Education for all, occupational choice and business formation in Africa

Examining the success of school expenditure in terms of economic payoff

Africa has witnessed an unprecedented increase in access to education in the past decades. Nonetheless, manufacturing employment is tiny, innovation is weak and many large corporations ‘complain’ that there is a skill shortage. Thanks to large-scale school construction throughout the continent, many more children live within reach of a school today. However, nearly one third of African children still do not finish primary school and more than half do not finish secondary school.

The intervention

This project aims to map the supply of schools across many African countries since independence, quantify the impact of large-scale school construction and major educational policies (including, for example, compulsory primary schooling, educational attainment, occupational choice, employment across sectors and entrepreneurship). The study plans to take a holistic view of connecting schooling with inter-sector employment, occupational choice, entrepreneurship and business formation, using a plethora of geo-referenced data.

The impact

This analysis will contribute to a significant body of research on education in low and middle-income countries that examines the impact of school construction programmes; distinguishing across gender, rural vs urban status, household structure and more factors. By shedding light on the market frictions that have mediated the success of school expansion over the last half a century, this project will provide guidance concerning when increases in educational expenditures are likely to have the largest economic payoff.


Elias Papaioannou is Professor of Economics at London Business School and Academic Director of the Wheeler Institute for Business and Development. Elias’s research focuses on international finance, political economy, applied econometrics and growth and development. It has been published in leading peer-reviewed journals and his work has appeared in numerous edited collections.

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