Woman receiving TASAF cash transfer, Arusha, Tanzania (2016). Photo credit: Ashleigh Kate Slingsby
One in ten people in the world lives with less than $1.90 a day, and half of the world’s extreme poor live in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) (World Bank, 2016). According to the World Bank, SSA is home to some 389 million people living in extreme poverty. Extreme poverty around the world has declined largely due to rapid advances in East Asia, the Pacific and South Asia – specifically in China, Indonesia and India (World Bank, 2016). Therefore, to eradicate poverty, the focus of donors and policy practitioners needs to be on SSA.
The relationship between poverty and community
Data shows that the most vulnerable and poor communities of the SSA region live in rural settlements. In SSA, social protection has historically been provided by the community itself. The extended family system supported the poorer and more vulnerable kin, including the elderly and those unable to earn a livelihood. Community bonds have been compromised by rural to urban migration, loss of land and traditional practices, and the imposition of state structures. Accordingly, formal, and ideally universal, social protection policies and programmes have an essential role to play in providing the necessary support.
“Social protection policies and programmes have proven to play a critical role in reducing poverty globally. In SSA, social protection has historically been provided by the community.”
Social protection in Sub-Saharan Africa: the power of cash
Social protection falls under three broad categories: social assistance, social insurance, and labour market/public work programmes. Contributory social insurance programmes are widely practiced in SSA, however they have very limited coverage, as it is designed to cover formal workers. Social insurance allows workers to enjoy health insurance, retirement benefits, work injury benefits etc. and is therefore a very effective tool in reducing vulnerability of falling into, and being trapped in, a cycle of poverty. However, in SSA formal jobs are not prevalent and are in fact declining. What’s more, informal workers do not generate enough income to participate in contributory social insurance schemes, and are consequently deprived of protection.
On average, contributory social insurance is afforded to less than one-tenth of the labour force in SSA (Kwabena & Clara, 2012). Social Assistance, often referred to as a social safety net, encompasses both contributory and non-contributory transfers, either in cash (both conditional and unconditional) or in-kind transfers. Cash transfers have been shown to reduce poverty and have widespread human capital development impacts – often more so than other traditional forms of social assistance. Cash also offers recipients with a sense dignity and autonomy, which is greatly empowering (Gentilini, 2016; Blattman and Niehaus, 2014; UNICEF, 2015).
“Cash transfers have been shown to reduce poverty and have widespread human capital development impacts – often more so than other traditional forms of social assistance. Cash also offers recipients with a sense dignity and autonomy”
African governments have implemented different types of non-contributory interventions, such as public work programmes, social transfers, subsidies, training and programmes to facilitate access to social services and productive activities (Cirillo and Tebaldi, 2016). Despite its recognised impact, cash assistance represents a smaller portion of social safety net programming than in-kind assistance (Honorati et al., 2015; UNICEF, 2015). Social assistance, particularly cash transfers, must be recognised as an indispensable tool in the pursuit of poverty eradication in SSA.
Examples of social assistance programmes in Sub Saharan Africa
For the sake of expedience, this blog is limited to policies and programmes by SSA governments that include cash based social assistance. These examples expose how eradicating extreme poverty in SSA will require governments of the region to work with international governments and organisations, in order to exert political will, action and innovation, in the design and implementation of social protection policies and programmes.
“...eradicating extreme poverty in SSA will require governments of the region to work with international governments and organisations, in order to exert political will, action and innovation”
In Ghana, the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) project provides social cash grants to extremely poor and vulnerable households. It has seen beneficiaries increase from 1,654 households in 21 districts in 2008, to 213,044 households by September 2016. The programme is now present in all 216 districts of Ghana. The gender balance of the project is 44% male and 56% female.
In Kenya, the Department of Social Development under the Social Assistance Division, has implemented two cash transfer programmes: The Older Persons Cash Transfer (OPCT) and the Persons with Severe Disability Cash Transfer (PwSD-CT). Both programmes are entirely funded by the Government of Kenya. The OPTC, which started in 2007, focuses on providing cash transfers to poor households who have at least one member above the age of 65 years. In the financial year of 2015/2016, the total number of beneficiaries was 325,000. The PwSD-CT, which was launched in June 2011, targets persons with severe disabilities, including adults and children who depend on the full-time support of a caregiver. In the financial year of 2015/2016, the total number of beneficiaries was 47,200 households. Similarly, the Lesotho Child Grant Project scaled up from 1,250 households, to reach 25,000 households and 65,000 children by the end of 2014.
Social assistance and political will
Over the past three decades, several continent-wide agreements have emphasised the need to initiate and implement social protection policies and programmes. This includes: the African Common Position on Human and Social Development in Africa (1994); the Ouagadougou Declaration and Plan of Action (2004) in the Declaration on Employment and Poverty Alleviation in Africa; the Social Policy Framework for Africa (2008); the Yaoundé Tripartite Declaration on the Implementation of the Social Protection Floor (2010); Social Ministers’ Khartoum Declaration on Social Policy Action (2010); and, most recently, the Ministers’ Addis Ababa Declaration on Social Protection for Inclusive Development (2015).
In addition, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) of the Africa Region has also identified social protection as a key area that labour movements in Africa must focus on to improve the welfare of the labour force. Furthermore, ‘Social Protection and Poverty Reduction’ is a division of the African Development Bank’s Human and Social Development Department. Moreover, numerous conferences and workshops focusing on social protection have been held across the continent, for instance, the Southern African Social Protection Experts Network (SASPEN).
“‘Social Protection and Poverty Reduction’ is a division of the African Development Bank’s Human and Social Development Department.”
Important considerations for the Sub-Saharan context
There is overwhelming evidence that affirms the impact of social assistance in the form of cash transfers in achieving poverty reduction in SSA. Establishing a system to help SSA governments build and maintain social protection floors is necessary. Fiscal policy issues are also a priority. Thankfully, the myth that spending on social protection is a poor investment is becoming less common in international development forums. To achieve success in social assistance design and implementation, SSA governments need to work towards the consolidation of a single registry of beneficiaries (preferably electronic), inclusive targeting, and streamlined programme administration. In most SSA contexts, rural farmers, particularly women farmers, should be given priority.
"There is overwhelming evidence that affirms the impact of social assistance in the form of cash transfers in achieving poverty reduction in SSA. Establishing a system to help SSA governments build and maintain social protection floors is necessary."
Cirillo, C. and Tebaldi, R. (2016). Social Protection in Africa: Inventory of Non-Contributory Programmes, International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth and UNICEF. Accessible: http://socialprotection.org/discover/publications/social-protection-africa-inventory-non-contributory-programmes
Handa, S., Daidone, S., Peterman, A., Davis, B., Pereira, A., Palermo, T. and Yablonski, J. (2017). Myth-Busting? Confronting Six Common Perceptions About Unconditional Cash Transfers as a Poverty Reduction Strategy In Africa. United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, FAO, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Transfer Project. Accessible: http://socialprotection.org/discover/publications/myth-busting-confronting-six-common-perceptions-about-unconditional-cash
Miroro, O. (2016). The rise of social protection in Sub-Saharan Africa, Include - Knowledge platform on inclusive development policies. Accessible: http://socialprotection.org/discover/publications/rise-social-protection-sub-saharan-africa
Ortiz, I., Cummins, M. and Karunanethy, K. (2017). Fiscal Space for Social Protection and the SDGs: Options to Expand Social Investments in 187 Countries, International Labour Organization. Accessible: http://socialprotection.org/discover/publications/fiscal-space-social-protection-and-sdgs-options-expand-social-investments-187
This blog post is published as part of the Ambassador Series, which presents insights into social protection around the world from the viewpoint of our Ambassadors, a group of international online United Nations Volunteers who support the online knowledge exchange activities, networking and promotion of socialprotection.org.