Improving Labour Market Outcomes for the Poor in Sub-Saharan Africa

African economies are finally experiencing a period of high economic growth, speeding up the slow transition from agriculture to manufacturing. Nonetheless, the share of agriculture in the region's economies continues to be higher than in any other region of the world. In Ghana, Madagascar and Tanzania, agriculture still represents more than one-third of the economy while manufacturing accounts for about one-tenth. Job seekers have been moving rapidly into the informal sector, providing services such as barbering, street vending or very small-scale manufacturing. Overall, these are signs that demand for labour has failed to keep pace with the growth of the labour force.

Equally important is the quality of the labour force. To attract new investment in large labour-intensive industries, countries need to ensure that their labour supply matches the demands of firms exporting in a globalized world. In South Africa, for example, the post-apartheid labour market features one of the highest unemployment rates in the world together with a severe shortage of skilled workers.

This grant will support the production of 12 country-specific and cross-country studies aimed at understanding how recent transformations in each and all of the four aforementioned countries have shaped labour market outcomes, and how these outcomes could be improved. Each national labour market represents the diversity of the region, ranging from the relatively poor agriculture-based economy of Madagascar to the relatively rich urban South Africa. However, they all have in common that their economies are not reaping the benefits of a global industrial economy.

Project ID


Project status


Start Date

Sunday, July 1, 2007

End Date

Thursday, August 12, 2010


27 months

IDRC Officer

Rodriguez, Mr. Edgard

Total funding

CA$ 717,400


South of Sahara, Ghana, Madagascar, Tanzania, South Africa


Employment and Growth

Project Leader

Rankin, Neil


University of the Witwatersrand

Institution Country

South Africa

Institution Website