About half the people of Sub-Saharan Africa live on $1.25 a day or less, leaving millions of households extremely vulnerable. In many places, unemployment is pervasive (especially among urban youth), and HIV/AIDS has contributed to rising numbers of orphans and households headed by women, children, and the elderly.
Social protection is important because it extends security to the poorest people, enabling them to protect, or even build, their human and physical capital in times of crisis. It can protect people from hunger and malnutrition, and sustain their access to education and other basic services. Some social protection programs such as those that offer cash for work also help build long-term community assets and preserve the environment.
From 2000 to 2010, the World Bank has funded 60 social protection projects in 23 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, for a total of $4.4 billion. The largest operations have been in Ethiopia, followed by Nigeria. In addition, the Bank's analytical work in this area and its technical assistance to governments has helped form country strategies for social protection.
The World Bank's social protection work in Africa has a conceptual framework based on risk management; an understanding of the context, challenges, and choices in each country; knowledge of global practices; and experience with early social protection programs in Africa, such as those in Ethiopia.
Key themes of the World Bank's social protection work in Africa:
- Labor Market Policies and Programs
- Social Safety Nets
- Decentralized Service Delivery
- Children and Youth
- Fragile and Conflict-Affected states
Over the past decade, the World Bank's social protection portfolio in Africa has resulted in:
- Protection, by providing security to vulnerable people.
- Promotion, by strengthening households' ability to rise out of poverty through opportunities, employment, and assets.
- Prevention, by reducing and mitigating the impact of risks.
As of early 2011, the World Bank supports social protection operations in 20 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Bank's social protection work in Africa has been substantially scaled up in response to the food, fuel, and global crises and to ongoing climate shocks. Funding of crisis responses, establishment of social safety net systems, and promoting skills and employment opportunities nearly tripled between 2008 and 2009.
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Besides financial assistance, the World Bank also offers development expertise. Over the past decade, the Bank has invested about $6 million in analytical work and $5.3 million in technical assistance for social protection in Sub-Saharan Africa.
A few examples of recent and ongoing work:
- A recent paper, "Designing and Implementing a Rural Safety Net in a Low-Income Setting," shares lessons from Ethiopia's pioneering social protection effort.
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- In June 2010, the World Bank cosponsored a forum on "Making Public Works Work" in Arusha, Tanzania for 200 delegates from 40 countries, to review experiences with the design, performance and potential of programs such as safety nets.
- A review of the resilience of social protection systems is underway in several countries.