Political will and sustained financing needed to ensure Africa’s poor are not left behind

Apr 9, 2015

Dakar, Senegal  The strong political will of Africa’s leaders is needed to ensure increased and sustained financing for social protection initiatives, if the continent is to lift millions of people out of poverty and onto the path to prosperity. 

At the same time, social protection should be seen as a comprehensive set of inter-sectoral interventions that protect citizens - prioritising the poorest - from social, environmental and economic shocks that arise throughout their life-cycle, and build their ability to withstand crises, as well as improve their wellbeing. 

These are among the recommendations of the International Seminar on Social Protection in Africa that closed today in Dakar, Senegal, aimed at boosting the number of Africans - currently only 20% of the poorest, some 44 million people - with access to targeted interventions in health, nutrition or cash transfers.

The Seminar was a platform for some 13 African countries, Brazil and civil society to share experiences and ways in which to fund social protection programmes sustainably, in the context of growing inequality despite Africa’s economic growth. 

Brazil’s Bolsa Familia conditional cash transfer programme was profiled as it succeeded in lifting millions out of poverty, advancing health and education, and significantly reducing inequality levels.

Participants emphasized that social protection systems are an investment, rather than simply expenditure. Well targeted and monitored interventions could have multiplier effects that promote inclusive economic growth, job creation and local markets, while addressing social exclusion of citizens.

As social protection programmes in many African countries are supported by international partners, participants recognized that donor financing still has a role to play. 

However, to ensure sustainability, the social protection agenda should be firmly anchored in domestic financing and reflected in countries' medium term expenditure frameworks. Technical cooperation and capacity development, especially focused on coordination and partnerships – including South South Cooperation – still remain crucial.

More effective domestic resource mobilisation, including private sector compliance with taxes, were additional recommendations to help move the social protection agenda forward. 

The recommendations will be tabled at the African Union inter-Ministerial meeting on Social Development, Labor and Employment later this month, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The Dakar Seminar comes at a critical time as international delegates prepare to meet this July in Addis Ababa, for the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in which they will agree on a new framework to finance development.

It was 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).

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