Question and Answer

Q&A on the STRENGTHEN 2 Project

STRENGTHEN 2 is a joint initiative of the European Union and the ILO that focuses on assessing the employment effects of supported investments and development programmes in sub-Saharan Africa. The strategic partnership aims to promote the creation of more and better jobs, boost economies and set the stage for a better future of work. In this Question and Answer, Ralf Krueger, Chief Technical Adviser of the project, gives a brief overview of the initiative, the approach adopted and expected results.

News | 20 April 2021
What is the situation in the labour markets of sub-Saharan Africa facing this project?

Many African countries have displayed high growth performances over the past decade. Yet, this economic growth has not necessarily translated into more and better jobs. What is more, many African countries face two additional challenges. First, a fast growing population that is expected to put further stresses on the labour market given that the number of decent jobs cannot keep up with the number of young women and men entering the labour market every year. Second, African economies generate too few highly productive jobs in manufacturing and advanced services sectors, while subsistence agriculture still accounts for a large share of employment. For these reasons, job creation is more important than ever, in particular, given the impact of COVID-19 and confinement measures on the labour market.

The focus of the project centres on employment impact assessments to help promote job creation. How exactly does this work?

Employment impact assessments (EIAs) are a valuable tool for measuring both the employment potential and the actual effects of investment programmes, which can feed into future decision-making and policy advice for job creation. EIAs can measure and/or estimate the employment created directly in the investment programme as well as the further job creation along the value chain and in the wider economy. STRENGTHEN 2 will apply EIAs along the different phases (before, during implementation and after) of a large number of investment projects operating across the region. This process helps to understand the employment impacts of completed investment projects and provides an estimate of the employment impacts of future initiatives. This enhances stakeholders' ability in assessing the effectiveness of investment programmes, which will enable them to select projects based on employment potential to enhance future employment outcomes.

Can you give us some examples of how employment impact assessments (EIAs) have been applied to investments in order to enhance employment generation and economic growth in Africa? How does it leverage the ILO’s strength and expertise?

The ILO has conducted previous work on promoting EIA to support public investments in infrastructure policies and programmes as part of its Employment Intensive Investment Programme (EIIP). Further experience was gained from the previous joint EU-ILO STRENGTHEN project that assessed the employment impacts of sectoral and trade policies in five African countries (Ghana, Morocco, Rwanda, Cote d’Ivoire and Benin) as well as specific EU supported investments in Cameroon, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. This work enabled the development of methodologies and tools that paired with ILO expertise in promoting job creation and decent work can be applied to assess the employment impacts of investment programmes across Africa.

STRENGTHEN 2 assesses many of the projects of the EU’s External Investment Plan (EIP). How does the project help enhance the employment outcomes of the EIP?

STRENGTHEN 2 will provide an overall assessment of the portfolio of the EIP projects and produce in-depth assessments of specific investments. By enriching the information base on the impact of existing and envisaged investment programmes, it supports the European Commission and partner countries in achieving their objectives of promoting decent job creation. Assessments will occur at all stages of the project life cycle. In instances where they are taking the form of in-depth assessments, recommendations will be provided to further strengthen the employment dimension of the respective project, within the EIP more widely, and even beyond.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on employment, in particular, for some of the most vulnerable groups. What does this mean for assessments of the employment potential for future investments?

The emphasis on decent job creation is even more important given the consequences of the pandemic in the labour market. Investment programmes can provide a means for addressing some of the impacts that COVID-19 has had on employment, through creating targeted decent work opportunities. In-depth assessments of investment programmes can be used to inform future initiatives and better target employment. At the level of the EIP portfolio as well as in the in-depth assessments of individual investment programmes, the STRENGTHEN 2 assessments pay particular attention to more vulnerable groups, including, women, youth, informal workers and others.

What is the impact of this approach on the most vulnerable groups?

Given that 20 million new jobs will be needed each year, in both urban and rural settings, it is important that Africa’s young people can see a future for themselves in Africa. STRENGTHEN 2 will indeed pay particular attention to youth, women and informal workers; vulnerable groups that are among those heavily impacted by the pandemic. This focus will ensure that recommendations on the employment dimension of future investments will promote sustainable employment growth in an inclusive manner.

At the end of the project, what can we expect to see? What is the expected long-term impact?

To ensure long-term impact and an integrated approach to EIAs, a large component of STRENGTHEN 2 focuses on increasing capacity of relevant groups such as EU delegations and national stakeholders to assess and evaluate the employment dimension of investment programmes. Across countries, stakeholders will benefit from the dissemination of knowledge and strengthened capacities for undertaking EIAs and using the findings. This will facilitate the implementation of investment programmes and the design of such programmes in the future, subsequently enhancing employment outcomes in target countries.