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DSG/SM/1747
18 May 2022

Social Protection Programmes Most Effective in Addressing Drivers, Consequences of Food Insecurity, Malnutrition, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Webinar

Following is the text of UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s video message to the Africa Dialogue Series webinar on “Social protection’s role in enhancing food security and nutrition for greater resilience in Africa”, today:

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, it is a pleasure to join you today for the Africa Dialogue Series (ADS) international webinar on “The role of social protection in enhancing food security and nutrition for greater resilience in Africa”.

Throughout this month, the Africa Dialogue Series is focusing on the resilience of food systems in Africa with the objective of addressing a harsh reality:  external shocks, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the global impacts of the war in Ukraine, continue to have a disproportionate impact on African countries.

In 2022, over 100 million people across hotspot countries on the continent are projected to be in acute food insecurity, representing a stark 22 per cent increase from just a year ago.  This week, the ADS turns towards social protection as a means to strengthen resilience, bearing in mind that, currently, Africa has the lowest social protection coverage in the world — 17 per cent of the total population compared with the global average of 47 per cent.

Social protection programmes are the most effective tool to address both the drivers and the consequences of food insecurity and malnutrition.  But if we must maximize the potential of social protection programmes, we need to take four urgent actions.

First, promote universal social protection programmes that lead to income distribution outcomes that ensure the sustainability of economic growth.  This requires moving away from an assistance-charity approach to a clear recognition that social protection policies should be designed to generate social, economic and cultural returns.  For example, by adopting food-for-assets policies that build or rehabilitate assets that will improve long-term food security and resilience, in addition to cash transfers to address food insecurity.

Second, improve access to healthy diets through school meals especially designed to address malnutrition.  Home-grown school-meals programmes are a perfect example of social protection policies that have a wider impact, promoting economic growth and social cohesion in local communities.

Third, strengthen domestic resource-mobilization systems to underpin social protection policies.  It is indispensable for Africa’s resilience that essential policies such as social protection are funded through national budgets to ensure their long-term sustainability.  Financing social protection must also be linked to overall financing in social sectors, including decent job creation in the green, care, and digital economies.

This integrated approach could yield the dual benefit of mobilizing additional financing for social protection systems through social security contributions while simultaneously preparing populations for the global economy of the future and bolstering their resilience against future shocks.

Fourth, promote the efficiency and re-prioritization of public expenditure in line with these key priorities.  Inefficiency of public spending in education, infrastructure and health represent a combined annual loss of 2.87 per cent of Africa’s GDP.  Increasing the efficiency of public spending would free enough resources to finance strong social protection systems.

I trust that today’s discussions will assess some of these measures and propose actionable recommendations to advance toward stronger social protection systems in Africa.  I wish you fruitful deliberations.

Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.