DFID’s approach to supporting inclusive growth in Africa

DFID doubled its expenditure on economic development in recent years to £1.8 billion a year, with the objective of promoting economic transformation and job creation.

Score: Green/Amber
  1. Status: Completed
  2. Published: 28 June 2017
  3. Type: Learning review
  4. Subject: Livelihoods and social protection, Trade and economic development
  5. Assessment: Green/Amber
  6. Location: Ethiopia, Tanzania, Zambia
  7. Lead commissioner: Tina Fahm
  8. SDGs covered:Decent work and economic growth, Industry, innovation and infrastructure


In recent years, DFID has set about rebalancing its aid portfolio towards the promotion of economic development as the engine of poverty reduction. From its traditional focus on social services, the department has worked to build up its knowledge on the drivers of and constraints on growth. Its economic development portfolio has doubled from £934 million in 2012 to £1.8 billion per year. The portfolio is diverse, covering the business environment, infrastructure, the financial sector, agriculture, industrialisation and urbanisation, among other areas.

The purpose of this learning review is to assess how well DFID has gone about learning what works in the promotion of economic development, and how far it has come in developing credible portfolios of programmes that are adapted to the opportunities and challenges in the countries where it works.

We have chosen to focus on Africa. While parts of Asia have seen dramatic declines in poverty in recent decades, driven by mass employment creation, this dynamic is yet to be replicated in Africa. Africa has enjoyed a period of relatively buoyant economic growth over the past two decades, based on strong global demand for its primary resources, although this has slowed since 2014. However, the continent’s growth has been largely jobless in nature and has not translated into large-scale poverty reduction. An estimated 10-12 million young Africans enter the labour force each year, but only three million find formal sector jobs.

We awarded a green-amber score and made four recommendations.

Sustainable Development Goals

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals relevant to this review are:

  • Sustainable Development Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth
  • Sustainable Development Goal 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure



Published 4 October 2016

Evidence gathering


Review publication

Published 28 June 2017

Government response

Published 2 August 2017

Parliamentary scrutiny

IDC hearing 7 February 2018

ICAI follow-up

Published 29 June 2018