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Delegates at the Sixth International Policy Conference on the African Child (IPC), hosted by the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF), will explore the apparent lack of social protection for citizens of many African countries and agree ways of accelerating efforts to improve social security policies across the continent, particularly for Africa’s children.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), public expenditure on social protection to meet the needs of children should be 0.4% of total GDP worldwide, or 7.4% of any country’s total social protection expenditure (excluding healthcare). In Africa, however, latest figures show that only 0.2% of GDP (or 3% of total social protection expenditure) is spent on child welfare. Only three African countries – Algeria, Botswana, and South Africa – meet ILO’s global target of 0.4% of GDP on social protection to meet the needs of children.

The IPC, which is being held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 27-28 October, 2014, will bring delegates from across the continent and beyond, including government representatives, civil society organisations (CSOs), child rights experts and activists, academics and the media to review the current state of social protection policies in African countries.

ACPF research shows that 14 African states have national legislation covering only four of the eight branches of social protection: sickness,
maternity, old age, survivors, invalidity, child/family allowances, unemployment, and injury. These are: Botswana, Ethiopia, the Gambia, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Lesotho has three social security areas anchored in national legislation, whilst Malawi has just one.

Of the 48 African countries reviewed, only three – Algeria, South Africa, and Tunisia – have national legislation covering aspects of all eight areas of social protection. Average public social protection expenditure, including health care, across all African states between 2005 and 2012 was 5.35%. This ranged from as low as 1.31% in Chad to as high as 13.21% in Egypt.

H.E. Joaquim Chissano, President of Mozambique (1986-2005), Chairperson of the International Board of Trustees of ACPF, stated that “there can be no doubt that a large majority of African nations have a long way to go before they achieve parity with the rest of the world in terms of the level and variety social protection offered to their citizens,”

There is no particular correlation between the economic wealth of African nations and the proportion of GDP they are spending on social welfare programmes. Some countries with relatively low GDP per capita, such as Liberia, Lesotho and Rwanda, for example, spend better on social protection than others with relatively high GDP per capita, such as Equatorial Guinea, Botswana and Congo.

“Developing better social protection policies for children is an investment in the economic fortune of the entire continent. Africa is set
to become one of the most youthful populations of the world in the near future, with the child population estimated to rise to 861 million by
2050. This growing young population represents a potential productive workforce to drive economic growth, so the need to ensure they are
nurtured, educated, healthy and protected is becoming a real imperative,” remarked Mr Théophane Nikyèma, Executive Director, ACPFMr. Nikyema further said that “social protection provides governments with a powerful tool to tackle both poverty and vulnerability, while strengthening pro-poor and inclusive economic growth and development.

H.E. Dr. Graça Machel, founder of the Graça Machel Trust, confirms that “Social Protection policies are essential if Africa’s children are to
break the vicious cycle of poverty and deprivation which blights so many young lives, and to enable them to reach their full potential. Making
social protection more sensitive to the needs of children will benefit not just the child, but also its family, community and national development as a whole.”

ACPF documents issued at the Conference state that child-sensitive social protection is inherently a rights-based approach, premised on the
fundamental principles of international and regional child rights instruments encompassing the rights to: freedom from discrimination;
survival, development and protection; the best interests of the child; and participation.

H.E. Professor Amsatou Sow Sidibé, Minister, Advisor of the President in Charge of Human Rights and Peace, Republic of Senegal said that “Social Protection is not only a basic right but an effective mechanism for the realisation of other fundamental rights in ensuring the wellbeing of children in Africa.”

H.E. Professor Sidibe further affirms that “child deprivation during childhood has a long lasting consequence on cognitive development and
productivity during adulthood with immense implications on economic growth and development.”

Delegates at the 6th IPC will explore the strategies available to improve social protection through four specific strands of discourse: Strengthening the economic imperative of social protection Developing sustainable national institutional arrangements for social
protection programmers that benefit children
• Exploring the potential for linking formal national-government led social protection mechanisms with traditional and informal practices
frequently seen in African families and communities

• Reviewing the role of CSOs in supporting and strengthening national social protection programmes.

Keynote speakers at the conference will include H.E. Joaquim Chissano, President of Mozambique (1986-2005), who is Chairperson of ACPF’s
International Board of Trustees; H.E. Prof Amsatou Sow Sidibe, Minister-Counsellor in charge of Human Rights, Republic of Senegal; Prof
Kirsten Sandberg, Chairperson, UN Committee on the Rights of the Child; Prof Benyam Dawit Mezmur, Chairperson, African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child; and H.E. Dr Graça Machel, Founder of the Graça Machel Trust.

It is hoped that the outcome of the Sixth IPC will provide forward momentum for the pan-African movement to achieve more comprehensive and targeted social protection for all the children of Africa.

 

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