Dakar, Senegal, 8 April 2015 – As momentum builds towards the adoption of the new global Sustainable Development Goals later this year, some13African countries and Brazil have come together to share experiences on social protection, focused on ensuring that Africa’s poor are not left behind in the drive for economic growth, and have the means to better weather shocks and crises.
“We bear the moral responsibility to deploy policies and instruments which have proven effective in contributing to the fight against poverty, addressing vulnerabilities and building people’s resilience against future shocks,” said Ms Ruby Sandhu-Rojon Deputy Director for Africa at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), today in Dakar, Senegal. (Her full key note speech is available here.)
“Social protection measures anchored in human rights and sustainable social, economic and environmental development have the power to alleviate poverty, boost the resilience of the African middle-class, and drive the transformation of the continent.”
Ms Sandhu-Rojon was speaking at the opening of the “International Seminar on Social Protection in Africa”, a South South Cooperation initiative, organized in partnership with the African Union, the governments of Brazil and Senegal, the Instituto Lula, and UNDP, including its World Centre for Sustainable Development (RIO+ Centre). See the agenda here.
Despite accelerated economic growth over the past decade, the growth process has not benefitted the poorest, and inequalities persist across Africa. Social protection coverage remains very low. Only 20 percent of the poorest people on the continent, some 44 million people, have access to social protection, such as targeted interventions in health, nutrition or cash transfers.
If put in place, investments in social protection, as part of a broader sustainable development agenda, would contribute to improving the lives of the additional 370 million people living below the USD 1.25 a day poverty line.
“African countries are making progress on social protection, but a life-cycle approach that addresses vulnerabilities at different stages of life – from babies to the elderly – is key if we are to achieve our vision of prosperity, where every single African life matters,” said Dr Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko, Commissioner for Social Affairs at the African Union Commission.
The two-day Seminar serves as a platform for African countries to exchange experiences, together with Brazil, whose Bolsa Familia conditional cash transfer programme succeeded in lifting millions out of poverty, advancing health and education, and significantly reducing inequality levels. The Seminar will also look at ways to finance social protection initiatives sustainably.
“We are here to debate and learn more about social protection concepts in Africa and Brazil in order to improve implementation of inclusive public policies for sustainable social, economic and environmental development,” said Ms Marcia Lopes, Brazil’s former Minister of Social Development and Hunger Eradication, who is now with the Lula Institute.
While countries such as Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho and Mauritius, have adopted social protection policies and programmes, such as targeted school feeding and cash transfers, many others still face considerable challenges in formulating and implementing social protection measures.
Structural weaknesses, such as low coverage, weak targeting, coordination, and implementation capacity, and inability to move beyond piloting are some of the persisting constraints. Low domestic financing to ensure sustainability of social protection measures is also a challenge.
The Seminar’s recommendations on how to promote equitable access to social protection in a scalable and sustainable manner will be presented at the African Union Inter-Ministerial meeting on Social Development, Labor and Employment later this month, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
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