Social Protection at a Crossroads: Between COVID-19 and the SDGs – Southern African Perspectives

The rapid expansion of social protection programmes and strengthening of social protection systems throughout Africa in the last 20 years is widely regarded as a successful example of policy diffusion. In the year 2000, for instance, not a single country in Africa had a National Social Protection Policy or Strategy, but this rose to 30 countries by 2020. Alongside the launch of new policies and programmes, states have developed innovative new platforms for registering, paying, and managing beneficiaries. Social protection proved its value during 2020/21. But the pandemic also exposed its limitations. Countries with less well-developed systems and limited financial resources were poorly prepared and struggled to launch rapid and effective responses to COVID-triggered hardship. Even countries with fairly comprehensive systems had to scramble to fill gaps in their provision, notably under-coverage of self-employed and informally employed workers, who do not have access to either social assistance or social insurance.

The theme for the 9th International SASPEN Annual Conference, therefore, is: Social Protection at a Crossroads: Between COVID-19 and the SDGs – Southern African Perspectives. The conference will take stock, look back and look ahead, informed by the following themes which reflect on this overall theme:

  1. Looking Back: Social Protection and COVID-19
  2. Taking Stock: Consolidating the Social Protection Gains
  3. Assessing Enablers and Developmental Approaches: Building Resilience in Social Protection and Developmental Social Protection
  4. Revisiting the Mix of Social Protection Responses: The Need for Expansion and Innovation
  5. Integrating Gender and Inclusion in Social Protection Responses
  6. Sustainability and Financing of Social Protection Responses
  7. Looking Ahead: Social Protection Towards the SDGs