Over the course of 2020, the preservation of economic security took centre stage as businesses and people were hard hit by a series of lockdowns intended to slow the spread of Covid-19. Sadly, economic insecurity increased as those forced to the margins constituted an ever-growing portion of our society.

With IJR shifting to a work from home model, the Inclusive Economies Project was determined to project its voice, and bring to the forefront, the import role of inclusive development in safeguarding social cohesion. It was a year of research, webinars, interviews and fostering partnerships.

As the year unfolded, the government receded deeper in austerity, threatening the cohesiveness of society by undermining the sustainability of public services and quality of life (here and here). We explored ways to protect social cohesion by considering the expansion digital inclusion (here) and the creation of resilience in the country’s growing informal sector (here), that ultimately reduces vulnerabilities among those at risk of falling captive to precarious labour situations (here).

Perception data collected by the Afrobarometer has been used to produced novel insights into how South African’s perceive the social grants system (here), and where the disparities in economic agency between rural and urban women in Africa requires revived policy attention (here). Culminating with a final (forthcoming) publication titled Social Cohesion Hangs in The Balance as South Africans Feel Economically Insecure: Reflections from the South African Reconciliation Barometer.

As we look to 2021 and anticipate the challenge of rebuilding a post-Covid Africa, we are more inspired, determined and energetic than ever before. In the new year, Inclusive Economies will pioneer a series of publications that span the continent. As the links between economic inclusion and peace become clearer, we will set out to investigate the broader relationship between development and social cohesion in Africa, and more specifically the implications that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on this pivotal relationship.

Protecting our most marginalised, promoting democracy, fostering inclusive development and solidifying social cohesion, is more than an ideal, it is a tangible future for Africa. We invite you, friends and partners of the IJR, to engage with our research and to use your sphere of influence to spread the insights uncovered through our work. While a perpetual battle of ideas rages on, we will continue to produce clear, concise and pragmatic solutions for governments, policymakers, practitioners and civil society, so that we can collectively advance our mission of a peaceful and prosperous Africa.

Jaynisha Patel leads the Inclusive Economies Project at IJR. You can connect with her at jpatel@ijr.org.za

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