It is a great pleasure to join you in the launch of the regional strategy for accelerating social protection coverage in Africa.
The Secretary-General is calling on countries to work together to provide social security to the 4 billion people around the globe who currently remain unprotected. He is also advocating for the creation of at least 400 million jobs by 2030.
It is inspiring to see Africa charting the way. The regional strategy you are launching today will help to bring these objectives to life.
COVID-19 has reminded the world – once again - that social protection is a key defence against shocks of all kinds.
As we all know, it is also a pre-requisite to ensure that women, youth, and the most vulnerable are not left further behind.
Only around 47 per cent of the global population and only 17 per cent of the population in Africa was covered by at least one social protection benefit when COVID-19 hit.
In the face of a historic crisis, Africa rose to the challenge. Across the continent, governments demonstrated enormous political will by introducing new emergency social protection measures.
This helped contain the adverse impact of the pandemic on people’s health, livelihoods, and incomes.
Yet, almost two years into the crisis, persistent fiscal and vaccine divides, as well as burgeoning debt burdens, are now resulting in many countries facing an impossible dilemma: invest in people, or invest in national coffers.
This dilemma is false. Strategic investments in people, including through universal social protection, is not only essential to create the future we want, but cost-effective in the long term.
Governments should take this opportunity to recover better by using sustainable development as a guiding principle and by putting people first. This means strengthening the social protection measures put in place during COVID-19, including by making them age, women, and climate responsive.
In other words, let us seize the opportunities and momentum of this crisis to urgently scale-up our sustainable development efforts; to create green jobs, to transition to renewable energy, to harness digitalization.
Globally, there is no shortage of resources to achieve this goal.
Just one quarter of the over $4 trillion made by billionaires during the pandemic would be enough to implement social protection floors in all low- and middle-income countries.
What we need is the political will to shift these resources to invest in the SDGs.
In this regard, the recent launch of the Jobs and Social Protection Global Accelerator supported by the ILO, seeks to initiate a job-rich recovery and expand social protection to those who remain unprotected, and therefore vulnerable.
It will take tenacity and political will to bring it to life.
Africa can continue to count on the United Nations as a partner and convener to help ensure countries have access to the resources and support required to make social protection programmes a foundational element of regional and national policies.
Working together - with workers and the private sector - we can, and therefore we must, make social protection a reality on this Continent.