Conditional or unconditional cash transfers? From ideology to policy dialogue

The World Bank Group announced today the launch of the Mission Billion Challenge “WURI West Africa Prize” to seek innovative solutions that augment inclusion of informal workers in social protection through flexible benefits platforms and identification systems. The Challenge offers cash prizes totaling US$150,000 for the most promising ideas that help countries to include informal workers in shock-responsive social protection programs. 

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As the world continues to grapple with the unfolding COVID-19 crisis, many in Africa are worried not only about its spread but about the pandemic's long-term economic consequences as well. But long before our attention was captured by this virus, African governments were already ignoring an increasingly important factor in securing healthy populations and prosperous economies: Africa's older population is growing fast.

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How products such as food and clothes are produced and brought to consumers – a set of activities known as value chains – is critical to reducing poverty and hunger, creating jobs and ensuring decent work, innovation and economic growth.  If the ambitions of the Sustainable Development Goals are to be met, local, national and global value chains must be sustainable and inclusive.  However, Covid-19 has further exposed and exacerbated the inequalities and weaknesses that exist within these chains.  Food supplies in Africa and fast fashion globally are just two examples of

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Global economic losses will likely cause an estimated 34.3 million additional people to fall below the extreme poverty line in 2020, derailing shaky progress on the 2030 development agenda, a new U.N. report on the world economic situation shows. Approximately 56% of the rise in poverty will occur in African countries, the report finds.

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African countries have responded swiftly to the threat of COVID-19 by implementing various measures to contain its spread. Most of the continent is in lockdown or under curfew, or a combination of both.

Unfortunately, these measures have resulted in the loss of livelihoods for many people, particularly in the informal sector. An estimated 85.5% of workers across the continent work in the informal sector.

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The proliferation of social cash transfers (SCTs) across much of Africa has resulted from interactions between international organisations – including both UN and related organisations, the donor agencies of governments in the global North, and international non-government organisations – and national governments. SCTs were central to the social protection agenda taken up by almost every international organisation since about 2000.

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The share of working-age young people in Africa south of the Sahara has risen due to past declines in mortality coupled with high fertility. This “youth bulge” has created a sense of urgency among national governments and the international development community as the prospect of widespread youth unemployment in Africa, and the social instability and political unrest it could bring, looms closer. As a result, African governments are under pressure to create more and better jobs for the region’s young and rapidly growing population.

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From drone-mapping in Mozambique to community radio weather programmes in Zambia, aid agencies are innovating to help millions of people in drought-ravaged southern Africa prepare for climate threats and produce enough food on a warming planet. Across the region, a record 45 million people face growing levels of hunger due to repeated drought, widespread floods, lost harvests and an economic crisis in Zimbabwe, the World Food Programme (WFP) said last week. A business-as-usual approach to providing aid will no longer do, humanitarian officials said.

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Fiscal space for child-sensitive social protection in the Middle East and North Africa region