Investing in social protection key for Africa to recover better
Measured by the usual metrics of cases and deaths, Africa’s experience of the COVID-19 pandemic seems mild, but the social and economic impacts of the crisis have hit hard. Across the continent, an estimated equivalent of 60 million full-time jobs were lost in the second quarter of 2020 and up to an additional 40 million people were pushed into extreme poverty by the end of 2020.
“The United Nations, and I personally, stand in total solidarity with the people and governments of Africa, and with the African Union, in tackling COVID-19,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. “Global solidarity with Africa is an imperative – now, and for recovering better.”
In its newly released policy brief on “Social policy and social protection measures to build Africa better post-COVID-19”, UN DESA explores the measures taken by African governments to help mitigate the social and economic impacts of the pandemic.
African governments have introduced or adapted over 200 social protection measures in response to the pandemic, consisting mostly of free aid in the form of cash or food.
When compared to the stimulus packages given in many developed countries, Africa’s efforts may seem small. In Togo, rural men and women living in poverty received monthly payments of $13 and $15 respectively, for five months. But even such small amounts have helped households be resilient to the effects of the pandemic.
Many of the measures taken by African governments have been temporary, but they have shown the strength of resilience that social protection can help to support. Further investments in social protection will be critical in helping African nations to build back better, stronger and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Development partners are urged to support these efforts, particularly for the poorest countries with limited fiscal space.
To learn more, read the new UN DESA policy brief available online here. Everyone is invited to join the brief’s lead authors Hantamalala Rafalimanana and Meron Tewfik Sherif on UN DESA’s Facebook page this Thursday, 11 March, at 9 a.m. EST, for a live discussion about their recommendations for improving social protections in Africa.
See also the Report of the Secretary-General “Social dimensions of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development,” presented during the 59th session of the ECOSOC Commission for Social Development.