Gabriele Stravinskaite via UNSPLASH

The INCLUDE team’s reading list: June 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.

As summer begins, there has been no slowdown in the quantity and quality of output from research and development organisations. Momentum continues around social protection, digitalisation and COVID-19 recovery. Here we share some of the latest research in these areas.

  • This year’s Financial Inclusion Global Initiative (FIGI) symposium ran from 18 May to 24 June, with series of webinars on Fintech for inclusion; Digital ID; Electronic payments; Gender equity; Consumer protection and Cybersecurity. The conference session recordings and working group papers are now accessible online on the FIGI website.
  • International Poverty Action (IPA) have published findings from three household surveys on consumer protection in digital finance user in Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya. The surveys addressed issues such as scams and fraud, complaints handling, transparency and hidden charges, competition and consumer choice, agent conduct and digital credit.
  • Why Digitalization and Digital Governance Are Key to Regional Integration in Africa – The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) potential might not be fully realized without stronger digital connectivity and effective policies that (1) promote the free flow of data and information across member states to facilitate knowledge sharing and collaboration and (2) reduce trade integration costs and address existing structural barriers to intra-regional trade in Africa. This article by the CGD discusses how digitalization can help to address structural barriers to trade in Africa.
  • How to provide online learning and skills training to youth in low-bandwidth areas – A UNICEF joint study estimates 2.2 billion people — or two-thirds of children and young people under age 25 — do not have internet access at home. The World Bank share strategies and delivery models from a Solutions For Youth Employment (S4YE) Knowledge Brief to address the bandwidth challenge and create an engaging experience while recognizing the local particularities of learners.
  • Digital innovations accelerated by COVID-19 are revolutionizing food systems: Implications for the UN Food Systems Summit – Recent publications by the IFPRI identify several emerging fundamental changes in individual business and supply-chain operations through digital technologies. These food system innovations have been almost entirely market-driven and introduced by private sector actors, but their ability to innovate heavily depended on the availability of adequate basic infrastructure, mobile information and communications technology (ICT) networks, and regulation put in place by past public investment and policies.
  • The Pathway to Progress on SDG 4: A Symposium – Earlier this year, Girin Beeharry stepped down as the inaugural director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s global education program, leaving behind a manifesto for international actors in the education sector. The heart of this manifesto is that we must reorient global aid for education around promoting foundational literacy and numeracy, unflinchingly monitor progress on that core goal, and hold all development institutions accountable for measurable results in this domain. A collection of 21 essays provides reflections and counter proposals to Girin’s essay by sector leaders, researchers, and practitioners.
  • PREPARE to Succeed: A Research Consortium on Progress and Resilience in Education – CGD’s education program is launching the Partnership for Research on Progress and Resilience in Education (PREPARE), a consortium of research institutions who will work together to produce rigorous evidence on the most important education challenges posed by COVID-19. To begin, PREPARE partners based (initially) in Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Pakistan and Senegal are focusing on how to ensure children can re-enrol safely, determine what learning has been lost and how to reverse this, and understand the potentially large differential impacts of the pandemic on girls and vulnerable groups.
  • Hard skills or soft skills for the youth – In a new working paper for CEGA, Chioda et al set up two mini-MBA trainings for Ugandan students about to graduate from secondary school. One of these is predominantly hard skills, while the other focuses on soft skills. Both curricula had training on defining entrepreneurship, identifying business opportunities, and using technology in a small business. Three and half years later, it turns out they both work – more businesses, higher profits and yes, more employees!
  • Social protection and job responses to covid-19 – This 15th edition of the living paper on global social protection responses to Covid-19, by Ugo Gentilini at the World Bank, presents a rich set of updates. The database shows that between March 20, 2020 and May 14, 2021, a total of 3,333 social protection measures have been planned or implemented in 222 countries or territories. This represents an increase of nearly 148% since December 2020. While social assistance and insurance soared by about 120% and 110%, respectively, active labor market interventions surged by nearly 330%. This increase is due to both augmented recent country-level action and enhanced data collection of experiences.
  • How did Mozambique support vulnerable urban and peri-urban households during the pandemic? This ILO report documents how the government worked in partnership with community-based organizations to register more than 945,000 new beneficiaries for six months of cash transfers, provided through the “Post Emergency COVID-19 Direct Social Support Program.”
  • Social assistance in Ethiopia during COVID-19 – In a pandemic, government assistance is effective only if it reaches the most affected families in time. A Brookings analysis examines how many and which households received support between March and October 2020, what kinds of support they received, where/whom the support came from, and how this support changed over time.
  • Agricultural insurance: The antidote to many economic illnesses – Brookings discuss how agriculture insurance can be an antidote to climatic shocks, which threaten global food security and stability, cripple livelihoods and disrupt value chains. Insurance de-risks lending to the farm sector enabling repayment of loans, reduces budget volatility of agriculture-related fiscal expenditures by transferring climatic risk to the private sector, increases fiscal space during shock years, and stimulates growth of the agriculture sector, which can unlock job creation potential. It can even reduce the scope for fiscal leakages and corruption.
  • It’s 2021 – How is Africa protecting its young people? – Chiamaka Nwachukwu, one of the moderators at INCLUDE’s recent conference on ‘Building forward more inclusively’, draws some clear and insightful messages from her session “Merging perspectives on decent employment for Africa’s youth post pandemic”, grounding them in the context of her home country, Nigeria, and reflecting on the implications for development policy and dialogue.
  • How COVID-19 is likely to slow down a decade of youth development in Africa – There are fears that the pandemic will result in a lockdown generation, characterised by structurally higher youth poverty, unemployment and inequalities. This article argues that to prevent this future, we must focus on youth entrepreneurship and digital entrepreneurial ecosystems.
  • Promoting an Inclusive Recovery by Prioritizing Gender: A “Care, Cash, and Data” Agenda for the IDA20 Replenishment – Against the backdrop of contracting fiscal space—in both donor and recipient countries—and competing priorities for IDA resources, establishing a robust agenda to promote gender equality for IDA20 is an imperative. To address the gendered impacts of the COVID crisis, CGD researchers working through the COVID-19 Gender and Development Initiative have proposed three priority focus areas: care, cash, and data.
  • How to Promote Young Women’s Resilience in the Face of COVID-19 Induced Economic Shocks: Lessons from Urban Mozambique – MUVA is a  UKAid funded program, implemented by Oxford Policy Management, which has worked to empower young women economically in Mozambique’s poorest urban areas since 2015. This blog focuses on two MUVA projects still in operation at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. These two projects for urban young women, a business accelerator and a teacher assistants’ internship and mentorship program, were severely affected by the pandemic triggered lockdown.
  • Project Profile IGNITE: Building Technical Innovation in Nutrition-Sensitive and Gender-Integrated Agriculture – The Impacting Gender & Nutrition through Innovative Technical Exchange in Agriculture (IGNITE) mechanism is a five-year investment implemented by Tanager, Laterite, and 60 Decibels to strengthen African institutions’ ability to integrate nutrition and gender into their way of doing business and their agriculture interventions. All the diagnostic toolkits and updates can be found on the project website.
  • Women and e-commerce in Africa – The report ‘Women and E-commerce in Africa’ by the IFC is the first large-scale use of platform data in the region to inform the extent of women’s participation on e-commerce and how online platforms can benefit women business Developed in partnership with the European Commission, with funding from the Umbrella Fund for Gender Equality and data from one of Africa’s largest platforms, Jumia, the report shows that closing earnings gaps between men and women on e-commerce platforms could add nearly $15 billion to the value of the African e-commerce market.
  • Global aid increased in 2020, but support for the poorest countries is waning – The latest global aid data released by the OECD shows that aid is at an all-time high, as many donors increased their aid in response to the crisis in 2020. But without better targeting of ODA to where need is greatest, we risk leaving the poorest countries further behind.
  • Removing the Wedge between Process Actors and Knowledge Actors in Development Cooperation: A Step toward More Inclusive and Networked Global Governance – COVID-19 has exacerbated several pre-pandemic trends in international development cooperation—among the most obvious, the weakening of the multilateral system and its subdued response to crises. One manifestation of this trend is the noticeable wedge in the relationship between process actors and knowledge actors in development cooperation governance. This suggests the already-fragmented global development governance arrangements are getting less networked, inclusive, and effective.
  • How is ‘China’ helping to transform ‘Africa’? The need for a more sophisticated debate – There are many different narratives cast around in public and policy debate: China as the new imperial power, China as the radical developmentalist, China as just like any other donor/foreign power. None are very convincing. A report synthesising a number of research projects has been published recently, titled Africa’s economic transformation: the role of Chinese investment, and aims to get beyond the rhetoric and gain a more sophisticated, empirically-based analysis based on substantial UK-funded research efforts over recent years.
  • Covid-19 Diaries – A year of pandemic: No one is safe until everyone is safe – UNICEF has been working closely with the Government of Niger and its partners to increase the procurement and supply of vaccines, train health workers, and tackle trust and misinformation in communities. This report provides important insights into the impact of the pandemic on children in Niger, and highlights actions in health; nutrition; education; water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); gender-based violence and social protection sectors.
  • COVID-19 is a developing country pandemic – Contrary to what was shown and believed a year ago, global health has not been subverted. In fact, compared to rich countries, the developing world appears to be facing very similar—if not higher—mortality rates. Its demographic advantage of a younger population may have been entirely offset by higher infection prevalence and age-specific infection fatality.
  • Long-run impact of COVID-19 on extreme poverty – It may be a year or two before the full impact of the pandemic is known. We know that economic recessions drive a rise in poverty, other things being equal. Yet other things were not equal in 2020. Countries responded to the pandemic with large social spending programs to mitigate the worst of the economic shock and keep families afloat. The pandemic might lead to a temporary rise in poverty in some places before returning to its pre-COVID trajectory as growth rates rebound in 2021 and 2022. In other places, however, growth was low pre-COVID-19 and is predicted to be low for the next decade.
  • COVID-19 and economic transformation in rural Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe’s COVID-19 situation looks uncertain, with localised outbreaks and a rise in infections south of the Limpopo in South Africa. This article by Ian Scoones, creator of the Zimbabweland blog, discusses the new restrictions (including the banning of gatherings, the limiting of business hours, a stipulation that offices should only be half full and the prevention of moving to and from ‘hotspots’) which seem like a set-back as things had got largely back to ‘normal’ (whatever that is) in the previous weeks.
  • Four reasons why analysis of economic policy and religion go hand-in-hand in sub-Saharan Africa – Religion is not the focus of many policy minded economists studying sub-Saharan Africa; yet, there are important overlaps. The economics of religion is a growing sub-field which provides new tools and theories to explore the ways religious beliefs and practices affect economic outcomes. This policy brief written by Amma Panin aims to convince of the importance of the overlap between religion and policy in sub-Saharan Africa by highlighting recent advances in how economists study religion, with results that touch on institutions, beliefs and governance.
  • From Displacement to Development: How Ethipia Can Create Shared Growth by Facilitating Economic Inclusion for Refugees – This case study is part of the “Let Them Work” initiative by Refugees International (RI) and the Center for Global Development (CGD). It outlines the barriers refugees face in Ethiopia to economic inclusion; the impacts of these barriers; and the steps that the government of Ethiopia, international organizations, donors, and the private sector could take to overcome them.
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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