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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.

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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.

Kategorien: english

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.

Kategorien: english

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.

Het bericht Building roads where few exist can pay big dividends by raising people’s incomes verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

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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.

Kategorien: english

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.

Het bericht COVID-19 and the future of work in Africa: How to shore up incomes for informal sector workers verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

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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.

Het bericht Impact of COVID-19 on micro, small, and medium businesses in Uganda verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

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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.

Het bericht Frugal Innovation during the COVID-19 crisis: Examples from East Africa verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

Kategorien: english

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.

Het bericht Connecting the dots: results of the evidence synthesis on youth employment programmes in Africa verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

Kategorien: english

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

Het bericht A sector worth billions whose employees now lack food and jobs verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

Kategorien: english

Why gender-sensitive social protection is critical to the COVID-19 response in low- and middle-income countries

19. Mai 2020 - 11:34

“The COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on movement to control the spread of infection are having profound impacts on the income and daily lives of people in low- and middle-income countries, particularly the poor. Governments and donors are responding by expanding social protection programs. Melissa Hidrobo, Neha Kumar, Tia Palermo, Amber Peterman, and Shalini Roy describe how the current crisis is also affecting gender relations, and why attention to gender in implementing expanded social protection programs is critical. They provide specific advice and propose actions to minimize harm during the crisis response period—and to ensure that longer-term gains in gender equity and empowerment can be maintained and built-upon post-crisis.” John McDermott, series co-editor and Director, CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH).

This blog summarises the findings of an IFPRI policy brief on how to apply gender considerations in social protection aspects of the COVID-19 response in LMICs. Download the full brief under ‘downloads’ on the right or access it through the IFPRI website here.

Many governments are using social protection programs to respond to the economic crisis and health risk induced by COVID-19. As of April 17, 133 countries had adapted or introduced 564 social protection initiatives, according to the World Bank. With the focus on rapid assistance, gender considerations have understandably not been at the forefront of these efforts. A rapid assessment of initial COVID-19 social protection responses indicates that only 11% show some (albeit limited) gender-sensitivity.

This is unsurprising—most existing social protection programs in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are either gender-blind or neutral at best—but it is worrying. The COVID-19 crisis has the potential to widen gender inequalities, including those related to loss of livelihoodsreproductive health risksdisproportionate burden of care, and violence against women and children. Social protection that does not take gender into account can reinforce these inequalities.

General guidelines for COVID-19 social protection responses are available, but how can governments address gender inequalities? Designing gender-sensitive programming is not always straightforward, but evidence suggests simple design and implementation adaptations can make programming more gender-sensitive. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, in a new brief summarized below, we provide key lessons, considerations, and guidance across five areas.

1. Adapting existing schemes and choosing the forms of social protection

Adapting existing schemes to be contagion-safe is a likely first step for governments, and these adaptations can have gender implications. Relaxing existing conditions (e.g. tied to work, health, or schooling) can simultaneously reduce viral spread and benefit women who are often responsible for fulfilling conditions, may be mobility-constrained, or may have fewer social or information networks.

Expanding access to health care via fee waivers or providing automatic health insurance enrollment can support women in continuing to seek care for critical, routine maternal and child health and reproductive health services. Cash benefits (via e-payments) are widely recommended; cash can also improve household economic security and emotional well-being, which directly benefit women and can contribute to reducing intimate partner violence. However, the feasibility of safely providing additional in-kind transfers (including food or soap) should be considered as well, as women and children are often the first to reduce food consumption in response to food insecurity, and women may be responsible for daily shopping, exposing them to potential infection. In-kind transfers should be considered where mobility is restricted, markets are limited, food prices spike, or COVID-19 restrictions induce supply chain closures.

When social distancing restrictions are relaxed, implementers of public works programs should ensure dignified work with fair wages where women can safely participate, with exemptions for lactating and pregnant women. When schools reopen, implementers should pay particular attention to re-enrollment of adolescent girls and relax economic constraints with appropriate policy instruments.

2. Targeting

How to target households and individuals are critical considerations. Retaining the original individual-level targeting of many existing programs may be most straightforward; however, such targeting can exclude vulnerable populations. For example, unemployment insurance typically does not cover informal workers, including the majority of women who primarily work in the informal economy. Providing universal household-level transfers can reach more vulnerable people, but who the household’s “named recipient” is may also have gender implications. Although broader evidence is mixed, a few studies from LMICs indicate that naming female recipients may improve women’s empowerment. We believe the evidence supports considering women as named recipients—while recognizing that particularly acute periods of the crisis (e.g., lockdowns) may intensify household tensions.

Therefore, in settings where existing analysis shows the feasibility and acceptability of targeting women, we see gains in continuing during the COVID-19 crisis. But in settings where targeting women was previously deemed infeasible, we do not recommend starting during the crisis and explicitly challenging norms during a time when tensions are high. Nonetheless, even in the latter case, minor tweaks in operationalizing targeting—including authorizing multiple household members to make transactions, ensuring information reaches both men and women, and providing messaging that benefits are for the entire family—could contribute to greater gender equity.

3. Benefit levels and frequency

Benefits in response to COVID-19 should be quick and lumpy, ensuring sufficient support before supply chains are overwhelmed—and to avoid health risks from more frequent payment distributions and contact. While qualitative studies indicate that women may be able to retain control of smaller transfers, large randomized studies suggest larger cash transfer values result in higher benefits for households and women specifically. In addition, no studies we are aware of show that larger transfers to women induce adverse effects.

Therefore, we believe programs should provide sufficiently high benefit levels to cover the duration of the COVID-19 economic crisis, understanding that programming during this time may be a full income replacement, rather than supplement. In addition, “top ups” should be considered for households caring for sick members or children to address disproportionate care burdens. Finally, it is important to consider that female-headed households are often smaller—and thus may appear better off in a direct per-capita poverty measure—yet may still be more disadvantaged for numerous reasons (e.g., discrimination, access to services, etc.).

4. Delivery mechanisms and operation features

Programs generally employ the most logistically feasible delivery mechanisms and operational features in crisis conditions, but seemingly simple choices may have gender implications. Accessible grievance mechanisms should be set up, and implementation and management staffing should include women. Delivery mechanisms for benefits and information should be practical and accessible to both men and women.

While e-payments may not be an option for many settings, in the longer term, national programs should invest in these. Extending the network of e-payments may increase financial inclusion, including among women, who have lower inclusion rates. Responses should consider that in many settings women are less likely to have access to mobile phones; existing programs have sometimes provided them for this reason. While mobile phones are a promising platform for providing information, it is important to keep in mind that improving access alone may not be sufficient; women also have lower literacy, lower ability to pay for services, and multiple constraints on their time. Thus, mobile phone-based platforms should be complemented by other platforms such as internet, television, and radio; and when possible in mobile platforms, voice messages or speaking directly to an expert are preferred to text messaging. Women’s groups or other peer support groups may be leveraged as networks for more efficient communication and delivery of essential services.

5. Complementary programming

Complementary programming remains relevant for women during COVID-19, especially on topics related to food and nutrition, including ways to access or grow nutritious foods when markets and supply chains are down; water and sanitation, as information about hygiene and social distancing are critical for reducing COVID-19 spread; maternal health including antenatal care, as travel may be restricted and health centers overburdened and a potential infection risk; sexual and reproductive health, including family planning and menstrual hygiene managementparenting and learning for children as many schools are closed; mental health for both men and women, given that many may experience depression related to isolation or loss of livelihoods; and access to referrals for violence-related services.

All of these comprehensive services will rarely be available, particularly during the pandemic, but social protection platforms can at a minimum explore integrating light-touch information campaigns with delivery taking into account the gender considerations outlined above) and linkages to services.

Concluding thoughts

The COVID-19 pandemic presents an opportunity to address existing gender inequalities through social protection. Program designs should be adjusted to account for gender, in a manner informed by existing analysis, while taking a long-term approach. Related issues of political economy, coordination, and financing that have gender considerations should be explored in future guidance. Because these are complex issues and unintended consequences of programming are possible, more research is needed on intersections of social protection, gender and pandemics, where ethically feasible. At a minimum, monitoring statistics should be sex- and age-disaggregated and, where possible, data should be collected to ensure risks to beneficiaries do not increase. Taken together, these policy adjustments and new evidence can lay the groundwork for more gender-sensitive social protection systems in LMICs both during the crisis and beyond.

This article was originally published by IFPRI. An international Food Policy Research Institute. Access the original post here.

Het bericht Why gender-sensitive social protection is critical to the COVID-19 response in low- and middle-income countries verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

Kategorien: english

Hit hard but fighting back: youth during COVID-19

14. Mai 2020 - 12:18
Brief update on COVID-19 in Africa

Africa has observed relatively low case fatality rates from coronavirus so far. Most countries report fewer than 6% of diagnosed cases resulting in death, compared to European countries like Italy, Spain and the Netherlands with 12-14% fatality rates. However, basic health and mortality data across Africa is generally poor. In Ghana and Kenya, for example, more than half of deaths go unrecorded, and low levels of testing overall suggests that more cases may be undetected. Health workers have been disproportionately affected by the virus. Not only does this decrease the labour capacity of already constrained healthcare systems during this critical time, but sending front line workers into the field unprotected raises multiple issues around ethics and inclusion.

The lockdowns have bought the region time in terms of the virus, but the huge economic effects of the crisis are forcing decision makers to look for safe and effective exit strategies. It is important that approaches are heterogeneous (based on the local capacity to handle a spike in cases), gradual (considering which sectors are most conducive to lockdowns or most at risk from relaxing them) and multilateral. Debates so far have suggested that exit strategies should focus on employment and livelihoods, with SMEs being a key vector for revitalisation, and that the potential of technology should be maximised in order to ramp up testing, tracing and treating and to support e-commerce and remote learning.

Evidence during emergencies:

Last week, a 3ie webinar on evidence during emergencies revealed a contradiction between the need for immediate and accurate data and the information overload. Over 17,000 COVID papers have been published, over one fifth of these in the past week alone, and yet decision makers are struggling to understand the full implications of their choices. The current crisis highlights existing challenges to the evidence infrastructure, including duplication, misinformation, funding and transparency. It emphasises the need for stronger coordination of knowledge, including better matching between producers and seekers of knowledge, which reinforces the role of knowledge brokers and networks in managing development, including during emergencies.

The webinar discussed the value of sharing and combining existing data sources for new innovative purposes and for enabling more immediate program adjustments. ‘Safe evidence generation’ using mobile phones and satellites can avoid going house to house and putting frontline workers in danger. It also attributed the visibly vast and rapid response to the investments made over the past 15 years in the ‘evidence to policy’ movement, such as methodological innovations, big data, knowledge brokering, and mobile data collection, with all of this coming together in a very specific context.


Youth employment and entrepreneurship during and after COVID-19

Young people in Africa (±15-35 years old) are among those that are and will be hit hardest by the economic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis. Already before the current health pandemic and related recession, this group was confronted with the challenge of obtaining quality education and decent work. COVID-19-related shocks to the labour market are expected to further wipe out 19–22 million jobs and significantly reduce earnings for the self-employed in Africa, and will likely impact the quantity and quality of jobs available for young people. Moreover, missed learning opportunities caused by the pandemic may lead to significant and persistent earning losses for young people in the long-term. There is an urgent need to create new jobs in addition to maintaining existing ones, and to support and strengthen programs for skills development among Africa’s youth.

The private sector was, and will continue to be, the key to addressing the youth employment crisis in Africa. Private sector development (PSD) interventions seek to improve firm performance and increase labour productivity in firms. But PSD interventions alone do not automatically create the (better-quality) jobs needed for youth in Africa. A balance must be found between creating short-term jobs by tackling underemployment in vulnerable firms and sectors, and creating better-quality jobs in high-potential growth firms and large firms.

In this special edition news item

As part of a series on COVID-19 and inclusive development in Africa, INCLUDE shares evidence on how current disruptions, particularly in labour markets and education systems, impact different groups of youth in terms of skills, entrepreneurship and employment. We focus on how interventions to cushion the impacts of COVID-19 could affect socioeconomic inequalities among Africa’s youth population, and on what can be done to support the poorest and most vulnerable in terms of opportunities and livelihoods.

We particularly ask what lessons are being (or could be) taken from existing knowledge and experiences to support recovery and progress in youth employment and entrepreneurship. For example, many countries are reflecting on experiences from the 2014 Ebola outbreak, and from youth employment programs in post-conflict and fragile settings. In 2019, INCLUDE contracted 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 [1]. These evidence synthesis papers provide valuable learning and recommendations which can be applied in the current crisis by helping to identify group- (e.g. young men versus young women) and context-specific (e.g. rural versus urban) barriers which prevent successful youth employment programs, and to understand how young people make decisions and how the quality of jobs and skills matter. 1. Pandemic responses related to youth employment

Due to COVID-19, nearly all African countries closed their schools, creating a significant obstacle for youth in terms of skill development, assessment and graduation. Moreover, many industries have suffered significant job and income losses due to restrictions in production and movement, particularly those in the informal sector, where the vast majority of African youth earn their living. Despite immediate and substantial responses to these challenges, some interventions could themselves widen inequalities between young people and depress opportunities for future development.

  • E-learning options are exacerbating existing inequalities in access to schooling, exposing the urgent need to close the digital divide and increase connectivity. Many countries are reflecting on experiences from the 2014 Ebola outbreak and using more widely-accessible technologies (for example, schools in Liberia are using radio for teaching).
  • Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) facilities play a potentially significant role in the COVID-19 response due to their shorter-term, modular and practical approach. Remote learning is often a weak substitute for learning more practical skills, which are important for driving employment and structural change. Sierra Leona is considering intensive clinical training modules for frontline healthcare workers to help control the outbreak, as they did with the National Ebola Training Academy.
  • Evidence from the 2014 Ebola outbreak also shows that combining cash injections and skills training can stimulate employment and entrepreneurship. This supports the use of basic safety nets during emergencies, which is promising given the increasing emphasis on social protection in African country COVID responses.
  • Measures taken so far to ease the burden of the pandemic are not enough to fully address the impact on youth in many African countries. Most interventions at this moment support businesses in the formal economy, with the majority of businesses in the informal sector being left out due to lack of registration or access to loans. Social protection for informal workers is being introduced in certain countries (such as Togo) and should be considered elsewhere to achieve equality in responses.
  • Youth have themselves been engaged in maintaining learning and creating opportunities. Young people in Kenya, Tanzania and Morocco have found innovative ways to help deliver high-quality lessons for both students and teachers. Also in Morocco, young entrepreneurs and innovators are making artificial ventilation machines, automatic thermometers, and automatic gates for sanitary disinfection and sterilization or protective masks for local hospital staff. A number of young entrepreneurs across Africa are creatively responding to COVID-19 by adapting their business models to keep them healthy, relevant and in service of their communities.
  • Despite their engagement at ground level, there is a great need to support young students and entrepreneurs more structurally, and to involve youth more broadly in decision-making processes so that their interests are met and they have more autonomy in shaping their own future. Youth must be a critical part of the active plan, not only to limit the virus’s impact on public health and society, but to support themselves and the wider economy in the short and long-term. Ultimately, as young leaders say: “Nothing for us, without us”.
2. Impacts on vulnerable youth groups

Young people are statistically less likely to suffer severe symptoms of coronavirus. Nonetheless, youth are highly affected by the pandemic, as their overrepresentation in low-paid, less secure and less protected jobs makes them highly susceptible to unemployment and labour market vulnerabilities. Particular groups of youth face extreme risk of losing opportunities for future livelihood development and socioeconomic mobility.

3. Impacts on inclusive regional development

The current situation presents a major opportunity not just to support the livelihoods of young Africans in the short-term, but for restructuring education systems and transforming labour markets to offer all young people a better future. Inclusive outcomes depend on the participation and collaboration of key actors, in particular the private sector and youth themselves, in addition to the usual modes of governance. We are already beginning to see the renewed engagement of youth in decision-making processes related to the pandemic.

[1] This initiative was carried out 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.


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 Hit hard but fighting back: youth during COVID-19 verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

Kategorien: english

COVID-19 prevention measures in Ethiopia: current realities and prospects

13. Mai 2020 - 12:26

Immediately after the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Ethiopia in March 2020, the Government of Ethiopia took several public health measures to prevent increased levels of infection. These included closing all schools and restricting large gatherings and movements of people. Hand-washing and social distancing were the main prevention measures that government has communicated to the general public through various media platforms.

Using the latest round of the Ethiopian Demographic and Health Survey, COVID-19 relevant indicators related to household access to communication platforms; access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH); and characteristics of the home environment were assessed. The analysis shows that a sizeable proportion of the rural population does not have access to the media platforms used to publicize COVID-19 prevention measures. Moreover, without aggressive interventions, current levels of access to water and soap are suboptimal to adopt the hand-washing recommendations, particularly in rural areas. The low proportion of households with electricity, refrigeration, or internet connection and the relatively high prevalence of partner violence suggest that implementing the stay and work from home measures will be challenging.

Public health measures that slow down the transmission of the virus should be continued and efforts to prevent transmission to rural areas should be prioritized. Communication platforms and messaging will need to be adapted to different local realities to make any COVID‑19 containment recommendations operational. WASH-related support should be ramped-up, and addressing barriers to staying at home, such as the risk of partner violence, should be considered. The efforts needed to end the current pandemic in Ethiopia, as well as similar pandemics in the future, illuminates the serious challenges related to WASH and to the inequalities between rural and urban areas that need urgent attention.

This article was originally published by IFPRI-Ethiopia. An international Food Policy Research Institute in Ethiopia. Access the original post here.

Het bericht COVID-19 prevention measures in Ethiopia: current realities and prospects verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

Kategorien: english

COVID-19 & its impact on African economies: Q&A with Prof. Lemma Senbet

11. Mai 2020 - 15:11

New York (TADIAS) — Last week Professor Lemma Senbet, an Ethiopian-American financial economist and the William E. Mayer Chair Professor at University of Maryland, moderated a timely webinar titled ‘COVID-19 and African Economies: Global Implications and Actions.’  The well-attended online conference — hosted by the Center for Financial Policy at University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business on Friday, April 24th  —  featured guest speakers from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as well as the World Bank who addressed “the global implications of the COVID-19 economic impact on developing and low-income countries, with Africa as an anchor.”

In the following Q&A with Tadias Prof. Lemma, who is also the immediate former Executive Director of the African Economic Research Consortium based in Nairobi, Kenya, explains the worldwide economic fallout of the Coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the African continent, including Ethiopia.

TADIAS: Prof Lemma, thank you for your time. You just finished moderating a webinar on COVID-19 & African Economies. Can you give us a  quick recap of the online conference?

Professor Lemma W. SenbetThe webinar featured two high level policy experts and officials from two of our flagship international institutions: Dr Domenico Fanizza who is a member of the IMF Executive Board, and Dr Rabah Arezki, World Bank MENA Chief Economist.

Let me first give you a context for the webinar. We often hear about the dark side of Africa in international news media. Yes, Africa has its dark side. African countries face enormous economic and social challenges, but on the bright side, Africa has maintained sustained growth over the last 25 years, with some seven countries having been among the fastest growing in the world. This is not accidental. It is an outcome of years of massive reforms of both real and financial economies in Africa.

Now enter Africa and COVID-19, the greatest global crisis of the century. This is foremost health crisis of epic proportions. It has like-wise resulted in economic crisis of epic proportions, far exceeding the global financial crisis (a decade ago) and touching every country and, in fact, every human being. The webinar focused on the economic dimensions facing low income countries, with a focus on Africa.

After a slow start in Africa, COVID-19 has been spreading rapidly throughout the continent. The adverse economic consequences are already being felt. This is in part due to negative economic spillovers resulting from the economic hits to Africa’s main trading partners: EU, China, U.S.

The resource rich countries, particularly Nigeria, Angola, South Africa, South Sudan, etc., have been badly hit.. Moreover, similar to the other countries, such as U.S., African countries have begun implementing mitigation and containment mechanisms to cope with COVID-19.

Therefore, large portions of African economies are shut down to prevent mobility and spread of the virus. Major cities in this regard include Lagos, Johannesburg, Harare, Accra, and Addis, Nairobi.

TADIAS: What specific issues were discussed at the webinar?

Prof Lemma: The webinar was intended to unpack the key economic issues, and for the earlier part, it dealt with global interconnectedness which, and in this context as to why Africa and low income countries matter to the rest of the globe. Hearing this from speakers who are highly placed at the global institutions and reassurance for global partnership was welcome. The webinar provided a broad assessment of economic devastation on low income countries, particularly African countries, for lockdowns, shutdowns, etc. – responses which are now widely adopted globally, including Africa.

While the advanced countries have the capacity to mitigate the adverse economic impact on livelihoods, small businesses, services, through massive government rescue programs, low income countries have no commensurate resources. The webinar discussed national and global responses to the plight of African economies; particularly the respective responses to-date of key global and regionals institutions: IMF, World Bank, UNDP, AfDB, etc.

The other issue the webinar addressed was exit strategy. The more advanced countries are easing restrictions to reopen their economies. However, low income and fragile states cannot afford to do that in view of low capacity for large-scale testing, weak health infrastructure, and relative absence of social safety nets. Even more disturbingly, economies would be further devastated with continuing lockdowns and shut downs. The speakers grappled with the health and economic consequences of relaxing restrictions, and if there is a way out or exit strategies for African countries.

The second part of the webinar was interactive based on the questions and commentaries from the participants. It was a global audience.

TADIAS: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has stated that “the coronavirus pandemic is causing the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s” and that “the global economy will shrink by 3 percent this year.” What does that mean for Africa?

Prof Lemma: As Domenico Fanizza, member of the IMF Executive Board, mentioned, the IMF expects the GDP for Sub-Saharan Africa to contract by 1.6 percent in 2020. This is only at a gross level without accounting for population size. The per capita income is expected to decline by 4%. This is very disappointing to say the least. This hugely negative news has come after about two decades of sustained economic growth in the region, with several countries having been among the fastest growing in the world (Ethiopia included). There have been substantial improvements in living conditions and reduction in poverty. All that is now threatened. We hope the recovery to be fast post COVID-19, but it would be very difficult to recapture what is lost even we experience a V-shaped growth. Some are actually bracing for the W shaped growth, which is really scary.

TADIAS: Given the forecast that over the next two years worldwide output will be $9 trillion less than expected before the crisis, does the financial impact of the pandemic differ from region to region within the continent? And, if so, how?

Prof Lemma: Yes. Europe has been hit the most, with an expected 7.5 per cent reduction of GDP in 2020, as also mentioned by our panelist from the IMF. COVID-19 broke out when the region’s growth had already slowed down; countries, such as Italy, France, Spain, and UK are very likely to be hugely affected. The US  economic contraction is expected to be close to 5 percent, but already the number of unemployment filings has reached about 26.5 million (on April 24, the date of the webinar), and it is still rising. This is devastating viewed from the baseline (pre-COVID-19) full employment only a month ago. Asia is the only continent that is expected to grow (1 percent in 2020), but more slowly than expected a few months ago. The relatively lower economic hit is attributable to an early and prompt actions against the spread of the virus.

There are also substantial variations within Africa. COVID-19 showed up in the wake of the other headwinds the region is already experiencing – globally: China-US trade tensions and Brexit; internally, the challenges include weak health infrastructure; non-existent safety nets in most of these countries; commodity/oil price slump; and heavy indebtedness in terms of very high levels of debt (scaled by GDP) and high debt servicing costs. This is really very bad news for the oil-rich countries, such as Nigeria, Angola, South Africa, South Sudan, etc.

TADIAS: What’s the expected effect of the pandemic on economic activity in Ethiopia?

Prof Lemma: Ethiopia is not immune, of course. The impact will be major. Based on the IMF estimates, growth is expected to slow down dramatically from 9 percent to 3 percent in 2020. Ethiopia was among those countries which were immediately and adversely impacted by COVID-19 even at the inception of the spread of the virus. This resulted from negative spillovers from the main trading partners in EU, Middle East, China, and even US. The hospitality industry, including hotels, tourism, travel, were immediately affected. So was trade volume – both exports and imports. So were remittances. Moreover, the fiscal deficit will be greatly exacerbated in view of government expenditures in coping with the health crisis as well as rescue attempts to protect economic livelihoods and micro enterprises, as well as small and medium enterprises. These have been engines of employment creation, and should be protected. The large informal economy poses both risk of health epidemics and loss of incomes (already at very low levels) threatening those at the low end to devolve into poverty. That is why any government interventions, including global support for Ethiopia, should be multilayer, including the protection of the most vulnerable, as well as microenterprises and SMEs. The other side of the coin is that there are microfinance institutions which fund small businesses, and they should also be brought into the picture for government responses. They will fail if there is widespread default at the level of small businesses, particularly microenterprises. The Friday webinar was, in part, intended for enhancement of global attention to the plight of African economies and to the global responses for the mutual benefit – global health and economic health.

TADIAS: Last month both The World Bank and IMF issued a joint statement to the G20 concerning debt relief for developing countries and calling “to suspend debt payments from IDA countries that request forbearance.” What are your thoughts on this proposal? Does it go far enough to address the looming debt crisis?

Prof Lemma: Many African countries were already on the verge of looming debt crisis due to build-up of high levels of borrowing domestically and internationally. I cannot see much worse time for these countries to get caught up with the COVID-19 crisis. The international initiatives coming from G20 and international financial institutions are definitely welcome, This should be viewed in the broader global interest and interconnectedness which are now reinforced by COVID-19. In this connection, what is not getting as much attention is debt owed to private international creditors. The good news is that many African countries began accessing international credit markets (e.g., Eurobonds issuance) at arms length. In the earlier HIPC era, these countries were rationed out of the markets. Now they are also able to access diverse sources of borrowing. However, this has become a double-edged sword, particularly in troubled times, such as the one we are facing. It would be very difficult to restructure agreements among diverse set of creditors. While non-private creditors are engaged in debt restructuring and reliefs (at least in the short term by rescheduling payments, etc), I have not witnessed yet that such initiatives are taking place with respect to private creditors. There should be a concerted global effort to bring them to the table to resolve the looming debt crisis in an efficient and mutually beneficial manner. Without that I am worried that African countries, except the very few, such as South Africa, may get rationed out again in the future from the private credit markets.

TADIAS: Looking at the future, what are some of the main institutional changes and solutions that need to be implemented on the global level in order to avoid similar disasters from occurring again?

Prof LemmaI will be brief here. I am taking a pro-globalization view. I would not be surprised, though, if anti-globalization forces emerge from COVID-19. My view is that, given a very strong reinforcement and reawakening by COVID-19 about global interconnectedness, policies must be globally coordinated both at the health and economic levels. COVID-19 has not spared anyone. As they say, we are in it together!

TADIAS: Thank you again Prof Lemma and we wish you all the best. Stay safe and healthy.

This article was originally published by Tadias Magazine. A New-York based news & profiles magazine tailored towards the Ethiopian-American & Diaspora community.  Access the original post here.

Het bericht COVID-19 & its impact on African economies: Q&A with Prof. Lemma Senbet verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

Kategorien: english

Euro-African COVID-19 solidarity: the leadership

7. Mai 2020 - 8:28

Since six years, the Knowledge Platform for Inclusive Development (INCLUDE) has become an important think tank, consisting of twelve leaders from African, and twelve leaders from Dutch organisations. Emeritus Professor Isa Baud of the Governance and Inclusive Development Research Group (University of Amsterdam) acts as its Chair. The African Studies Centre Leiden hosts its Secretariat under the effective leadership of Marleen Dekker and in collaboration with AERC in Nairobi and The Broker. Since its start I am one of the Dutch Platform members. On 28 April INCLUDE had its half-yearly meeting, virtually this time, with 31 people participating via Zoom, from all over the planet. Of course COVID-19 was a major concern. INCLUDE publishes a weekly update about ‘How COVID-19 affects inequality in Africa’[1]. In the meeting we decided about a new research programme, ‘Inequality and COVID-19 responses in Africa’, prepared by Anika Altaf.

The most surprising intervention during that virtual meeting came from INCLUDE-member Rolph van der Hoeven, Emeritus Professor at the ISS and member of the UN Economic and Social Council. Speaking from Geneva, he mentioned something that had escaped all of us: an opinion piece in the Financial Times of 14 April, titled ‘only victory in Africa can end the pandemic everywhere’ (paid access, or read it here)’. As a subtitle it said: ‘World leaders call for an urgent debt moratorium and unprecedented health and economic aid packages’. The plea is worth reading, but I would like to focus here on the people who signed it.



14 April was the period when the Dutch political leadership was perceived to be fighting against intra-European solidarity. At the same time, and surprisingly, the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, was one of the EU leaders who had signed the plea for massive solidarity with Africa in the Financial Times. Who else were there? On the European side we see the leaders of the European Union (Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel) as well as six European leading politicians, one President (Macron), and four other Prime Ministers (of Italy, Portugal, Germany, and Spain). Absent were political leaders from the UK and Scandinavia, until recently always in the forefront of solidarity with Africa, and also absent were the prime ministers or presidents of Central and Eastern Europe. On the African side there were ten leaders who had signed, including Mousssa Faki, Chair of the African Union Commission. The others were eight presidents (Rwanda, Mali, Kenya, Angola, South Africa, Senegal, Egypt, and the DRC) and one Prime Minister (Ethiopia). There are 55 African countries in the African Union, so it is clear that the majority did not directly sign, and that included the leaders of two countries that so far had been hit most by the virus, Morocco and Algeria. But also the presidents of for instance Nigeria, Ghana, and Uganda were missing. Of course this could have been caused by ‘slow decision-making’ on their part (the deadline was fast), but all the same, I think that the combination of African leaders who signed this Call for Solidarity gives a very interesting ‘insight’ in the current intra-African positions of leadership in these very difficult times.

[1] In preparing my contribution for the INCLUDE meeting, I found a very interesting document, published 15 April, by GeoPoll: ‘Coronavirus in Sub-Sahara Africa. How Africans in 12 nations are responding to the COVID-19 outbreak’. Worth reading, also for its methodology.

This article was originally published by the African Studies Centre Leiden. A multidisciplinary academic knowledge institute in the Netherlands devoted entirely to the study of Africa. Access the original post here.

Het bericht Euro-African COVID-19 solidarity: the leadership verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

Kategorien: english

The nonlinear narrative of inclusive development

6. Mai 2020 - 12:54

Last month, INCLUDE coordinator & African Studies Center Leiden professor Marleen Dekker and Nicky Pouw from the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research were invited to share their knowledge and perspective regarding the question: ‘How to reach the (extreme) poor through inclusive development policies?’ at the European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI) webinar. In doing so, Marleen and Nicky drew upon findings from the NWO-WOTRO Research for Inclusive Development in Sub-Saharan Africa (RIDSSA) programme, coordinated and facilitated by INCLUDE from 2014-2018.

In the webinar, Marleen and Nicky introduced a policy analysis framework to understand inclusive development from a bottom-up perspective. The framework places the wellbeing of poor and vulnerable groups at the centre, and considers the different stakeholders involved in overcoming the hidden and transaction costs and institutional barriers which prevent these groups from achieving greater equality in both opportunities and outcomes.

The RIDSSA programme’s empirical evidence and insights on inclusive development policies, programmes, interventions and processes were also shared, and the ensuing discussions served to shed light on what can be done to make development more inclusive. One of the key takeaways of this discussion was the notion that inclusive development is not a technocratically linear process, and that political economy aspects of development are of central importance for generating real inclusiveness.

You can watch the full EADI webinar below:

Het bericht The nonlinear narrative of inclusive development verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

Kategorien: english

How African economies can easily recover from the COVID-19 pandemic

6. Mai 2020 - 10:46

The African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) Senior Policy Seminar has placed a spotlight on fragility of growth in African economies, seeking to stimulate an informed policy dialogue and related policy-making aimed at reducing identified fragile contexts and building a more resilient African economic sector.

However, social and economic issues that were already highly challenging have now become exponentially more serious due to the current COVID-19 health crisis and the catastrophic effect it is having on the African economies as well as the global economy.

Despite decent economic and social progress achieved in the last two decades, growth in most African countries remains characteristically fragile.

This inherent fragility extends across the economic, social, political and cultural fabrics of life in Africa.

The typology of the fragile context revolves around political instability, weak institutions that lead to poor accountability and leadership, civil and political unrest, low human development, low investment levels and the low level of economic diversification that produces protracted economic decline with a negative shock from one sector of the economy, among many other factors.

AERC’s Executive Director Professor Njunguna Ndung’u notes that although the effects of the coronavirus pandemic are devastating on already fragile African economies, the outlook is not completely dire.

“In order to move forward, we need to look at the lessons learnt from this crisis and heed the urgency for change that it has highlighted. Weak points, some known, others underestimated, have been brought to the fore.

In addition to infrastructural issues, the reliance of African markets on imported goods (and services) has proven to be a detrimental factor during this crisis – particularly regarding the shortage of masks and other health and safety resources typically sourced from outside Africa”.

There is an urgent need for solutions that will move the continent forward, reduce risk and maximise on opportunities in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Proposed means of achieving this include:

  1. Policymaking and interventions that consider the existing weaknesses within African economies, the post-crisis challenges facing the continent and future long-term methodologies to forestall the negative effects of crises
  2. Enlisting the support of multilateral institutions and bilateral partners and working together to develop comprehensive and effective solutions to overcoming challenges across different sectors.
  3. Governments and the private sector need to consider ways to help the population and African markets recover from the debilitating effects of COVID-19 on factors such as GDP growth, critical macro-economic indicators, inflation, exchange rates, employment and livelihoods to vulnerable sectors.
  4. The implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement needs to be accelerated – boosting intra-African trade, development and economic diversification, making African economies less vulnerable to economic shocks and more resilient to global crises or market disruptions.

Ndung’u added that how Africa reacts in the aftermath of this social and economic crisis will be definitive in guiding the recovery and inclusive growth of the continent.

“We cannot predict the future, but we can be better prepared for the uncertainties that lie ahead”.

This article was originally published by East African Business Week. A leading online business newspaper in Uganda (East Africa). They provide definite coverage of trade news, investment news and finance news from an East African Community perspective.  Access the original post here.

Het bericht How African economies can easily recover from the COVID-19 pandemic verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

Kategorien: english