential contribution to economic growth and job creation in Senegal. The paper recommends policies to remove the many hurdles that exist in Senegal’s regulatory framework and deter private enterprise development.
  • Kenya’s slum vendors rely on savings groups to survive COVID-19 – The limited access to capital for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) further diminished during the pandemic, as their two sources of credit — financial institutions and suppliers — were greatly affected. Faced with these challenges, a growing number of vendors in Kenya’s slums turned to credit unions and savings groups, which could provide loans without collateral, to boost their businesses.
  • How universities in Africa can build job skills for young people – This short report by ESSA and the REAL centre at the University of Cambridge uses evidence from the African Education Research Database to address how universities and colleges in sub-Saharan Africa can work with employers to increase employment for young people in Africa, including redesigning courses, entrepreneurship training, digital innovation and career guidance.
  • When industrial policy fails to produce structural transformation: the case of Ethiopia – Despite the increasing foreign investment in many African economies, their participation in trade, and the economic growth that follows from it, structural transformation has remained limited. In this LSE article, Kasper Vrolijk looks at Ethiopia’s industrial policy and argues that the government has failed to sufficiently emphasize innovation in—and technology transfer to—domestic firms, leading to minimal “upgrading” of low to high value-added activities.
  • Structural transformation, economic development and industrialisation in post-Covid-19 Africa – This study by the ODI looks at the challenges facing industrialisation in African countries, in particular the issues for the policy framework needed to support it. The report identifies three important elements for economic recovery from the pandemic, and three focus areas which can be used for Africa to play an increasingly positive role on global industrialisation efforts in the decade ahead.
  • World Development Report 2021 – The latest edition of this annual World Bank report provides a blueprint on how to harness the power of data for development, to ensure no one is left behind. The report looks at the social contract for data; building trust around information; data as a force for public good; data infrastructure; competition, regulation and data protection; governing data; and improving data systems, among others.
  • Afrobarometer launches SDG Scorecards to provide citizens’ perspectives on progress toward Sustainable Development Goals in Africa – The scorecards highlight five-year trends in citizens’ experiences and evaluations of their country’s performance on selected indicators of democracy and governance, poverty, health, education, energy supply, water and sanitation, inequality, gender equity, and other priorities reflected in 12 of the 17 SDGs. The first scorecards are available now, with 31 in total over the next few weeks.
  • Quality of Official Development Assistance (QuODA) is a tool created by the Centre for Global Development for comparing performance across dimensions of aid quality across 49 of the largest bilateral and multilateral agencies. QuODA provides a quantitative assessment of providers efforts, composed of 17 indicators grouped into four dimensions: Prioritisation, Ownership, Transparency & Untying, and Evaluation.
  • Women’s voices in civil society organizations: Evidence from a civil society mapping project in Mali – A new issue brief by IFPRI and CGIAR looks at how women’s voices can be amplified in a situation of prevailing patriarchal norms, and what should be done so that these voices are not only heard, but also acted The brief suggests that Malian women have high participation rates in nearly all types of CSOs, but face constraints in translating that participation into political influence.
We encourage anyone from our platform, close network and wider audience to get in touch with recommendations for this reading list and to help us with our goal of sharing and disseminating knowledge. Please mail your suggestions to with the subject “Contribution to INCLUDE reading list“.

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