Institutional reforms undertaken recently by many African countries were meant to improve the business environment for private sector development. Have these reforms succeeded? Okey (this volume) uses the indicators on the difficulty of doing business and on economic freedom. He finds that the reforms have indeed increased private investment, foreign direct investment and domestic credit to the private sector, with positive implications for economic growth. These findings are in concert with findings by Bates et al. (2013), who observe that recent institutional reforms have improved both agriculture and the general economy.


Increasing attention, over recent years, has been accorded to the importance of gender equality, especially in the areas of education, health and employment opportunities, in improving growth and development in the developing world (Blackden 1999; Klasen 2000; Morrison et al. 2007). In particular, gender equality measured by the female-to-male ratio of human development indices enhances women’s decision making and improves children’s health and educational achievement. It also enhances women’s access to markets and employment opportunities, which, in turn, accentuates income growth and poverty reduction in the long run (Morrison et al. 2007).

Complementary to the existing literature, Bhalotra and Umana-Aponte (this volume) find that economic recessions are associated with increases in African women’s unemployment and self-employment relative to paid employment, leading to a decline in their incomes. They further uncover that women who own agricultural land are immune to the business cycle. It appears, therefore, that women’s land ownership could provide a key income-smoothing mechanism. In many African countries, moreover, women are disenfranchised in this regard. Hence, improving such land ownership could have beneficial institutional outcomes, not only by enhancing equity, but also by insuring against volatility in women’s incomes, thus improving overall social welfare.

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