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Pathways To Job Creation

The youngest and fastest-growing continent in the world, Africa faces an important job creation challenge. This is the context in which operates the Mastercard Foundation Fund for Rural Prosperity (the Fund), a US$50 million enterprise challenge funding mechanism with a mandate to improve the livelihoods and resilience of the rural poor through expanding financial inclusion. While the Fund focuses primarily on financial inclusion, there is some increasing evidence that Fund-supported products are resulting in new work opportunities. This paper aims to explore the indirect mechanisms between financial inclusion and work creation to enable the Fund to better support participants, and to contribute learning to the sector.


This paper proposes a framework composed of three pathways between supported products and work opportunities:


  • Pathway A - Facilitating agricultural production: Fund-supported products and bundled activities can increase the yield, quality, or value of agricultural production, which can help farmers become sustainably self-employed, hire additional farm workers but also lead to work opportunities outside of primary agricultural production.
  • Pathway B - Encouraging the development of the rural services sector: Access to financial products can enable beneficiaries can grow their non-farm businesses to become self-employed entrepreneurs and hire additional labour.
  • Pathway C – Strengthening local economies: Both pathways A and B can also lead to further work opportunities by stimulating activity in the upstream and downstream value chains, and by inducing additional employment through spillover effects as customers increase their consumption.


A mapping of Fund-supported interventions against this framework showed that most of the portfolio’s impact on job creation is expected to come through the facilitation of agricultural production (Pathway A), while the potential impact of the Fund’s portfolio on the development of the rural service sector (Pathway B) is weaker and less attributable. Links to strengthening the local economy (Pathway C) came mainly from agribusinesses, who tend to be involved in multiple parts of the value chain.

In fact, agribusinesses tended to have strong links to the employment pathways. This could be because agricultural production, their core business, incentivises not only on the provision of financial services but also non-financial support such as access to training, markets, or agricultural inputs. Research suggests that financial service products which combine financial and non-financial services are more likely to stimulate the creation of work opportunities.

In addition, there may also be trade-offs between job creation and overall reach. Outgrower projects working with a limited range of smallholders seem to be more likely to contribute to job creation than projects that reach a wider range of customers but with a more limited depth of impact.

Moving forward, the Fund will be working to generate more robust qualitative and quantitative data by integrating this framework into the rest of its MEL activities. It is hoped that other rural financial programmes might also find this framework useful in understanding the transformative impacts of their work on rural economies and the employment landscape.

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