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Expanding economic opportunities for women and youth in Africa through structural transformation

The lack of transformation in economic structures poses a significant challenge to Africa’s sustained growth, as well as its ability to tackle youth un/underemployment and close gender gaps. The celebration of “rising Africa” — strong economic growth and progress in health and education — is increasingly met with questions about its sustainability and its inability to facilitate inclusive economies. National governments and regional bodies are realizing the importance of addressing this critical challenge and are actively searching for clear options on how best to do so.

This project seeks to identify concrete ways to achieve the kind of economic transformation that helps expand livelihood opportunities for the growing youth population and marginalized women. The objective is to provide policy options to enable countries to move from low-productivity sectors to high-productivity, high-growth, and export-oriented sectors that can generate broad-based employment opportunities. The project will generate new evidence on skills gaps and how this will limit the attainment of inclusive growth and greater labour participation of women and youth. It will also enrich policy discussions and debates beyond traditional economic growth models through exploring the role of the services sector and the potential implications of the so-called fourth industrial revolution (which integrates physical, digital, and biological inputs into the production process).

The project will strengthen the capacity of African researchers to lead national and regional discussions on how countries — and the region as a whole — can stimulate economic growth that is inclusive of women and youth. The research will be carried out in four countries in sub-Saharan Africa, involving national country teams. The country selection will be guided by careful consideration of geographic diversity, data availability, and potential for policy uptake. The University of Cape Town’s Development Policy Research Unit (DPRU) will provide a coordination and oversight role.

Project ID
Project Status
End Date
24 months
IDRC Officer
Martha Melesse
Total Funding
CA$ 568,600.00
South of Sahara
Employment and Growth
Employment and Growth
Institution Country
South Africa
Project Leader
Haroon Bhorat
University of Cape Town