Social Protection in Africa

Social Protection in Africa

Frank Ellis, Stephen Devereux and Phillip White

The purpose of this book is to make accessible to a broad audience the ideas, principles and practicalities of establishing effective social protection in Africa. It focuses on the major shift in strategy for tackling hunger and vulnerability, from emergency responses mainly in the form of food transfers to predictable cash transfers to the chronically poorest social groups. The diverse case studies in this book provide a unique and timely exploration of the effective, and less effective, ways that social transfers are delivered to the chronically poor and vulnerable in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Chapter 1: Overview

Frank Ellis, Stephen Devereux and Phillip White

Subjects: development studies, development studies, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, economics of social policy, social policy in emerging countries


THE PURPOSE OF THE BOOK Social protection is moving up the development agenda in Africa. The reason is a growing recognition that too many people in Africa are mired in chronic poverty and vulnerability, such that even small shocks to agricultural outcomes or cash incomes cause disproportionate distress and hunger. In the past, governments, aid donors and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have responded to adverse events in Africa primarily through emergency transfers to those most seriously affected. Most of this humanitarian relief has been food aid, and the unpredictability yet frequency of its occurrence and scale has been costly as well as failing to address the underlying causes of vulnerability. Aid donors are moving towards the notion of ‘predictable funding for predictable needs’. In other words, if the most vulnerable people in African countries were provided with regular cash transfers to underpin their access to food and basic needs, then emergency measures could be avoided in most instances, being required only in the event of catastrophic emergencies on a broad scale. This policy agenda is a lot more complicated than it may appear at first sight. Decisions to provide vulnerable people at national scale with regular social transfers must ultimately be made by governments and have political force behind them or they stand little chance of success. Nevertheless, sufficient cases of such political will do exist across Africa to provide the basis for taking the agenda seriously. For example, seven sub-Saharan African countries have proper old age pension schemes,...

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