Learning for All Initiative (LAI) African Scholars Opportunities

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The Learning for All Initiative (LAI) is invested in creating more opportunities for African scholars to develop and drive the research agenda on the African continent.

We are excited to present funding opportunities for resident African Scholars—those who have completed a PhD in Economics or another empirical social science discipline. Applicants must have completed PhD-level training in quantitative methods including statistics/econometrics and must be based at an academic institution in sub-Saharan Africa.

In addition, LAI encourages interdisciplinary study teams including both economists and researchers from other social science disciplines as co-PIs to apply.


  • LAI hosted an African Scholars program launch webinar in September 2023 that covers more information about our RFP, program details, and tips for applying for LAI funding.
  • Remember to sign up to the African Scholars registry for updates on information, events, and funding opportunities.

Research Funding Opportunities

LAI is excited to offer research funding to resident African Scholars

  • Resident African Scholars include those who have completed a PhD in Economics or another empirical social science discipline. Applicants must have completed PhD-level training in quantitative methods including statistics/econometrics and must be based at an academic institution in sub-Saharan Africa. 
  • Resident African Scholars are eligible to apply for Proposal Development Grants (up to US$10,000) and Pilot Grants (up to US$75,000, with the maximum cap for more descriptive pilots being US$25,000). For additional funding details, please see our RFP web page.
  • Targeted mentorship will be provided to African Scholars who receive funds from the initiative, have conditional/partial funding decisions, or are asked to revise and resubmit their proposals.
  • Mentors will advise the scholar throughout the project. Mentors can include any J-PAL affiliate or LAI invited researcher. African Scholars whose proposals are successful will be matched to a mentor after the funding has been awarded.
  • African Scholars are required to submit an agreement signed by themselves and their mentor prior to the disbursement of funds. This agreement provides a framework for how the scholar and mentor will work together throughout the project. Scholars who are matched to a new mentor will be expected to have a meeting with the mentor before completing this agreement.

An existing relationship with a J-PAL mentor is not a requirement for the selection of African Scholar projects. However, if you do have an existing relationship with a J-PAL affiliated professor or invited researcher, who you would like to serve as a mentor, we will consider this preference (though we cannot promise specific mentor relationships). It will be useful to understand how well the mentor and mentee know each other (i.e., past research experience and length of existing relationship), as well as the amount of time the mentee/mentor has committed or will commit to the project. 

Please refer to the African Scholars Frequently Asked Questions for more information for researchers based in Africa. If any scholars have other questions, please contact [email protected] and we can assist you.

Capacity Building Opportunities

1. Take the J-PAL MicroMasters Course 

Anyone is welcome to audit the online course for free. However, participants are required to pay a fee to take the course exam which is required for course credit. Learn more on our MicroMasters webpage.

2. Scholars Webinars

The Digital Identification and Finance Initiative (DigiFi) hosted a webinar series for African Scholars that covers some of the fundamentals of running randomized evaluations. We encourage folks to listen to the recorded sessions if they are interested.

3. CEGA Transparent and Open Science Research Course

Anyone is welcome to take this five-week open online course for free. The course introduces learners to threats to research credibility and reproducibility, and tools and practices for ethical, transparent, and reproducible social science research. Learn more here

4. Resources for African Scholars 

The J-PAL team has identified a number of resources that may be useful for African Scholars who would like to refine their skills in randomized evaluation and research design.

What are randomized evaluations? How are they different from impact evaluations? 

A randomized evaluation is a type of impact evaluation that uses random assignment to allocate resources, run programs, or apply policies as part of the study design. Like all impact evaluations, the main purpose of randomized evaluations is to determine whether a program has a causal impact and, more specifically, to quantify how large that impact is. 

Impact evaluations measure program effectiveness typically by comparing outcomes of those (individuals, communities, schools, etc.) who received the program against those who did not. There are many methods of doing this, but randomized evaluations have the benefit of ensuring that there are very limited systematic differences between those who receive the program and those who do not, thereby producing accurate (unbiased) results about the effects of the program. For more information see J-PAL’s introduction to randomized evaluations.

Training in randomized evaluations 

J-PAL runs Evaluating Social Programs courses that are based in different locations around the continent. This is intended to give an overview of randomized evaluations for a policy practitioner audience. Please check this page for updates on the next course. For those who cannot attend the course in-person, we have lecture recordings, slides, and case study materials for most of the ESP sessions in J-PAL's Teaching Resources.

J-PAL also hosts an online training course in designing and running randomized evaluations (J-PAL102x). This course teaches learners how to both design randomized evaluations and implement them in the field to measure the impact of social programs. It is a twelve-week long course and can be audited for free. The course runs three times a year—in spring, summer, and fall.

Further reading on randomized evaluations

Access all of J-PAL’s research resources here.

LAI Webinar: African Scholars Program Information Session

Slides from LAI's African Scholars Webinar on September 28, 2023.

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