Eli Francis via UNSPLASH

The INCLUDE team’s reading list: April 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. 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.

In constructing this April edition of our monthly reading list, we were particularly excited by the amount of new evidence on social protection, education and digitisation, as well as the number of studies that overlap different policy areas – we see this as a good thing, as it builds our understanding of the complexities of development.

  • Ethiopia’s social safety net effective in limiting covid-19 impacts on rural food insecurity – Over the past decade, Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP) has yielded many positive results in addressing household poverty and food insecurity in the low-income districts it targets. As the pandemic suddenly raised economic stresses on poor households, a new study by the IFPRI shows the PSNP has been effective in blunting those impacts, demonstrating the value of social protection programs in longer-term development strategies.
  • Towards shock responsive social protection – This research examines how social protection programs, processes, and delivery systems in the six Maintains countries – Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Kenya, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, and Uganda – have been used to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, and to understand the enabling and limiting factors. The study provides policy recommendations to inform and influence investments in social protection systems to prepare for future shocks.
  • Ghana’s school lunch program linked to improved learning – Extensive research shows that providing meals can improve children’s school participation, as well as their physical and psycho-social health, with most benefits accruing to more disadvantaged children. However, evidence on their effectiveness on learning is more limited—focused mostly on small-scale experiments run by NGOs—and has mixed results. This recent evaluation by IFPRI of Ghana’s national school meal program finds positive impacts on standardised test scores, especially for the poorest children and for girls.
  • RCT results on cash transfers for child immunisation – IDinsight and Hanovia Limited measured the impact of a conditional cash transfer (CCT) program implemented by New Incentives – All Babies Are Equal Initiative (NI-ABAE) in North West Nigeria on childhood immunization coverage. The RCT found that the program increased immunization coverage for children between 12 and 16 months of age, improved the timeliness (within 1 month) of the Measles vaccine, and potentially reduced vaccine supply constraints.
  • Distortionary effects of conditions attached to cash transfers – This World Bank blog provides new evidence for the distortionary effects of CCTs on beneficiary behaviour in the context of migration. It discusses the issue of setting transfer levels correctly (which is important for fixed budget programs since transfer size determines program coverage) and suggest that smaller transfers provided to a larger share of program applicants could avoid significant trade-off in poverty and inequality reduction.
  • The care economy costs women. It’s time to pay up, advocates say at CSW – As pandemic recovery begins, short-term, gender-sensitive responses can be rolled into long-term plans for systemic change. UNDP’s short-term social protection scheme, unveiled March 4, proposes that low-income countries redirect 0.07% of their monthly GDP to a temporary basic income for women experiencing severe socioeconomic stress due to the pandemic.
  • Will Every Child Be Able to Read by 2030? Defining Learning Poverty and Mapping the Dimensions of the Challenge – In 2019, the World Bank and UNESCO Institute for Statistics designed a new metric to spotlight low levels of learning and track progress towards SDG 4. This paper provides the technical background for that indicator, Learning Poverty, including calculations at the country, regional, and global levels, and a heterogeneity analysis by gender, region and other variables. It also backdates the indicator and compares historical rates of progress with the rate of progress needed to halve Learning Poverty by 2030.
  • How well are remote learning tools reaching students in Kenya? – This post by CEGA describes the results of a phone survey of 2,973 eighth grade students and parents from 198 schools across Busia County, Kenya. The survey collected data on secondary school attitudes, household characteristics, and learning at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, in order to identify factors influencing learning, drop-out and transitions to secondary education. It examined student access to the five EdTech initiatives used during the pandemic: radio, television, mobile/ internet platforms such as YouTube, the “Education Cloud”, and SMS messaging.
  • How to improve technical and vocational education and training for youth in developing countries – This list of publications, based on the March 2021 edition of the Knowledge4Jobs newsletter, focuses on lessons learned and good practices for improving access, equity, quality, and relevance of TVET systems and institutions in the wake of COVID-19. The list includes numerous studies from Africa, on topics such as: improving the quality and relevance of TVET to aid school-to-work transitions; support for TVET institutions, teachers, and students in the early stages of the COVID crisis; the scope for socioemotional skills to help navigate the turbulent impacts of COVID-19 on employment; the role of incentives in education and skills programs for out-of-school youth; and how to include youth voices in employment programs.
  • The Gender Gap in Universities and Colleges in sub-Saharan Africa – Women’s enrolment in universities and colleges globally increased by 9% from 2011 to 2020. However, just 24% of academic staff in tertiary education across sub-Saharan Africa are female. Private returns to overall education are much higher for women (12%) than men (10%), showing that education is a good investment for women and girls and needs to be prioritised. This mini report by Martin Mulwa, Research Manager at ESSA, discusses the evidence on gender inequality in education and what can be done about it.
  • Essays on innovation and recovery for Africa – In this essay series, policy experts and researchers from ACET and the Development and Economic Growth Research Programme (DEGRP), in partnership with ODI, explore the critical role of innovation in Africa’s recovery from COVID-19. Essays will look at innovation from a thematic perspective, identify areas in which innovation can contribute to effective responses and offer high-level policy recommendations.
  • The rise of mobile money in sub-Saharan Africa: Has this digital technology lived up to its promises? – Mobile money has been touted as a revolutionary tool for expanding access to financial services in low resource environments. This post by J-PAL asks whether this technology lives up to its promises, by looking at the impacts on household resilience, household savings, transparency and formalisation, employment decisions and poverty among women, and by highlighting key challenges and risks to its success.
  • Beliefs and behaviors about COVID-19 in Uganda’s capital – This project examines the social, health and economic impact of COVID-19 on 2700 residents in Uganda’s capital city, Kampala. It assesses levels of knowledge about COVID-19, compliance with public health policies, and citizens’ perceptions of government performance, and maps these at the local level using GIS tools, with implications for spatially-targeted policies.
  • Modelling remittances flows with web scraping – Target 10.c of the Sustainable Development Goals aims at a reduction of transaction costs of migrant remittances to less than 3 percent and at the elimination of remittance corridors with costs higher than 5 percent. Information on the geographical location of money transfer agents was harvested and mapped, in combination with geocoded population data for nine sub-Saharan African countries, to allow identification of undersupplied populations in terms of physical access to money agents and inform policies aimed at facilitating financial inclusion as an instrument to combat poverty.
  • Inventions boom in ‘assistive tech’ offers wider benefits for all – The Geneva-based World Intellectual Property Organization said that assistive technologies are increasingly finding their way into mass-market consumer applications. The result offers the possibility of greater autonomy for users in negotiating their environment, work and home life through robot helpers, brainwaves and smart transformation.
  • Addressing the COVID-19 crisis’s indirect health impacts for women and girls – This working paper by the CGD illustrates how the pandemic, associated response measures, economic contraction and different coping strategies intersect with underlying gender norms and inequality in ways that differentially affect the health and wellbeing of women and girls in LMICs. The paper examines some ways national governments have sought to maintain provision of essential health services and reviews the extent to which donor institutions have prioritized financial, technical, and other forms of support to mitigate disruptions.
  • Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on maternal and perinatal outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis – This paper by the Lancet global health institute reviews 40 studies on the effects of COVID-19 on maternal, fetal, and neonatal health. The study shows an increase in maternal deaths, stillbirth, ruptured ectopic pregnancies, and maternal depression, with considerable disparity between high-resource and low-resource settings. There is an urgent need to prioritise safe, accessible, and equitable maternity care within the strategic response to this pandemic and in future health crises.
  • Key to addressing obesity in Africa lies in education, food systems – All African countries with available data are off track to meet global targets on adult obesity. But obesity has failed to gain the attention and action needed to achieve control because the food crisis in Africa is usually viewed in the context of undernutrition, malnourishment, and famine. Though nutrition activists say urgent action is needed, they have also warned that to deal with the crisis, governments must start by reimagining food systems and educating populations.
  • Continuing vital health services in Guinea-Bissau during COVID-19 – Door-to-door distributions of 1.3million bednets have now been carried out across all 11 regions in Guinea-Bissau, covering a target population of close to 2.3 million people. This strategy protects against diseases like malaria, TB and HIV whilst ensuring social distancing and avoiding large gatherings of people to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Taking stock of COVID-19 labour policy responses in developing countries – This Jobs Watch brief by the World Bank provides an analysis of labor market and social protection responses to the COVID-19 crisis, with a focus on policies targeted to workers and firms, using data from the global COVID-19 SPJ Policy Inventory. The analysis can inform governments of approaches that can be taken when introducing or adapting their crisis mitigation measures. To our knowledge, this is the first summary of labor market policies adopted by developing countries in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Youth aspirations and the reality of jobs in Africa – Evidence from ten African countries shows that what youth value most is job security, such as work in the public sector, while agriculture-related work or medium-skilled jobs in manufacturing are the least attractive. This has little in common with current and projected labour demand in the region. This OECD publication presents a two-pronged approach to addressing the misalignment between youth employment preferences and employment opportunities: i) helping young people shape career aspirations that are realistic and that can fit with the world they will be entering, and ii) improving the quality of jobs with due regard to the job conditions that matter for young people.
  • Youth-to-youth mentorship approach in agripreneurship development – This brief presents the youth-to-youth mentorship experience promoted by the Youth Inspiring Youth in Agriculture (YIYA) Initiative in Uganda in 2017. Based on actual mentorship experiences, it proposes eight youth-to-youth mentorship models, and provides recommendations on how to harness the full potential of youth-to-youth mentorship in youth agripreneurship development initiatives.
  • The Impact of Cash Transfers on Female Entrepreneurs’ Business Outcomes during Covid-19 in Kenya – A one-off cash grant was given to 753 female microenterprise owners in May 2020 in Dandora informal settlement in Nairobi using M-PESA. on their behaviors and business outcomes during Covid-19. Cash transfers helped female entrepreneurs maintain their livelihoods, increasing firm profit, inventory spending, and food expenditures. The transfers also caused a re-opening of previously closed businesses. Since beliefs played an important role in affecting Covid-19 mitigation efforts in this setting, researchers suggest there may be an important role for public health information campaigns to be used in tandem with cash transfers.
  • African Development Review special issue on the impact of COVID-19 on African economies – paper on COVID-19 and food prices in Sub-Saharan Africa; the short-term economywide impacts of COVID-19 in Ethiopia; the causal relationship between corruption and irresponsible behaviour in the time of COVID-19: evidence from Tunisia; and online and face-to-face learning: evidence from students’ performance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Drivers of Disparity: How Policy Responses to COVID-19 Can Increase Inequalities – This policy briefing assesses the channels through which macroeconomic policy responses in Nigeria and Uganda negatively affect or exclude specific groups, with the aim of resetting policies to achieve more inclusive outcomes that will support economic growth and development in the post COVID future. It finds that the urban poor and the informal sector are being excluded as a result of the poor coverage of cash transfer programmes and the implementation of policies mostly applicable to the formal sector.
  • Industrial policy for local economic transformation: a synthesis of literaturethis paper by ILGS seeks to provide evidence on what an industrial policy means, how industrialised and developing countries have used it to transform their economies in terms of specific programmes, how they have translated industrial policies to local programmes and implications to Ghana’s local economic transformation and development policies and programmes.
  • Four ways Mozambique can achieve a faster jobs transformation and capture the demographic dividend – The Jobs Diagnostic produced for the Let’s Work Mozambique Country Pilot shows that over the last 20 years, the pattern of economic growth has become progressively less inclusive, reducing its scope for poverty reduction. This blog outlines four strategies to accelerate the shift into higher value-added activities and better livelihoods for the mass of low-paid workers in Mozambique.
  • Food price spikes see inflation rear its head in emerging markets – A mix of currency depreciation, rising commodity prices and coronavirus disruptions have caused food inflation to soar in many developing countries. Shopping for staple foods such as rice, beans, oil or potatoes now means making hard choices.
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 includeplatform.net with the subject “Contribution to INCLUDE reading list“.
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