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Public policy and social protection in Africa

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submitted on 2023-09-11, 11:50 and posted on 2023-09-13, 11:18 authored by Nathanael Ojong, Logan Cochrane

Interest in social protection has grown signifcantly in Africa over the last two decades. The rise of social protection is surprising as it is contrary to the dominant narratives of marketiza-tion and neoliberalism (Ferguson 2015). Social protection is “the set of public measures that society provides for its members to protect them against economic and social distress that would be caused by the absence or substantial reduction of income from work as a result of various contingencies (sickness, maternity, employment injury, unemployment, invalidity, old age, and death of the breadwinner)” (Garcia and Gruat 2003, p. 13). In other words, social protection focuses on providing security to vulnerable segments of the population. Social protection has several functions which include (a) protective—measures designed to save lives and reduce deprivation levels; (b) preventive—reducing people’s exposure to risks through social insurance programs such as pensions and health insurance; (c) promotive—to enhance the capability of the vulnerable to protect themselves against hazards and loss of income; and (d) social justice—to reduce inequities and improve social integration through changes in laws, budgetary allocations, and redistributive measures (Hickey et al. 2020; ILO 2015; Niño-Zarazúa et al. 2012). The key sub-categories of social protection include social assistance and welfare programs (e.g. cash and food transfers, old age grant), including programs aimed at building capabilities (e.g. school feeding schemes, child support grant, provision of free health services or at a reduced fee); social insurance programs aimed at reducing people’s exposure to risks and vulnerabilities (e.g. health, life and asset insurance, pension); labor market programs, for example, public works programs, small business devel-opment (ILO 2015). Various social protection programs are on the rise in Africa, and 66% of existing non-contributory social protection programs were introduced between 2000 and 2015 (Cirillo and Tebaldi 2016).

Other Information

Published in: Routledge Handbook of Public Policy in Africa
See chapter on publisher's website:



  • English



Publication Year

  • 2021

License statement

This chapter is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

Institution affiliated with

  • Hamad Bin Khalifa University
  • College of Public Policy - HBKU

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