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HomeAFRICAN RESEARCHER OF THE MONTH - FEMALEFebruary 2024: Dr. Kate Orkin – African Female Researcher of the Month

February 2024: Dr. Kate Orkin – African Female Researcher of the Month

African Researchers Award
February 2024: Dr. Kate Orkin – African Female Researcher of the Month

Dr. Kate Orkin is a distinguished Senior Research Fellow in Behavioural Economics at the Blavatnik School of Government, as well as a Supernumerary Fellow of Merton College at the University of Oxford. She has earned her academic credentials with an undergraduate degree from the University of Cape Town and a Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) from the University of Oxford.

As an applied microeconomist, Dr. Orkin specializes in behavioral, labor, and development economics. Her research involves running large-scale field experiments in various African countries, including Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, and South Africa. These experiments aim to develop and test real-world interventions in collaboration with governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). One of her notable projects within the Oxford Martin Programme on African Governance focuses on examining the impact of cash transfers on civic participation and local public goods in Kenya.

In recognition of her outstanding contributions to public policy, Dr. Kate Orkin was honored with the ESRC award for Outstanding Public Policy Impact. This prestigious award, presented by the government’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), celebrates researchers who have demonstrated exceptional economic or societal impact through their work. Dr. Orkin’s instrumental role in advising the South African government during the challenging times of COVID-19 and beyond played a pivotal role in securing this accolade.

Her remarkable influence led to the allocation of £4.87 billion in spending by the South African government, benefitting an impressive 28.5 million people and preventing 5.5 million from falling into extreme poverty. The impact of her research was not only substantial in scale but also strategically targeted, addressing the critical issue of social protection during a global crisis.

Dr. Orkin’s advocacy and evidence-based recommendations prompted the South African government to shift from the traditional method of delivering food parcels to implementing direct cash handouts. This decision not only averted a national disaster but also had positive spillover effects on economic activity. The cash grants, reaching more than 28 million people in just five weeks, were instrumental in keeping 5.5 million individuals out of food poverty.

Her work during the pandemic showcased the importance of adapting policies to the specific needs of the population and demonstrated the effectiveness of cash grants in providing immediate support. Beyond addressing immediate needs, the shift to cash grants allowed individuals to take control of their financial situations, invest in their future, and contribute to the overall economy. This shift represents a significant departure from the norm in Africa, where food parcels are the traditional method of support.

In addition to her impactful contributions during the pandemic, Dr. Kate Orkin’s broader research portfolio encompasses diverse projects in behavioral, labor, and development economics. Her dedication to making a positive impact on society is reflected not only in her research but also in her commitment to knowledge exchange, public engagement, and other communication activities. The £10,000 award accompanying the ESRC recognition will further support her efforts in these areas, allowing her to continue her impactful work at the intersection of academia and public policy.

Dr. Orkin’s collaborative and interdisciplinary approach is evident in her work with research colleagues in South Africa and her close engagement with civil servants. Her ability to bridge the gap between academic research and practical policy implementation has earned her not only the ESRC award but also the admiration of her peers and the broader academic community.

In conclusion, Dr. Kate Orkin’s profile is characterized by a deep commitment to research excellence, a focus on applied microeconomics with real-world impact, and a demonstrated ability to influence and shape public policy. Her work stands as a testament to the power of research to drive positive change, particularly in the critical areas of social protection and economic development in Africa.

Cite this article as (APA format):

African Researchers Magazine (2024). February 2024: Dr. Kate Orkin – African Female Researcher of the Month. Retrieved from


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