New Challenges in Development Economics

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  • Africa is undergoing four transitions with distinct implications for its youth population and possibly for the continent’s long-term development trajectory. Firstly, rapid population growth is expanding the share of youth in Africa’s overall population. Secondly, structural transformation out of agriculture has bypassed manufacturing in many African countries. Thirdly, urbanization continues at a rapid pace, with younger populations more likely to migrate from rural to urban areas, and often into “slums” that lack basic services. Finally, taken together, urbanization and a lack of decent jobs and services in many urban centres have underpinned the political transformation underway in many capital cities. New urban-based opposition parties often target dissatisfied youth and face strong resistance from ruling parties.

    Combined, these four transitions define the continent’s current development trajectory. Yet a consistent perspective on how this trajectory will affect Africa’s youth is lacking in the literature. Through the Challenges in Development Economics Programme, the UNU World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER) will address this and the new hurdles that will emerge in development economics.


    This programme will be implemented with the University of Ghana, African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) and an array of other partners in Africa and elsewhere. Funding for twinning is the major concern.

    Focal Points

    UNU-WIDER Director Finn Tarp and Research Fellow James Thurlow are the focal points for this programme.


    The objective of this research programme is to confront new challenges in economic development. The initial focus will be on the pressing challenges posed by African transformation from the perspective of its youth.


    The programme will carry out research and commission studies on each of Africa’s four transitions that are mentioned above. Established authors in the respective fields will be asked to reflect on the experiences of and implications for African youth.


    The gender dimension is a cross-cutting challenge that will be taken into account throughout UNU-WIDER research projects by participants, project directors, paper authors and others.

    Target Audience

    The stakeholders in this programme are economic analysts and policymakers. This includes international and regional institutions and partners, globally with a particular focus on Africa.

    Intended Impact

    Impact: Raising awareness
    Target: The programme targets policymakers responsible for economic policy and strategy with implications for youth.
    How: Methodological and case study research to be communicated through academic outlets, UNU-WIDER blog, WIDER Angle e-newsletter and policy briefs.

    Research Findings

    This programme will lead to innovative insights into the role of youth in development and how intern development impacts on the youth.

    Policy Bridging

    Policy briefs will be elaborated for the core programme outputs and UNU-WIDER’s new blog and the WIDER Angle e-newsletter will help bridge as well. In addition, this programme will implement a long series of seminars and conferences.

    Value Added

    This programme will put UNU in focus as a home for in-depth, high-quality research on topical issues related to the youth.


    Outputs of the programme include research reports, academic papers and policy briefs. UNU-WIDER will organize conferences, seminars, and public meetings involving researchers and policymakers both inside and outside of the UN system and in developing countries.

    Timeline/Programme Cycle



    Benchmarks and indicators used to gauge the progress of implementation will be the number and quality of conferences and publications. Mechanisms used to determine whether the programme has successfully fulfilled its purpose will include the frequency of WIDER Angle hits on the website; book sales statistics; downloads of research papers; UNU-WIDER staff presentations at seminars and conferences; and staff contributions to professional work in the UN, educational institutions and other international organizations.


    Challenges include the timely recruitment of new UNU-WIDER staff, and funding of twinning.

    Expected Duration

    The programme is expected to run for a duration of 24 months, from 1 January 2012 through 31 December 2013.

  • Activities within the Programme will involve cooperation between the UNU World Institute for Development Economics Research and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

  • Title: Numerous titles
    Author(s): Numerous authors
    Publication/Output Type: Various academic outputs
    Available at: many locations
    Publisher: OUP, Palgrave, UNU Press and others
    Date Published: 2013

  • Prof. Finn Tarp, Director
    United Nations University
    World Institute for Development Economics Research
    Katajanokanlaituri 6B, 00160
    Helsinki, Finland

    T: +358 9 615-9911
    F: +358 9 6159-9333