Executive Director - J-PAL Africa

J-PAL Africa
  • South Africa
  • Master's
  • Other advanced degree
  • Honours
  • PhD
Start Date (Earliest):
Length of Commitment:
Three years or more

J-PAL Africa seeks an outstanding professional to take over as its Executive Director to provide strategic leadership and day-to-day supervision of the office to advance its mission of reducing poverty through evidence-informed-policy on the continent. This senior position will be based at the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU) in the University of Cape Town, School of Economics, which is the host for the Africa hub of J-PAL. The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) is a global network of top researchers from universities worldwide who specialise in conducting randomised evaluations of social policies/programmes to generate scientific evidence about what works in the fight against poverty. J-PAL also analyses and disseminates research results, builds partnerships with policymakers and donors, and runs training courses to ensure that policy is driven by evidence, to scale up effective programmes, and strengthen the capacity of local researchers and policymakers.

This is a very senior role that provides an unparalleled opportunity to lead J-PAL Africa, one of the most influential organisations in the evidence-to-policy space on the continent. And as a member of J-PAL’s worldwide Board of Directors and Senior Leadership Team, the Director also provides critical inputs into J-PAL’s worldwide strategy and management.

Requirements for the position:

  • A Masters (or higher) in Public Policy or Economics or another similar social science including graduate level (Honours and up) courses in econometrics/ statistics, microeconomics, or development economics
  • Interest in and understanding of Development Economics, in particular, randomised evaluations of social policies/ programs
  • 10 years’ relevant work experience with at least 5 years of relevant research management, operations, or policy outreach experience. At least some of this experience should have been gained in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Proven leadership and management track record
  • Demonstrated ability to understand and communicate findings from rigorous quantitative research.
  • Experience leading policy outreach, including strategically identifying and mobilising appropriate policymakers and developing and maintaining these relationships
  • Experience preparing policy outreach materials, including written memos and formal presentations at training/dissemination events
  • Experience writing and managing budgets, fundraising, managing grants and donor relationships
  • Proven ability to handle multiple diverse assignments at one time, successfully complete assigned tasks and meet deadlines while conducting high-quality work
  • Advanced writing and oral presentation skills in English

The following will be advantageous:

  • Ability to speak fluently in French

Responsibilities include (please review the full job description for full details of responsibilities): 

The main responsibility of this senior executive position is to lead J-PAL Africa by ensuring its work across Africa is delivered to the highest international standards. This involves overseeing the Research, Policy, Education, Training, Finance and Operations functions. The role includes working with J-PAL’s global network of researchers and offices and contributing to international thinking about evidence-informed policymaking. 

Some specific responsibilities include:

  • Work closely with all stakeholders to develop the strategy for J-PAL Africa across the continent
  • Oversee the day-to-day and operations management of the office
  • Help recruit, manage and retain outstanding and highly committed team members at all levels
  • Ensure J-PAL Africa is in a sound financial position by building and cultivating relationships with donors, foundations and other development organizations, and strong planning and management of grants and finances
  • High-level coordination with Principal Investigators (PIs) to contribute to design and planning for prospective research projects
  • Oversee the implementation of J-PAL Africa research projects in South Africa to ensure high quality randomised evaluations are conducted in the field
  • Oversee and actively participate in J-PAL Africa’s policy outreach and initiatives across sub-Saharan African countries including developing strong partnerships with global policymakers, practitioners and funders at the highest level to initiate and deliver new projects
  • Oversee and lecture at J-PAL Africa’s Education and Training programmes to build capacity amongst local researchers and policymakers in Africa
  • Work closely and build strong relationships with J-PAL’s Global leadership based at its head office in Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the U.S., the other seven J-PAL regional offices, especially in MENA (Cairo) and Europe (Paris), global network of top researchers from universities around the world, and with colleagues at SALDRU and UCT.
  • Represent J-PAL Africa at high level external events and in meetings with senior members of various governments, NGOs and other development organizations

How to Apply

Apply through the University of Cape Town job posting. The J-PAL Africa Director position is categorized as "Professional, administrative, and support staff."