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Coordinated ring- fenced Social Protection a MUST
Data on the effective coverage of social protection by groups of population (SDG indicator 1.3.1) for the latest available year reveals that Africa trails the other regions, with only 18% receiving at least one cash social protection benefit compared to Europe and Central Asia (84%), the Americas (68%) and Asia pacific region (37%). According to ILO statistics, even the non-contributory cash transfers remain with limited penetration at 9.5% of the vulnerable population. The formal health insurance coverage in Africa is also low and varies disproportionately between the richest and poorest quartiles. Public social protection expenditure (excluding health) on people of working age (percentage of GDP) also is low for Africa 1.1% and the financing gap to guarantee the social protection floor is in excess of 6% of GDP. The low coverage is in part attributed to large informal and rural employment that is often not covered by any social security schemes. The majority of Africans remain just slightly above poverty line and are a shock away from falling back into poverty. The majority of the labour force are in vulnerable employment and the working poor are still many. Unemployment protections are also limited and grossly inadequate. The COVID19 that is already contributing to a global recession is expected to cause household bankruptcies. Increased medical expenses enhance the rate at which people fall into poverty
We are not short of responsive remedies. Universal social protection is a potent development policy tool (deeply rooted in both the Global Agenda 2030’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Africa’s Agenda 2063) that helps households get in a better position to manage shocks including job loss or sudden illness and related risks. It can help alleviate poverty, inequality and social exclusion.
It is against this backdrop that the SDGCA calls for:
- Governments in coordination with development partners to establish an emergency social protection fund aimed at providing a buffer to vulnerable populations during the epoch of the pandemic. Lessons, especially from Europe, China and others, show immediate ramping up of social assistance programs
- Establish social protection frameworks that aim to guarantee the minimum levels of protection. These measures should be embedded in annual and medium budgetary provisions. The targets found in SDG goal 1.3 should remain a guide.
- Establish dialogue with multinational corporations in raising social protection funds (emergency as well as long term financing).
- Establish a robust cash delivery system with regional technical support units to coordinate enrollment and payment delivery. An elaborate payment delivery mechanism run by banks on wheels and agents be put in place to safely deliver while observing social distance and sanitary procedures.
The pandemic is a wake-up call to build comprehensive and sustainable social protection measures – building citizenry resilience buffers to withstand any future shocks.
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