Inclusive development in Sub-Saharan Africa

Insights from the RIDSSA research programme

19 September 2019

The recently finalised RIDSSA programme aimed to contribute to inclusive development in Sub-Saharan Africa. Its seventeen projects have investigated how development processes within Sub-Saharan Africa countries can be guided in such a way that they become more inclusive, particularly for poor and vulnerable people that have remained excluded from increased welfare.

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Seventeen projects were funded through three thematic calls, respectively focusing on: productive employment, strategic actors and social protection. The funded projects did not only generate evidence-based insights on the three inclusive development themes, but also developed practical advice and policy prescriptions to enable policy makers and other practitioners to improve their practices. Thereby they contributed to sustainable inclusive growth in the targeted countries.

A research for impact approach

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NWO-WOTRO employed a research for impact approach within the RIDSSA programme to facilitate a contribution towards sustainable inclusive change through evidence based knowledge and uptake activities. Key project requirements within this approach included rootedness in national practitioner demands, inter- and trans-disciplinary consortia and the development of a knowledge sharing approach and activities.

The rootedness in national practitioner demands comprised continuous stakeholder engagement throughout the research to ensure relevance of the research, including research questions, research findings and practitioner advice. The inter- and trans-disciplinary consortia carrying out the project, both involving research and practitioner organisations from both the South and the North, enabled projects to embrace a broader as well as systematic approach to the topics under research, integrating interdisciplinary and practitioner knowledge. Another project requirement was the development of a knowledge sharing approach and activities to engage in dialogue and to work on research uptake with stakeholders – including policy makers - beyond the consortium. These comprised workshops, (interim) policy briefs, blogs, videos, television interviews, and radio items.

Insight in the findings

The programme findings have been published in a series of synthesis reports on three themes - productive employment, social protection, and strategic actors - and in overall synthesis report (links are available on the bottom of this page). The synthesis studies linked the project results to the state of the art knowledge on the three call themes and an overarching theme of inclusive development.

The number one priority for many African governments is the creation of employment. The projects studying productive employment focused on high potential sectors, such as agriculture, (IT) services, and infrastructure. Interventions should also aim at enhancing access to jobs and job opportunities, especially for women and youth. Interventions aimed at offering multiple services, including education and (hard and soft) skills training, long-term mentoring, enhancing asset ownership (for example land) and social networks, were found to be most effective. >> Project example

An ‘inclusivity lens’ is required to gain knowledge of who benefits from policies and interventions

The research projects on social protection concluded that social protection is not only a powerful tool to alleviate poverty and prevent people from falling into poverty, but also an important policy instrument to address economic, social and political exclusion and vulnerability. For social protection interventions to provide such prospects, they should be aimed at building sustainable systems. As such, these projects call for a move away from perceiving social protection as a safety net, to perceiving it as an empowerment strategy. >> Project example

The projects on strategic actors illustrated the importance of grassroots involvement in development processes, and the need to build coalitions and for collective action. In fact, the projects show that change can sometimes be driven by actors with no formal decision-making power, as long as they work together and form the right alliances. >> Project example

The synthesis report on inclusive development concluded that interventions to reduce poverty do not automatically reduce inequality. An ‘inclusivity lens’ is required to gain knowledge of who benefits from policies and interventions and who does not (or is even harmed by them). Interventions are most effective when they are tailor-made and aimed at improvements in various policy dimensions.


Picture: Alamy

The Research for Inclusive Development in Sub-Saharan Africa programme (RIDSSA) has recently been completed. The eight million euros programme was funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and managed by NWO-WOTRO Science for Global development in collaboration with the Knowledge Platform INCLUDE. To contribute to sustainable inclusive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa, ambitious goals were set in terms of scientific progress and policy relevance and the programme has generated high-quality and relevant results. RIDSSA funded seventeen inter- and transdisciplinary research projects in international partnerships between the Netherlands and Africa, and is finalised with a series of synthesis reports.

As part of programme completion, NWO-WOTRO Science for Global Development commissioned an external evaluation by Syspons to assess the WOTRO performance and to inform (possible) future research programming.


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Source: NWO