African dialogue on poverty takes place in Tanzania
Day 1: International conference on Social Protection: Building Effective and Sustainable Systems for Equitable Growth: Perspectives, Policies and Best Practices
Arusha, December 16th 2014 – The three-day international conference on Social Protection: Building Effective and Sustainable Systems for Equitable Growth commenced on 15th December 2014 in Arusha, Tanzania, organized by the Poverty Eradication Department of the Ministry of Finance of the Government of Tanzania, with support from UNICEF, ILO and the Economic Policy Research Institute (EPRI). It gathered together policy-makers, researchers and practitioners directly involved in the planning, design, and implementation of social protection programmes and systems, with the objective of encouraging South-South exchange of cutting-edge knowledge and best practices. Participants from Kenya, Uganda, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Mozambique, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Ghana, Ethiopia, Zambia, South Sudan and Tanzania participated in the event.
The conference was specifically aimed at supporting Tanzania’s ongoing efforts in scaling up its Productive Social Safety Net (PSSN) Programme or TASAF III, to reach all extreme poor by mid-2015. Furthermore, it was dedicated to informing the next steps of the social protection agenda in the country and the region at large. The event demonstrated the Tanzanian Government’s commitment to poverty eradication and achieving growth with fairness and justice for all, especially women and children. An inter-sectorial taskforce has been set up at the Tanzanian Prime Minister’s office, mandated to present a finalized document on a ‘National Social Protection Framework’ to the cabinet by the end of December 2014. A draft of this Framework will be presented by Permanent secretary-Treasury, Ministry of Finance Dr. Servacius Likwelile, based on feedback from the international experts present at the Conference.
The Opening Session was dedicated to identifying the social protection agenda for Tanzania and sharpening political and policy commitment. The Permanent Secretary for Treasury from the Ministry of Finance, Dr. Servacius Likwelile opened the event, stating “social protection initiatives are vital in reducing poverty“. Alvaro Rodriguez (Resident Coordinator United Nations, Tanzania) gave input on behalf of the UN, noting how social protection initiatives have become a key priority of governments in light of recent shocks to the global economy which have increased vulnerability and social instability. He acknowledged how social protection interventions can enhance sustainable and inclusive growth, referencing the success of the soon to be scaled up TASAF, in leading to improved social and economic outcomes in Tanzania. Jama Gulaid (UNICEF Representative, Tanzania), then emphasised prioritising the rights of children in social protection pursuits.
Aneas Chuma (ILO Regional Director for Africa) provided welcome remarks, recognising the need for fighting unemployment in Africa and the essential role of intersectoral coordination for achieving optimised social protection systems, especially in light of an impending increase in the working age population in the continent. On this count, a central challenge for Africa is extending coverage, especially to those working in the informal sector. It requires investment in social services throughout the lifecycle and ensuring a minimum basic income.
Promoting social protection and decent work can be ensured via political will and ambitious vision, as is embodied in the Ouagadougou Declaration and the African Union’s Agenda 2063. Ensuring a universal Social Protection Floor and the Sustainable Development Goals also play essential roles in achieving inclusive growth, even in times of budgetary constraints, by fighting poverty and generating opportunities.
The Honorable Saada Mkuya Salum (Minister of Finance Tanzania) noted the influential power of the event in informing Tanzania’s social protection agenda. Chief Guest, His Excellency Seif Ali Iddi (Second Vice President, Tanzania) then acknowledged how poverty has been decreasing, school attendance has been improving as well as access to healthcare improving in the country. Therefore collaboration around social protection programmes is critical to addressing the supply and demand ends of development. On this count, he noted the intention for Tanzania to develop a streamlined, comprehensive and sustainable social protection system.
A keynote presentation followed by Michael Samson (Director of EFPRI, South Africa) titled ‘Developing a social protection agenda for equitable growth in Tanzania’. He interrogated the definition of social protection stating that it is “the set of public interventions governments put in place to tackle poverty and vulnerability and address the kinds of risks people face over the course of their life”. He then illustrated how social protection has grown rapidly over the past 12 years in almost every country in Africa. Samson then drew the audience’s attention to how the pattern of poverty rates in Europe without social protection, mirror those of many African countries today, with Sweden looking like South Africa. Thus the difference between the richest and the poorest countries in the world is the investment they make in social protection. Part of this is that they can afford to but also, they recognise the essential role of investing in people to sustain high economic growth.
What’s more the wealth of nations today is determined by their intellectual capital which demands investment in people, facilitated by social protection. Tanzania has experienced miracle growth rates, however poverty and inequality remain unacceptably high. The share of income of the poor and vulnerable needs to be actively improved as growth skews the distribution of income further. The government’s commitment to social protection can effectively build human capital, as is proven in evaluations. What’s more, social protection achieves the highest return on public investments as it has a major impact on households with young children by promoting cognitive development.
In South Africa, girls who receive cash transfers are better able to protect themselves through safer behaviour from HIV, achieve higher wages and attain better health later in life. This promotes more sustainable livelihoods, increases labour productivity, contributing to pro-poor growth due to improved capabilities of workers, resulting in higher returns for government while breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty. It also improves risk management, particularly in agriculture, an essential factor to consider in Africa. In Addition, the idea that social protection generates dependency is a myth; refuted consistently. Furthermore, social protection improves economic resilience on a national level, social cohesion and has local economy multiplier effects. It can also make populations cope better with natural resource booms which intensify macroeconomic instability.
Therefore, with respect to Tanzania, social protection has great potential as it impacts considerably on rural agricultural economies, promotes decent, productive rural employment as well as economic growth at large. Inter and intra sectoral linkages enhance the multi-dimensional impacts of social protection. Therefore coordinated social protection initiatives should therefore be a productive investment priority for African governments.
A high level panel discussion followed. Deputy Minister of Community Development, Gender and Children, Tanzania Pindi Hazara Chana, explored the essential role of social protection, particularly for women. Alexander Yuster (UNICEF Associate Director) noted the importance of shoes for children to healthily and confidently participate in society. Shoes represent one of the key purchases of beneficiaries of cash transfers in Tanzania and are a symbol of social inclusion. Maria Berlekom (SIDA Head of Cooperation) introduced Sweden’s embedded social protection system, noting how it is considered a basic right, owing to its cooperative social protection orientated development initiatives in Africa.
Session 2: Evolution and Key Trends of Social Protection, was dedicated to understanding why and how a social protection agenda has emerged and has strengthened globally, providing inspiration and examples for Tanzania’s ongoing efforts. Alexander Yuster (UNICEF Associate Director) opened the session, exploring social protection systems in “Investing now, for shared prosperity”. She noted how political commitment at the international and regional level is increasing demonstrated in social protection’s explicit recognition in multiple conventions as well as the expansion of programmes. Social protection helps reduce poverty and underpins equitable growth by reducing income poverty and inequality, while contributing to human development most crucially.
Yuster then addressed why to invest in child-sensitive social protection. Children are disproportionally affected by poverty. About 47% of those living in extreme poverty globally are children. Childhood is a critical window of opportunity and of increased vulnerability. Gaps in physical and learning development have lifelong consequences. Therefore social protection aimed at children can have immense long term impacts. On this count, it is essential for social protection initiatives to be integrated into a functioning, supportive, accessible service sector. Ghana’s LEAP programme has been able to expand thanks to the government’s support, an essential component to social protection success.
Luis Frota (ILO Social Protection Specialist), then presented on social protection systems from a global perspective and lessons for Tanzania. He submitted three core messages. First, that countries have expanded their social protection systems from initial emergency responses following the 2008 Financial Crisis, to comprehensive and effective social protections systems. Second, middle and low income countries are adopting social protection floors. He noted how progressive universal coverage through social solidarity, adequate and predictable benefits, progressive realisation and diverse methods of financing and delivery are essential to consider when organising a social protection floor. Finally, governments are in fact dedicating increasing fiscal space to implement social protection systems having witnessed a return on their investments.
Natalia Elena Winder-Rossi (Senior Social Protection Advisor, UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office) presented “Setting the Scene: Trends, challenges and emerging issues – Social protection policy and programming in Sub-Saharan Africa”. She recognized how Africa has a strong tradition of social protection, being home to kin-ship systems which have been eroded by factors like migration. Around 2 billion babies will be born in African between 2015 and 2050, calling for the need to build a child centered social protection system. Coverage and financing in Africa is still limited, despite many countries scaling up initiatives, indicating there is still a lot to do and more investments need to be made. Oumar Diop (Senior Policy Officer, Employment and Labour, African Union Commission), echoed this sentiment, presenting on “Regional Sub-Saharan Africa settings and trends of social protection”. He noted how Africa is experiencing increasing inequality and persistent challenges despite more than two decades of high sustainable growth levels.
Session 3: Sub-session 1
Session 3: Building Comprehensive and Integrated Social Protection Systems was dedicated to understanding the opportunities and challenges of integrated, cross sectoral social protection and clearer commitments from key social sectors. Sub-session 1: Social Protection Policy, Framework and System commenced with insights from Roger Pearson (EFPRI) into “Child-focused social protection strategies across Africa: Trends, innovations and organizing principles”. He noted how coordinating all relevant stakeholders and sectors in the realisation of social protection programmes represents a considerable challenge. Government needs to appoint a strong senior political figure to coordinate and shape public dialogue and guide the nation in making the political choices clear. Finding the fiscal space is a political choice.
Salum Rashid Mohamed (Department of Social Welfare, Zanzibar, Tanzania) then presented on social protection in Zanzibar. Income insecurity, vulnerability to shocks and low utilization of basic services represent drivers of poverty and vulnerability in the country. This was followed by Irene Issaka (Social Security Regularity Authority, Tanzania) who introduced the system of Tanzania and how it is financed, noting how benefits have to be adequate, predictable and sustainable to be effective.
The afternoon closed with insights into the country experiences of Bangladesh, Mozambique, Uganda and Lesotho.
Hussain Zillur Rehman (Executive Chairman at Power and Participation Research Centre, Bangladesh) presented via video link, introducing the evolution of social protection in Bangladesh, noting the food for education initiative which subsequently spread globally. He submitted that many innovations in Bangladesh have been demand driven, not engineered by policy makers, rather created via incremental experimentation. Such innovations were linked to poverty and vulnerability discourse. He noted implementation concerns including leakages, poor monitoring and an incomplete database on the poor. He acknowledged how broad based ownership with multisectoral involvement, consolidated into programme pillars in a national strategy, combined with a time bound action plan and improved databases are essential to success. More so, impact evaluations are essential to establishing best practices in the social protection arena.
The experience of Mozambique was then presented by Miguel Mausse (Ministry of Women and Social Action, Mozambique). Mausse reinforced the sentiment of other presenters of the day, stating the importance of integrated social protection systems. The aim is to transform poor people into key players in improving their own lives and well being.
Stephen Kasaija (Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Uganda) then presented on Uganda’s experience, highlighting the country’s key milestones. Uganda has had impressive recent economic growth, having a positive impact on poverty, however 43% of people are still vulnerable of falling into poverty. Therefore the Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE) programme is dedicated to alleviating chronic poverty.
Lesotho’s nationally funded scale-up and the process of consolidating its five cash transfer programmes into a single system served as the final presentation of the day by Malefetsane Masasa (Director of Planning, Ministry of Social Development, Lesotho). Lesotho allocates 7% of its GDP to social protection, demonstrating its commitment to the policy approach. Even so, there are gaps in delivery and poverty presents a chronic challenge. Its Child Grants Programme (CGP) was conceived specifically to mitigate the impact of HIV on children. The programme has been shown to improve access and retention to education, morbidity and birth registration for children. Today, the country is attempting to integrate its other main safety net programmes into the system and it aims to develop a national registry for social assistance. Masasa noted the essential role of political commitment as social protection systems should be owned and led by government. Strong evidence and realistic design in line with the country’s context are also essential to success.
Therefore day 1 of the conference presented compelling insights, facilitating fruitful debate and exchange of experiences among all participants, shedding light on the African social protection arena.
Author: Ashleigh Kate Slingsby, UNDP’s International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth, IPC-IG
Short URL: http://pressroom.ipc-undp.org/?p=16767