“We need to use institutions to mainstream social protection in government policies and programs,” Sarah Ssewanyana the Executive Director Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) said while speaking at the Social Protection for Inclusive Growth in Africa international conference held at Skyz Hotel in Kampala on June 21, 2018.

She called for integrated planning as well as integrated budgeting. “If we fail at that stage then there is no way we can achieve what we want to achieve,” Ssewanyana warns.

She added that there is need for government bodies, departments and agencies to work together for a common goal. As Uganda continues to face fiscal constraints, Ssewanyana believes that balancing of priorities would ensure inclusive growth. Ugandan government has of late largely embarked on huge infrastructural investment.

While opening the conference on behalf of Janat Mukwaya the Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development, James Ebitu, the director social development, at the above ministry admitted that most Sub-Saharan African countries are performing below 2% of GDP investment in social protection.

He argued that social protection is an effective strategy for reducing poverty and inequality, which results to inclusive growth.

This is in line with the evidence from South Africa, which indicates that government's social grants reduced poverty by about a third according to Michael Samson, the Director of Research at the Economic Policy Research Institute (EPRI). Samson strongly argues that social protection enables households to invest more in their children.

“Social protection reduces child labour, improves agricultural resilience and enables households to achieve more sustaining livelihoods," he summed, labeling it the best pathway to a nation’s future prosperity.

He however warned that social protection is not a magical bullet saying it only works when integrated in an overall framework of social and economic policy.

INCLUDE 21 June 2018

Prof. Paschal B. Mihyo the Executive Director of the African Institute for Development Initiatives (AIDI) in his presentation of the trends in financing social protection highlighted that most social protection programmes in Sub-Saharan Africa are heavily dependent on donor funds, which is not sustainable.

Currently only South Africa and Mauritius fund social protection programmes using local resources. Mihyo also called for better management and coordination of social protection at all levels.

The conference featured panel discussions on challenges and opportunities of financing social protection as well as coordination, policy frameworks and legislation.

Margaret Kakande the head of budget monitoring and coordination unit, Ministry of Finance Planning and Economic Development, Uganda, called for reduction in overhead costs so as to increase coverage and increase the money for the beneficiaries.

Kakande said that more private sector involvement in social protection would reduce dependence on government.

However, Samuel Waterberg the CEO of the Ghanaian People's Pension Trust said that it is difficult for private schemes to gain trust. On the other hand, Waterberg observes that state owned social protection schemes usually don’t succeed because people don’t trust the government.

The conference produced one clear takeaway message for participants and African governments- The push for social protection requires an integrated approach as well as innovation on alternative sources of revenue mobilization.

Facts on social protection in Africa

FACT 1: Major contribution to social protection safety nets still comes from international donors.

FACT 2: About 33% of the spending goes to cash transfers, 18% on social pensions and 13% on fee waivers.

FACT 3: Only 29% of those in the lowest income quintile are covered by social protection.

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