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Question of the Week 3

What are promising examples of the design and implementation of social protection legislation in African countries?

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Franziska Gassmann
2016-07-18 11:37

While most countries in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) have social security legislation governing formal employment related contingencies such as old age, maternity or sickness, only few countries have similar legislation for non-contributory social protection provisions which extend to poor and vulnerable households and individuals. In 2014, 48 countries in Africa had at least one non-contributory social protection program, ranging from unconditional cash transfers to fee waivers (World Bank 2015). However, many of those are not governed by national... read more »

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Tavengwa Nhongo
2016-07-18 11:38

The concept of Social Protection has gained significant momentum since the African Union’s Ouagadougou Declaration on Labour and Employment in 2004. To date, nearly all the 54 African countries are implementing one social protection programme or another. In its State of Safety Nets Report (2015), the World Bank indicates that 40 countries in Africa are now implementing unconditional cash transfer programmes, double the number in 2010. The Bank is providing funding for social protection programmes in 23 African countries. In its 2016 inventory o... read more »

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Paul Quarles Van Ufford, Unicef; Luca Pellerano, ILO Zambia
2016-07-20 10:04

In many African countries, non-contributory social protection policies and services are not yet grounded in a legal framework. Given that social assistance schemes are still expanding, this is not surprising. Yet at the same time, it maintains the fragile basis on which these policies are built and weakens access to entitlements. A strong legal framework for basic social protection programs, such as in South Africa, conveys the vision of society in terms of realizing a minimum standard of living for all citizens and protecting them against risk... read more »

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Armando Barrientos - University of Manchester
2016-07-27 12:30

I fully agree with the comments in the Featured Answer. It is important that social protection provision is covered by legislation: Constitutional recognition of social rights and ordinary legislation covering entitlements and the operation of the relevant agencies. Legislation advances the institutionalisation of social protection and enables accountability. It is the case that South Africa has well developed legislation on social protection. It is an interesting case to study. Jeremy Seekings 2008 article in Transformation 68:28-52 discusses ... read more »

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Markus Kaltenborn - Ruhr-Universität Bochum
2016-08-8 11:27

It is very commendable that the INCLUDE platform draws attention to the question whether there are promising examples of social protection legislation in African countries. Indeed there are good reasons why social protection programmes – regardless of their organizational design and their specific content orientation – should be enshrined in a legally binding framework. From an international law perspective it is noteworthy that not only the General Comment on the Right to Social Security (para. 11), but also the Social Protection Flo... clearly underscores that “(b)asic social security guarantees should be established by law. National laws and regulations should specify the range, qualifying conditions and levels of the benefits giving effect to these guarantees. Impartial, transparent, effective, simple, rapid, accessible and inexpensive complaint and appeal procedures should also be specified.” (para. 7)

The main arguments in this regard can be deduced from a rights-based approach. In 2012 Magdalena Sepúlveda and Carly Nyst have published a study on this issue which is well worth reading. According to their findings “a core aspect of the human rights approach is that social protection programmes must be enshrined and defined in national legal frameworks, and supported by a national strategy and plan of action. The most successful experiences of social protection systems are those grounded in legal instruments that create an entitlement to social protection benefits, ensure the permanence of these initiatives, and give rights-holders the legal ability to invoke their rights. The success of systems in countries such as Brazil and South Africa is due in part to the existence of specific legal provisions ensuring the individual’s right to social protection and defining the standards which regulate the involvement of all stakeholders. … In the absence of a well established legal framework, programmes are more vulnerable to political manipulation, and the long-term involvement of State authorities in all stages of the programme cannot be guaranteed. … “ (Sepùlveda and Nyst 2012, pp. 26 et seq.)

So governments in SSA would be well advised to develop legislation on social protection and to adopt an accountability framework which enables the beneficiaries as well as other stakeholders to control the implementation of the law. External donors should not only respect but also substantially support such a rights-based approach, e.g. by providing capacity building with regard to social protection legislation/implementation, but also by helping their partner countries to establish sound and sustainable financial structures for their social protection programmes.

- ILO (2012): Recommendation concerning National Floors of Social Protection (SPF Recommendation), Recommendation 102

- Sepúlveda, Magdalena & Nyst, Carly (2012): The Human Rights Approach to Social Protection, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, Erweko Oy 2012

- UN, Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (2008): General Comment No. 19 on the right to social security (Article 9), E/C.12/GC/19.
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