Job Vacancy: Principal Economist


Do you want to be at the pulse of digital policy in Africa? Do you have ideas about how research can be conducted innovatively to create an evidence base for policymakers that will redress digital inequality and contribute to sustainable development? 

How would you like to lead a team developing digital and data indicators for Africa together with multilateral organisations from the only comprehensive nationally representative demand-side surveys (After Access survey)  being undertaken on the continent? Are you interested in finding out what drives the gig economy and how it could become more inclusive? 

How does engaging with an international policy community on how the processes of digitalisation and datafication, that increasingly characterise modern economies, can be directed to post-COVID-19 economic and social reconstruction?

Can you take research to policy influence? Can you bring research to life through public policy papers, briefs and media releases?

If this sounds appealing and you have a doctorate and either extensive research or policy experience, we are looking for you to join our dynamic multidisciplinary team based at the Cape Town Waterfront under the iconic Table Mountain. From here Research ICT Africa (RIA) conducts multidisciplinary research on digital governance, policy and regulation that facilitates evidence-based and informed policy making for improved access, use and application of digital technologies for social and economic development in Africa. Our public-interest research on the digital economy and society responds to national, regional and continental needs. It provides relevant stakeholders with the information and analysis required to develop flexible and adaptive policies and regulation to  deal with an increasingly complex and dynamic digital environment. 

We are looking for a principal economist who shares our vision of digital equality in Africa and will drive our mission to accelerate economic inclusion and social justice in Africa by undertaking rigorous research to inform digital policy and data governance – someone who will live and lead by our organisational values.  Someone who is:

  • curious
  • collaborative
  • courageous
  • civil
  • compassionate
  • constructively critical
  • credible

This is a great opportunity for an individual interested in creating a space for themselves with a dynamic and diverse team to drive the public interest research to policy influence.

Key responsibilities of the job currently envisaged are:

Research leadership 

  • lead and co-ordinate public interest research projects for evidence-based digital policy and regulation;
  • develop working relationships with researchers in sister networks in the Global South;  
  • initiate new research projects and support the preparation of funding proposals and technical reports with the Research Manager;
  • collaborate on global research commissions, provide technical assistance on projects and maintain relationships with donors and multilateral agencies; and
  • provide mentorship and create a learning environment for in-house researchers and country partners.

Research and analysis 

  • lead research on digital indicator development for our repository of supply- and demand- side indicators and oversee development of databases;  
  • design, lead and coordinate nationally representative, multiple-country demand-side surveys – overseeing enumerator training, data gathering, data analysis, modelling and reporting;
  • conduct quantitative and qualitative research and analysis on topics such as data pricing transparency, future of work, biometric ID, e-trade, e-taxation, impact of digitalisation and datafication on in/formality; and
  • update diagnostic tools for analysis of policy outcomes, specifically market, competition, financial and pricing analysis.

Communications and Networking 

Prepare research for:

  • policy papers and briefs, blog posts to disseminate findings to diverse audiences at international, regional and national levels; and
  • publication in peer reviewed journals and to represent RIA at international events and conferences.

Key Qualifications:

  • PhD (Social Sciences, Economics, Econometrics, Statistics) with minimum 10 years of research, survey or data analysis, and/ or policy, competition or sector regulation experience.

Skills and knowledge 

  • strong research skills and research management experience;
  • knowledge and experience in development/policy/research work using quantitative and qualitative research methods;
  • knowledge of telecommunications/digital policy/regulation/data governance in developing countries an advantage; 
  • ability to travel as needed (20% of time);
  • experience in coordinating large scale research projects;
  • strong statistical or data science background, including experience using SPSS or STATA ;
  • experience in data management and database development an advantage; and
  • professional English language proficiency and strong writing skills essential


  • ability to work as part of a distributed team and to work on multiple projects simultaneously; 
  • exposure to working with people from diverse cultures and nationalities;
  • knowledge and background in ICT policy and regulation;
  • familiarity with blogging and social media;
  • excellent public communication and speaking skills;
  • research to policy influence experience (working in, or with governments and multilateral agencies);
  • work experience in the Global South;
  • willingness and desire to travel (again one day);
  • fluency in one major world language in addition to English, preferably French; and
  • fluency in isiZulu, isiXhosa and/or Swahili also advantageous.

Location: Research ICT Africa, Workshop 17, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town Office

Closing date for applications: 31 August 2021 

Send your letter of motivation and CV (including list of relevant projects) to: