Introducing the Africa Gender Innovation Lab


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Today I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about a new initiative that the Africa Region and the Research Group at the World Bank are launching today.   The idea here is that we don't know enough about how to effectively address the underlying causes of gender inequality. Let me start by explaining what I mean by underlying causes.    Take the case of female farmers.    There is a lot of literature out there which shows that women have lower agricultural yields than men.   And some of it shows that this is because women have lower input use than men (you name it -- credit, fertilizer, labor, access to extension).    But from a policy point of view, this literature doesn't get us the final mile -- why do they have lower use of these inputs (controlling for land, etc)?   If you take the case of female entrepreneurs, you get a similar story -- although here the different sectors in which men and women operate clearly plays a role. 

If we can get a handle on the why (which requires more inferential research (and even qualitative work) than impact evaluations), maybe we can come up with a bunch of policies that target the causes, rather than the symptoms (e.g. maybe deal with time and mobility constraints to provide women with more agricultural extension, rather than putting in place female extension agents; maybe come up with loan screening mechanisms that deal effectively with women's more limited collateral base).   And the rigorous impact evaluations of these kind of interventions give us two things.    First, they tell us what works and what does not to address these fundamental constraints (and whether this moves some metric of gender equality).   Second, they tell us what the payoffs are (if any) to these kinds of investments.  

We have a bunch of these projects under way - and I've blogged about some of them, particularly in my notes from the field and also how one of them has changed my mind.   Most of the work focuses on the economic realm.   Together with a wide range of collaborators, we are looking at the impact of land titling interventions in Rwanda, Benin, and Ghana.   We are also looking at agriculture -- tackling things like agricultural extension in Ethiopia.   And in the realm of firms looking at things like business registration, trying new types of business training and support services, and trying to build a market between small and large firms.   Today we will launch a new phase (thanks to generous support from DFID and other donors).    This phase will include more support for the design of innovative interventions that really go after what we think these underlying causes might be, trying to more effectively mix qualitative and quantitative work, and focusing more on getting whatever results we (and others) come up with used by policymakers. 

Part of this new phase will include a call for projects that want to work with us on an impact evaluation -- if you, or someone you know is interested in this, please keep an eye on the Friday links where a link will be posted. And, if you'd like to see some of the launch event -- feel free to join in today online at 10am EST.  



Markus Goldstein

Lead Economist, Africa Gender Innovation Lab and Chief Economists Office

Ephrem Tesema
March 29, 2013

It is interesting to hear that WB is seeking ways to initiate new policies and approaches to address gender issues in the agriculutral sector. As gender dynamics usually depend on specific context ( Culutre, region, economic status, historical relations etc) we need to have a cross secton of interaction of facts and research results that could be able us to set a new direction in this respect. It is also good to invest on new research directions ( Action Research, communicty conversation etc.) at grass root level to deepen gender integratioin in the agriculutral as well as in other economic sectors. It is also very crucial to give attention to social sience oriented research with aims to identify salient issues related to the impacts of formal and informal institutions on plural economic development in the rural parts of the developing world. There si a lto of tention between these institutions in transitional economis and socieities.


Joseph Rubagumya
April 05, 2013

Great points Ephrem! I agree, it's critical indeed to put emphasis on both formal and informal sectors and making a link between women farmers-based groups to input dealers, TA service providers to assist with agronomic best practices and research institutions as you mentioned.
In African rural settings, most communities make their living by small-scale farming and its generally women who do the labour-intensive, low-paid,low-yields agricultural activities with a constant struggle to feed their families.
What Rwanda is currently doing is to provide women-farmers with training, and female farmers-based groups were linked to large markets, financial support through well organized micro-lending and all these helped them establish their nursery businesses.
The good news with this approach is, not only increased their household incomes, but also it reduces health challenges like malnutrition--in rural areas where over 45% of children under 5 are chronically malnourished. I can't emphasis enough how important this sector is and glad to see the world bank and other selected partners are supporting hardworking female farmers.

Great work!

Gillian Fletcher
November 20, 2013

Would love to hear more.
Am currently writing guidelines on impact evaluation and gender (for an Australian context) and am delighted to read a World Bank Senior Economist saying "we don't know". We need more people willing to do the same, Markus. Or we will just keep fiddling around with trying to get numbers of women involved, treating gender as a male/female binary, without actually looking at issues of power and context and gender as social construct.