2023
Language:
English

Social protection in urban Zambia: the view from below

The expansion of social protection programmes has been promoted, especially by international organisations, to address the challenges of urban as well as rural poverty in Africa. Zambia is one of many African countries that continues to spend more heavily on farmer-support and other explicitly developmental programmes than on the social cash transfer programmes favoured by international organisations. A mini-survey conducted in Kamanga, a low-income neighbourhood in Zambia’s capital city, Lusaka, suggests that, even in urban areas, residents believe that farm subsidies are effective for tackling rural poverty while perceiving that social cash transfers and interest-free empowerment ‘loans’ are more effective for addressing urban poverty. When asked which programme the government should prioritize to expand nationwide, the most popular priority was the empowerment fund programme. Kamanga residents also believed that most social protection programmes had been politicized to benefit supporters of the ruling party under the previous government, but they were more fairly targeted at the deserving poor since the election of a new government in August 2021. The experimental component of the survey suggests that there is widespread support for the expansion of support for the urban unemployed, especially fopeople who demonstrate a positive work and civic ethic. Our respondents were, however, averse to tax increases to pay for these reforms. This mini survey in an urban Zambian neighbourhood suggests that popular priorities differ from those of many of the international organisations promoting social protection whilstaccording with the priorities of local elites.