Social Protection in Africa: Where next?

1 June 2010

Has social protection in sub-Saharan Africa lost its way?

The Centre for Social Protection (CSP) at IDS has been working with partners at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), the School of International Development at the University of East Anglia (UEA-DEV), and the Regional Hunger and Vulnerability Programme (RHVP), to produce a joint statement on the future of social protection in sub-Saharan Africa, which is released today.

Read the Joint Statement, Social Protection in Africa: Where next?

The paper challenges current practices within the research and donor community. It notes that social protection is an extremely important policy agenda for Africa, and that remarkable progress has been made in a very short time. In recent years, donors and other external actors have invested heavily in financing social protection projects, strengthening capacity among implementing agencies, and building the evidence base to demonstrate the powerful positive impacts of social protection programmes. Nonetheless, many governments remain resistant to social protection, as advocated by donors and international NGOs.

A fundamental rethinking is required. All too often, social protection initiatives are imported from elsewhere and introduced with inadequate understanding of domestic political priorities and policy processes. As a result, pilot projects rarely scale up to national programmes, and 'blueprint' approaches rarely gain political traction. Where governments express a preference for different models, these are often neglected or dismissed, while 'beneficiaries' themselves are hardly ever consulted.

The paper concludes by proposing ten principles for future engagement by development partners with social protection policy processes in Africa. These include: support national policy priorities and minimise policy intrusion; limit pilot project 'experiments'; and involve programme participants at all stages, starting with vulnerability assessments and project selection.