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The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the fact that people-centred, inclusive, and sustainable development requires overcoming the multiple deprivations that people experience in Africa due to poverty, inequality, and unemployment. The pandemic also illustrated the importance and value of a strong evidence base and quality data on socio-economic vulnerabilities; a nuanced understanding of where, on a spatial level, these are experienced most; and if and how policy responses to the pandemic have worked. These were some of the key points from the final keynote address by ACEIR director, Prof Murray Leibbrandt, to the third biennial conference of the African Research Universities Alliance.
During COVID-19-related lockdowns, African countries experienced negative economic growth, less tax revenue collection, and increased fiscal debt. This was while, during the same period, income earning was reduced, extreme poverty increased, and inequalities were exacerbated by the pandemic. These were some of the reflections by Prof Robert Osei, convener of ACEIR’s Ghana node, during a plenary session of the recent African Research Union Alliance biennial conference 2021. Prof Osei, who is based at the Institute of Statistics, Social and Economic Research, University of Ghana, Legon, was one of three contributors to a discussion on the economic and societal impact of global public health challenges in Africa.
A former research intern at ACEIR’s Ghana node was awarded one of 13 ARUA-Carnegie Early Career Research Fellowships, which will involve him in the research of two African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) centres of excellence. Kwadwo Danso-Mensah is a Research Officer at the Institute of Statistical Social and Economic Research, University of Ghana, which hosts ACEIR’s research node in Ghana.
When South Africa locked down to slow the COVID-19 virus, the University of Cape Town and partners were one month away from hosting an international summit on the Sustainable Development Goals in Africa. It had to be postponed until this month – and now it was in the context of a post-COVID world that saw all African economies battered by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, and with future growth and development under threat. The summit’s thematic track workshops on Poverty and Inequality were co-convened by ACEIR director, Prof. Murray Leibbrandt, and with a wealth of input and participation from ACEIR-affiliated scholars and partners.
An international study involving researchers from ACEIR has revealed that hundreds of millions of Africans do not have access to the most basic facilities to prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. ACEIR’s director, Prof Murray Leibbrandt, and postgraduate researcher, Bongai Munguni, were co-authors on the study. Murray is the director of UCT's Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, and Bongai is part of the inaugural UCT–Bristol Researchers without Borders programme. They collaborated on this study with researchers from the University of Bristol’s Poverty Institute, the University of California, Los Angeles’ Fielding School of Public Health and other international research groups to investigate the feasibility of non-pharmacological public health interventions in low-resource settings in Africa.
Following the publication of the South African and Ghanaian inequality diagnostics reports, the next report in this series - for Kenya - was launched on 12 July 2021. The reports serve as a baseline on inequality trends in each country and are used to explore the implications of the data analyses with different sectoral stakeholders. The launch was hosted online and in partnership with the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics; the School of Economics at the University of Nairobi; and the Agence Française de Développement as part of the Research Facility on Inequality funded by the European Union.
ACEIR was honoured to co-host, with the French embassy in South Africa, this debate as part of a series across Africa at the request of the President of France. The purpose of the dialogue was to create a platform for exchanging perspectives on South Africa’s inequalities and to motivate for priority actions and policies in overcoming these inequalities, and with a special focus on the country's youth. Speakers included high-profile business leaders, a prominent student activist, academics and the head of South Africa’s Youth Employment Service. Proposals that emerge out of the debates will feed into the Africa–France Summit in October 2021, where Pres. Emmanuel Macron will host a discussion with youth representatives from Africa, France and the diaspora.
ACEIR’s inequality trends reports, for Ghana, Kenya and South Africa to date, have featured prominently at a high-level conference hosted recently by the European Union and the Agence Française de Développement (AFD). The final conference of the Research Facility on Inequalities provided the opportunity to share results of the Facility’s studies since 2018 and draw conclusions and make recommendations for public policy. ACEIR’s work has been one of the 23 research projects funded via AFD as part of the Research Facility on Inequality.
"Piketty comes to South Africa" is the title of an article recently published, in the British Journal of Sociology, by members of ACEIR's South Africa node. The scholars, based at the Southern African Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU) at the University of Cape Town, include Fabio Diaz as the lead author; they co-authored the piece with Mike Savage from the London School of Economics and Political Science. This special issue of the BJS was inspired by Thomas Piketty’s new book, Capital and Ideology and the article reflects on inequality in the South African context in relation to the Piketty book.
The findings of ACEIR’s inequality trends reports for Ghana, Kenya and South Africa will be framing a session on African inequalities at this high-level conference of the Research Facility on Inequalities. In another session, these inequality diagnostics will be presented as one of the tools to measure and describe inequality that were developed or expanded through the Facility. This research programme, which was financed by the European Union and managed by the Agence Française de Développement, aimed to deepen the understanding of socio-economic inequalities in low- and middle-income countries and analyse the public policy and development policy levers for reducing them.
The Ghanaian node of ACEIR has recently released this landmark report of policy-relevant data on inequalities in that country. Produced by researchers based at the Institute for Statistical, Social and Economic Research, University of Ghana, it is the second in ACEIR’s series of baseline reports on inequality trends in different African countries.
An exciting new ACEIR project has commenced in July through the support of the African Research Universities Association (ARUA) partnership with the Global Challenges Research Fund of UK Research and Innovation. It is a joint project with the ARUA Centre of Excellence in Climate Development, also based at the University of Cape Town, to research the interactions between climate change, poverty and inequality in Africa.
Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit,
School of Economics,
Middle Campus, Stanley Road, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, 7701