The Future of Social
Protection in Africa
Fleur Wouterse, Senior Research Fellow
IFPRI Africa Office
• The Malabo Declaration emphasizes agriculture-led growth as
the engine for poverty reduction in Africa.
• But even the most inclusive growth may not be enough to lift
everyone out of poverty.
• Most Africans still make their living from the land and are
particularly vulnerable to weather related shocks and natural
• Food insecurity is a daily reality.
• To take part in and benefit from the growth process, households
need to have some basic level of capital and security.
Coverage of social protection
• Social protection programs—public or private initiatives that aid
the poor and protect the vulnerable against livelihood risks—
can effectively be used to assist those trapped, or at the risk of
being trapped, in chronic poverty.
• Yet, in contrast to other regions, coverage of social protection is
extremely low in African countries.
The three P’s of social protection
• Social protection has three objectives
• When recipient households face barriers in multiple markets,
social protection can affect agricultural production and
productivity through four channels:
1. Reduce liquidity constraints and thereby encourage spending on
2. Facilitate small-scale savings or investment - by acting as collateral,
enabling access to credit
3. Affect risk attitudes of farm household members by altering
4. Affect food and nutrition security, which may in turn enhance labor
• Cash+ programs are social protection interventions that provide
regular cash transfers in combination with additional components or
interventions designed to augment income effects.
• Livelihood programs a wide range of interventions that help the
poor acquire productive assets, build skills, or create new market
• Graduation programs aim to reduce extreme poverty by
simultaneously tackling the interrelated challenges faced by the
• Study of 48 programs implemented between 2014-2016
• No clear relationship between per beneficiary cost and impact.
• While annual household consumption gain as a proportion of
total program cost is the highest for cash transfers, they have
the least amount of evidence of long-term impact.
• Livelihood programs show limited sustainability of impact.
• Graduation programs are the most consistent in having
significant positive impact across sites.
Future demand for social protection in
• Two trends will determine the future demand for social
protection in African countries.
1. Persistent high rates of poverty due to decades of economic decline
and stagnation that preceded the recent economic recovery.
2. The transition toward more democratic, pluralistic political systems
combined with faster economic growth and a more vocal urban
segment of the poor and vulnerable population.
• African countries will need to find sufficient resources to invest
in accelerating growth and meeting the cost of providing social
services to large numbers of poor and vulnerable people.
• This challenge is complex because most African countries
operate under tight budget constraints and have limited
experience with social protection programs.
A systems approach
• An emerging trend in many countries on the African continent is
the progressive move from fragmented programs to nationally-
owned social protection systems.
• A systems approach provides a comprehensive social
protection response, offering beneficiaries a broad range of
coordinated multi-sector interventions: preventive, protective,
promotive and transformative.
• For these systems to be successful some design features
should be considered.
• African countries can and must make substantial progress in
developing functional social protection schemes in the coming
decade the stability and growth of their economies depend
directly upon it.
• Social protection systems that are well-designed and
implemented can powerfully shape countries, enhance human
capital and productivity, reduce inequalities, build resilience and
end inter-generational cycles of poverty.