Understanding Research at AFD

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Understanding Research at AFD
Fighting global warming, preserving biodiversity, maintaining social link… AFD conducts studies, research, and evaluations on these and many other topics. This work is essential if we want to analyze the many challenges facing our planet, because anticipating and better understanding problems leads to more effective action.


Inequalities Conference AFD 2018, Understanding Research at AFD

Research is a vital aspect of French development policy and one of the pillars of our activity. At AFD, we use its results to help guide developing countries in their economic, ecological, and social transition. Research thus provides support that’s complementary to the Group’s financial operations.

AFD co-designs and conducts this research together with its partners in the countries and territories where it operates. Its results help us analyze, in as detailed a way as possible, the interactions between the major climate issues and the financial and social spheres.

Additionally, because the environments in which AFD operates are undergoing rapid transformation, research is crucial in helping to understand and anticipate socio-economic evolutions in our partner countries. The research results enable AFD to better take in account the risks emerging in the changing contexts of those countries.

“Research, Innovation & Knowledge” strategy

The “Research, Innovation & Knowledge” strategy was adopted in April 2019 and covers the period 2019-2022. Its goal is to help better guide AFD Group’s partner countries in their trajectories towards more sustainable development. It is based on four commitments:

  • giving priority to research with local roots in the regions and countries where AFD Group operates;
  • focusing the research agenda on the interactions among the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): growth, climate and biodiversity, inequalities, and social link;
  • strengthening support for innovation and experimentation;
  • better evaluating the effectiveness of the Group’s projects, publishing its evaluations, and striving to be a learning organization.


GEMMES world temperatures map,Understanding Research at AFD

Our applied research is inspired by the “think-and-do” approach. It is carried out by multidisciplinary teams that combine academic partners from the South and the North. The objective? To co-design development trajectories along with our partners, and to identify the public policies best suited for the situations and regions under study, in order to reach that goal.

The research is cross-disciplinary: it covers not only the economy, but also environmental sciences, sociology, demography, anthropology, political science, and others. Our research approach is also similar to that of “sustainability science,” which seeks to mobilize all disciplines with the goal of transforming development models so that they are sustainable.


Uganda, Understanding Research at AFD

AFD research is in line with its main financing strategies. Accordingly, 80% of our resources dedicated to studies and research focus on the following themes:

  • “100% Paris Agreement” and biodiversity 

AFD Group is the first development institution to be “100% Paris Agreement.” In other words, AFD Group makes sure that its financing, in each country, is consistent with low-carbon and resilient development as understood by the Paris Agreement. AFD has implemented a framework for systematic analysis of projects, thereby giving research a crucial role in guiding the Group’s partner countries in their transition towards resilient development models.

  • “100% social link”

Humankind’s capacity to live together in harmony faces many threats. For this reason, AFD research delves into the causes of inequalities in the countries where it operates. Another research subject used to analyze our capacity to live together is the local, national, and global commons.  Our research also looks at new, more experimental approaches that combine, for example, culture or sports with the goal of better understanding the notion of social link. This research helps identify and share solutions so that AFD Group’s support to public policies or to coalitions of stakeholders can restore and strengthen social link on a regional basis.

  • 3D (Defense-Diplomacy-Development)

There can be no development without peace and stability. That’s why AFD operates in the Sahel in coordination with French defense and diplomacy authorities. Our goal there is to mobilize all the actors working for peace, based on a crisis-exit strategy. Our studies and research help support this process by providing: better understanding of the contexts of intervention; the local dynamics at work; the strategies of the players there (development operators as well as armed forces); as well as the link between security and development, in particular within a regional approach.

  • Non-sovereign stakeholders

AFD Group gives priority to financing non-sovereign stakeholders, i.e. all the local non-state actors. These include local authorities, the private and financial sector of partner countries, and civil society organizations. Among other things, our research analyzes the methods of action and collaboration specific to these actors, such as those of civil society organizations or of businesses.

The remaining 20% of research resources are dedicated to subjects that help in anticipating the world of tomorrow.


discussion, Burundi, Understanding Research at AFD
  • A collaborative approach

To promote the co-building of solutions and the sharing of knowledge, AFD is increasing the amount of joint research it carries out with partners based in the regions where it operates, be they research organizations, universities, think tanks, national statistics institutes, regional institutions such as UEMOA, or continental bodies such as UNECA. By 2022, 90% of our new research projects will have to involve at least one partner from the region under study.

We are maximizing work synergy with partners in the network of French research centers operating in the same countries as we do (IRD, Cirad, the UMIFRE network), and we also work with the international institutions involved in research and innovation in development policies (national and multilateral development banks, the European Union, universities and research centers, think tanks, and others).

  • Research to facilitate dialog on public policies

AFD promotes strategic dialog on public policies in the countries with which France maintains privileged relationships. This new form of partnership creates interaction and discussion between the research world and decision-makers that in turn help develop public policies. For example, we finance research activities on topics of interest chosen by the authorities of the partner country and on which we have proven expertise. The research results are then put to discussion at the ministry level and shared with civil society.

Strategic dialog memorandums (Mémorandums de dialogue stratégique - MDS) currently exist with four countries:
-  Côte d’Ivoire, with an initial successful experience (2016-2018) that should continue in a second memorandum;
- in Tunisia since 2018;
- in Morocco and Mali since 2019.

  • Supporting and networking researchers in French-speaking Africa

We pay special attention to promoting research by French-speaking African countries, which suffer from a lack of connections with international research networks. But of course we open to research in all the countries where we operate, including English-and Spanish-speaking countries.

  • Improving data collection

Data collection is a valuable tool when it comes to implementing activities and results. AFD is therefore working to improve data collection, by strengthening local existing organizations and by using the new digital tools available. We are also very careful to promote feedback on research results, because it’s important to provide accounts on what has been achieved by the projects we finance.

In order to evaluate the outcomes and impacts of projects implemented in crisis and conflict zones, we are developing databases and harmonized tools for remote monitoring and project evaluation. We are doing this along with the partners involved in those projects, and especially as part of the Sahel Alliance.

In the event that a project does not appear to be meeting its target goals, we encourage midterm evaluations.

  • Capitalization of experience

AFD places importance on capitalization of knowledge learned from evaluations of its actions – and those carried out by its partners – and on documentary and research reviews. This determination to learn is a core aspect of AFD’s approach to knowledge management.

We also promote joint evaluations and help contribute, along with our peers and with Southern NGOs and research centers, to mutual enrichment of evaluation and learning practices


Inequalities Conference AFD 2018, Understanding Research at AFD

The results of our various research are used to produce micro-economic modeling tools, economic assessments, publications, and AFD training courses. Here are some examples:

  • Modeling tools

How can development trajectories be thought out without studying the impact of ecological changes and their interactions with financial and monetary risks? Over the last few years, AFD has been developing macro-economic modeling tools in order to answer that question and thereby facilitate the political decision-making made necessary by the Paris Agreement (COP21). This model, called the General Monetary and

Multisectoral Macrodynamics for the Ecological Shift (GEMMES), pays special attention to the consequences of global warming and to the increased scarcity of natural extractive resources in particular. Various versions of GEMMES are currently under development with partners in several countries (Brazil, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, Tunisia, and Vietnam)

  • Economic assessments of the countries where we operate

Our cross-disciplinary research enables us to make macro-economic assessments of the developing and emerging countries where we operate. These country-assessments are fueled by regular exchanges with local partners. They help to understand the development processes of the countries concerned and to identify their growth trajectory, and they can also detect the economic, social, political, and financial vulnerabilities involved.

  • Publications of studies, analyses, and capitalization work

The results of the studies and research projects carried out or financed by AFD are made available to the public in different ways. They may be the subject of articles in academic journals or of publications in series published by AFD. A broader readership can also be reached by co-publishing studies with publishers or partner institutions.

These publications help to share the expertise of researchers, contribute to discussions on the key development themes for AFD, and fuel strategic dialog on public policies, etc.

All of our research and evaluation publications – studies, evaluation reports and summaries, research papers, and macro-economic analyses – are available in a dedicated library on our website. More than 700 publications can be consulted, with the use of many search filters.

  • Collective intelligence and knowledge sharing

Can we hope to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), or to come close to them, without having to rethinking the issues of sustainable development? The solution will depend on mobilizing collective intelligence, an approach based chiefly on the will to learn together and in a different way. Above and beyond the production of knowledge, it’s a question of speeding up the diffusion of that knowledge and discussing it, as well as developing innovative educational formats to make it dynamic and directly useful to the players in the development field. That’s why, along with our partners, we are working to build various actions contributing to this collective intelligence and to knowledge sharing. These include training and guidance programs, facilitation of theme-based communities of practice, and events that help bring together the academic and decision-making worlds regularly.

countries monitored for country risk in 2018
studies and research projects carried out were financed by AFD in 2018
partner organizations throughout the world (universities, research centers, think tanks, etc.)