Challenging inequalities through policy relevant academic research.


May 2020

Dear friends,

Our May newsletter leads with a summary of a wonderful research event that was recently held by the African Centre of Excellence in Inequality Research (ACEIR). ACEIR is hosted by UCT and based in SALDRU, and comprises of research nodes from South Africa, Ghana and Kenya. Several researchers from each country were in attendance, and many excellent research papers were presented and discussed. We had originally planned an in-person meeting in Cape Town, but due to current circumstances this was no longer possible. Nonetheless, we’re delighted to report that our first attempt at an online research workshop was an unqualified success, and it was lovely to reconnect with our friends and colleagues in the broader ACEIR network.

Saldrupians continue to collaborate broadly, on issues that have real socio-economic value. This includes both personal and institutional partnerships, with organizations such as UNICEF and the Human Sciences Research Council. Associate Prof. Ariane De Lannoy has also been awarded a grant from the Western Cape Government to further her work on education and career guidance in South Africa.

The SALDRU family also continues to grow. We welcome Faaiqa Hartley, who joined SALDRU as a Senior Research Officer in April 2020 and will also be a key member of the ACEIR team. J-PAL Africa is looking for a Senior Data Associate, and also has multiple internships and scholarships available for graduate students and other interested parties.

Best wishes,

Murray Leibbrandt
Director, SALDRU
Vimal Ranchhod
Deputy Director, SALDRU

ACEIR Research Day spotlights inequality in Ghana, Kenya and South Africa

Researchers who digitally attended the ACEIR Research Day. Image: ACEIR.

This month, a team of SALDRU researchers and research associates presented several research papers that were being produced in partnership with the African Centre of Excellence in Inequality Research (ACEIR). These were discussed at a half-day virtual research day that brought together 25 researchers from ACEIR’s Ghanaian, Kenyan and South African nodes. The research that was presented focused on these three countries and spanned a broad and diverse range of inequality research topics. Research topics included micro-level consumption inequality, earnings inequality, economic inequality, inequality of opportunity and educational outcomes, and night-time lights inequality. Read more.

Social science shows it can contribute to COVID-19 policy-making

Image: Tumisu on Pixabay.

Together with Nico Cloete and Francois van Schalkwyk, SALDRU Director Murray Leibbrandt recently wrote an article for University World News on evidence and policy-making. In the article, SALDRU’s input to the announcement of an increase in the child support grant is given as an example of government and research groups working together towards evidence-based policy-making. This increase in the child support grant forms part of the South African government’s strategy to alleviate social distress resulting from the lockdown, which was introduced with the aim of reducing the spread of COVID-19. Read the article.

Saldrupians receive Cape Higher Education Consortium Grant

Image: Gino Crescoli on Pixabay.

Associate Prof. Ariane De Lannoy has been awarded a Cape Higher Education Consortium (CHEC) / Western Cape Government (WCG) grant to further her work on education and career guidance interventions in South Africa. The funding allows Prof. De Lannoy and postdoctoral fellow Sara Tonini to engage and collaborate with provincial partners and other stakeholders who provide educational and mentorship support to learners. Read more.

HSRC, SALDRU and UNICEF join forces to understand the impact of COVID-19 on young people in South Africa

Image: Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.

Young people aged 15 to 34 are considered to be among the most economically vulnerable in South Africa. Using 2018 General Household Survey data, Statistics South Africa indicates that no less than 27% of these young people live in youth-headed households, and of this group, 24% live in low income (or quintile 1) households. Among young people aged 15 to 24, almost 30% live in households without an employed adult, 19% are beneficiaries of a social grant and 13% live in households that report suffering from hunger1. The current COVID-19 health crisis and lockdown will have large, additional negative effects on the social and economic situation of youth. To gain a better understanding of what those effects will be, SALDRU has partnered with UNICEF to design and distribute a survey via the UNICEF U-report platform. This month, the multi-partner team joins forces with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), which runs the national COVID-19 series of surveys. Findings are aimed at directly assisting government to mitigate the effects of the spreading pandemic.

1. Statistics South Africa. 2020. Marginalised Groups Indicator Report 2018. Statistics South Africa. Pretoria: Statistics South Africa, 2020.


Faaiqa Hartley joins SALDRU as a Senior Research Officer

Faaiqa Hartley joined SALDRU as a Senior Research Officer in April 2020 and will also contribute to ACEIR. She joined SALDRU after having spent 4 years at the Energy Research Centre at the University of Cape Town and 8 years at the National Treasury of South Africa. Her research has centred on developmental issues in Africa, primarily South Africa, with her current interests including energy transitions, climate change and circular economics. She is proficient in economy-wide modelling techniques, particularly CGE models and has been involved in the development of both the South African General Equilibrium model, SAGE, and the South African linked energy-economic model, SATIMGE. She also collaborates with UNU-WIDER and IFPRI. 


Multi-resolution soil-landscape characterisation in KwaZulu Natal: Using geomorphons to classify local soilscapes for improved digital geomorphological modelling

Continual advances in quantitative modelling of surface processes, combined with new spatio-temporal and geocomputational algorithms, have revolutionised the auto-classification and mapping of landform components through the automated analysis of high-quality digital elevation models (DEMs).

Digital geomorphic mapping (DGM) approaches that can simplify and translate the inclusion of “human knowledge” to automatic terrain classification across a broader spectrum of terrain morphological units, as well as across a range of spatial scales, thus offer great potential for improved topographic and landscape analysis. One such approach is the mapping of landform elements using the concept of the Geomorphon (geomorphological phonotypes).

This paper provides a comprehensive exploratory assessment of digital terrain representation and relief classification using an automated geomorphometric mapping approach, by evaluating three different digital surface models (SUDEM, SRTM, ASTER GDEM2) and different spatial resolution (30 m & 90 m) for an 11,200 ha catchment in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The authors further show how the variation in resulting terrain unit representation is limited by spatial resolution discontinuities of selected elementary soil association distribution, soil texture and soil depth. The findings of the regional geomorphon-soil relationships are presented in a readily interpretable and qualitative manner, providing a “quasi-landscape signature” for potential localised geomorphons. The application of the study findings may be beneficial to practitioners looking to align or refine modelled terrain classification approaches with expert perception and formalised heuristic approaches. Access here.

Citation: Atkinson, J., de Clercq, W., & Rozanov, A. (2020). Multi-resolution soil-landscape characterisation in KwaZulu Natal: Using geomorphons to classify local soilscapes for improved digital geomorphological modelling. Geoderma Regional, e00291.

For more SALDRU working papers, journal article contributions and policy briefs, please visit OpenSALDRU.

J-PAL Africa 2020 Internship

Image: Pixabay on Pexels.

J-PAL Africa is pleased to announce the opening of its 2020 internship programme. This programme is primarily targeted at South African Honours and Masters Economics students writing their thesis or research paper, but students in their final year of undergraduate study and recent graduates will also be considered. This position is paid, and the successful candidate(s) are expected to work part-time from July to November 2020. Given the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the internship programme will take place remotely, partially or in full. Learn more and apply by 14 June.

J-PAL Africa Seeks a Senior Data Associate

Image: Paveender Lamba on Pixabay.

J-PAL Africa seeks a Cape Town-based Senior Data Associate to support the development and work of the J-PAL Africa IDEA Lab. Digital data collection has grown rapidly in the past decade, but large datasets now stored by governments and other organisations are not used to their full potential. J-PAL’s Innovations in Data and Experiments for Action (IDEA) initiative supports governments, firms, and non-profit organisations who want to make their administrative data accessible to researchers; analyse it to improve decision-making; and use it to design and evaluate innovative programs that contribute to alleviating poverty. Apply

J-PAL Africa African Scholars Webinar Series

Image: Kalhh on Pixabay.

Local researchers often have a uniquely deep understanding of the context in which they work, which is key to developing well-grounded evaluations. The J-PAL Africa team, including DigiFI Africa led by Tavneet Suri, are committed to providing a mechanism for local African scholars to drive the research agenda on the continent. Apart from providing funding opportunities for African scholars’ research, we are offering an African Scholar Webinar Series 2020 to support the development of research skills. Learn more.

Scholarships for African Scholars for J-PAL and MIT's Online MicroMaster's Course

Image: Gerd Altmann on Pixabay.

J-PAL Africa's DigiFI Africa team is offering scholarships for the Data, Economics, and Development Policy (DEDP) MicroMasters to African Scholars (individuals who have completed their PhD and are based at an academic institution in Africa), current PhD students based at an African institution, or government officials based in Africa. Please enrol in the course by 2 June and apply for the scholarship by 15 June. Learn more.

SALDRU Seminars

Please note: In order to decrease risk and spread of the COVID-19, as well as aligning with the university's decision on minimising gatherings, all SALDRU seminars are cancelled until further notice.

For information about past and future seminars, click here. To subscribe to our seminar mailing list, click here.
Daily Maverick, 24 March 2020
South Africa’s poorest workers are more likely to lose jobs, says data report

University World News, 30 April 2020
COVID-19 response – Where are the social scientists?     

NRF Science Matters Special Issue, May 2020
Interventions for Vulnerable Households During Lockdown (republish of an article in The Conversation as an example from the social sciences on science and COVID-19 responses)
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