Project Director: Digital Identification and Finance Initiative (DigiFI), J-PAL Africa

J-PAL Africa
  • Kenya
Start Date (Earliest):
Start Date (Latest):
Length of Commitment:
Three years or more

Project Director: Digital Identification and Finance Initiative (DigiFI), J-PAL Africa

Location: Nairobi, Kenya 

The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) consists of a global network of academics and regional offices who specialise in conducting randomised evaluations of social policies/programmes to generate scientific evidence about what works in the fight against poverty. We then analyse and disseminate research results and build partnerships with policymakers to support evidence driven policy. J-PAL’s global headquarters is based in the Department of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the USA.

The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab Africa regional office (J-PAL Africa), located in the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU) in the University of Cape Town’s School of Economics, seeks a Project Director to lead the Digital Identification and Finance Initiative (DigiFI). 

DigiFI is a US$9 million research fund to study innovative government digital identification and e-payment reforms. Early research suggests there is vast opportunity across Africa for digital technologies to help reduce leakage in the delivery of social protection and other public goods and services, to increase fiscal capacity, to reduce corruption, and, most importantly, to boost the welfare of citizens, particularly marginalised groups, and women. Yet, there remains a glaring lack of rigorous, peer-reviewed evidence on how governments can most effectively leverage digital payments and ID systems. 

DigiFI aims to fill this evidence gap by funding cutting edge research projects focused on the study of innovative government payment systems, ID, and reforms. The Initiative staff a) work with government officials and academics to build policy-relevant research projects, primarily randomised evaluations, on digital policies, b) are pioneering innovative ways to fund and support African scholars, and c) support the running of our Request for Proposals, including liaising with the DigiFI Board comprised of academics, and policy stakeholders to make funding decisions.

Thus far, DigiFI has funded 6 Randomised Evaluation and over 35 projects in total including pilot and proposal development grants. The Initiative also has a robust pipeline of projects on digital ID built by the staff. Given this foundation, the Project Director will work with the Initiative Co-Chairs, MIT Professor Tavneet Suri and Tufts University Professor Jenny Aker to set the vision and take the initiative into its next phase.

The Director will 

  1. Lead the cultivation of key government relationships and will work with the co-chairs and with policy staff to grow the research portfolio in anchor countries as well as to work hand in hand with government partners to help them make decisions based on this research. 
  2. Lead the Initiative’s efforts to build the capacity of local researchers. 
  3. Be responsible for spearheading and managing regular Requests for Proposal rounds and for providing the Board with support in their decision-making process. 
  4. Oversee the management of the research grants, in conjunction with J-PAL Africa operations staff.
  5. Be responsible for the financials of the Initiative and engaging with our donors.

The Director will be responsible for 3-5 staff members. In addition, a postdoctoral fellow will likely work with the team to build and run research projects. 


  • A Master’s Degree in Public Policy or Economics or another similar social science.
  • A minimum of five years of relevant work experience.
  • Management skills and experience.
    • Demonstrated leadership and management experience, including vision setting, hiring, training, and management of staff.
    • Experience writing and managing budgets.
  • Research skills and experience
  • Demonstrated capacity to work with implementing partners and academic leads to set up, support, and analyse rigorous research particularly randomised evaluations.
  • Ability to understand rigorous research and its influence on policy decisions.
  • Policy skills and experience
    • Experience working with complex partnerships, especially with governments, donors, and research organisations.
    • Exceptional ability to communicate technical research effectively and clearly to non-technical experts.
    • Strong communication skills, including writing, conversing, and presenting clearly in English.
  • Ability and willingness to travel internationally frequently and flexibly. Most travel will be in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Proven ability to handle multiple diverse assignments at one time, successfully complete assigned tasks and meet deadlines while conducting high-quality work.


  • Experience doing policy and research work in a range of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Experience supporting or conducting randomised evaluations.
  • Expertise in issues related to digital identification and governance.
  • French language ability. 
  • Data skills in Stata, R, Python, or a similar software.

Job Description:

The remuneration package, including benefits, will be determined in reference to UCT payclass 12, accounting for differences in cost of living in chosen location, qualifications and experience.

How to Apply

To apply, please email the documents listed below in a single pdf file to Ms Teresa Lezcano ([email protected]) and Ms Nidhi Parekh ([email protected]

  • A letter of motivation clearly addressing your interests and experience/qualifications for the various responsibilities listed above
  • Your Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Please ensure the subject of the email is “Application for Project Director, DigiFI_[YOUR Name]”.

Deadline for submission: 30 June 2023