Ghana is a politically, economically, ethnically and demographically diverse country. The origins of economic and social inequality between the north and south of Ghana are largely due to geography and historical legacies of inequality established in colonial times. Still, the country had and has been successful in preventing tensions and conflicts, in part because Ghanaian government has maintained ethno-regional balances in representation.
Much has changed in Mozambique since the turn of the century. Today, the typical Mozambican lives 10 years longer than in 2001, largely due to a significant decline in infant and maternal mortality, reduced levels of morbidity across the population and improved access to health care services. Children are now more likely to participate in school than ever before, and the average household has a better chance of consuming safe water and being connected to the electricity grid. More Mozambicans live in better quality dwellings, scroll drown through messages received on their cellphones, and watch football games on flat screen TVs.
This progress has taken place in the backdrop of remarkable growth. Mozambique witnessed one of the fastest growth rates across Sub-Saharan Africa with its gross domestic product (GDP) expanding at an annual average rate of 7.2% between 2000 and 2016. As a result, average incomes have doubled even though fertility rates have remained relatively high.
Expanding the coverage of safety net programs in Africa represents a serious fiscal challenge. While there is substantial variation across countries, on average governments in Africa spend about 1.3% of gross domestic product (GDP) on social safety nets (see figure). This is lower than the spending on other sectors such as energy, health care, education, and, in some cases, the military. Crucially, this level of spending is inadequate to face the high chronic poverty rates and vulnerability to shocks households face in Africa.
The design of the safety net program is perfect; it is based on the latest data and evidence; it enjoys political support at the highest levels, and it has sufficient financing.
So why can this safety net program not even get started after a year?
Maybe the answer has something to do with institutions. Accounting for the formal and informal “rules of the game” for social safety nets is key to the success of any program or system. In our chapter “Anchoring in Strong Institutions to Expand and Sustain Social Safety Nets” in the recently-released regional study on safety nets, we discuss some critical aspects of institutions that can make (or break) a social safety net program and how these evolve as programs grow in Africa.
The Triple Threat, as it is referred to in South African policy circles, remains a key policy priority for the government; namely, inequality, poverty and unemployment. The latter – unemployment – was 27.2% in the second quarter of 2018 and at such high rates, it is a critical development issue in contemporary South Africa.
Social safety nets are among the most frequently evaluated social policy interventions in Africa. The surge of information has left practitioners and policymakers alike a little puzzled. What can we say about the average impacts of social safety nets across the continent? Our Chapter 2 in the report on Realizing the Full Potential of Social Safety Nets in Africa tackles these questions by aggregating findings across numerous studies to provide a more systematic assessment. The full methodological details (that would have overwhelmed the chapter for a World Bank report!) are detailed in the companion Policy Research Working Paper.
We identified 55 impact evaluations to study, spanning 27 programs in 14 African countries. (These 55 studies were culled from a longer list of 250 evaluations identified on the basis of study quality and comparable outcomes.) Table 1 summarizes the findings of the analysis. The results are strongest on equity - that is ensuring the poorest households can afford their basic needs. These findings are certainly not entirely new: they complement (and are consistent with) existing literature. For example, the recently published global meta-analysis on food security and assets, as well as another systematic review for Africa and the world.
Ethiopia has been suffering from multiple refugee crises – some more protracted, some more recent – that put a strain on coping capacity of national and local authorities. A new World Bank survey and report inform policies on durable solutions for the displaced populations through an evidence-based approach.
Displacement situations in Ethiopia resulted from a combination of protracted conflicts in neighboring countries (Somalia, Eritrea, and Sudan), more recent crises (South Sudan, Yemen), and endemic internal ethnic unrest in some peripheral regions (Oromia, Somali/Ogaden, Afar). As a result of these regional and domestic conflicts, Ethiopia has been one of the most important refugee hosting countries for decades.
There are four main Ethiopian regions that host refugees, each of whom hosts a specific group and has a unique ethnic composition: Tigray and Afar (hosting Eritreans), Gambella (hosting South Sudanese), Benishangul Gumuz (hosting mostly Sudanese, but also South Sudanese), and Somali (Somalis). Thus, the displacement contexts are remarkably diverse: the regions hosting refugees are all peripheral and relatively underserved. Eritreans, Somalis, South Sudanese and Sudanese were displaced due to different drivers related to conflict and fragility, and each group is integrated to different degrees within Ethiopian economy and host communities.
Despite a fall in the rate of poverty rate in Africa (down from 54% in 1990 to 41% in 2015), there are more poor people than in 1990 because of rapid population growth. By 2015, half of the world’s extreme poor were in Africa—up from 25% in 2002. Statistics in the non-monetary poverty space echo these patterns. While education, health, and other critical services (water, sanitation, and others) have expanded for people living in the region, levels are still extremely low. Many people lack adequate water and sanitation, and many children are in poor health and lack quality education opportunities.
There are many avenues for working to alleviate poverty in Africa. Among the newest approaches has been the rapid expansion of social safety nets. Every African country has now established at least one social safety net program, and many have several. Back in 2000, few people were talking of social safety nets in the region. Now there is lots of talk! The average number of new social safety net programs launched each year in African countries since 2010 exceeded 10 (see figure).
While traveling from the Ndjili Airport to the city center of Kinshasa, you will be introduced to a unique urban experience. The ambient chaos, high traffic congestion and crowded streets may remind you of other African cities, but in Kinshasa—Kin as locals fondly refer to her—everything is larger, faster and louder than life.
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital is a festival of the senses; a dynamic amalgam of people and places that mix the rich and poor, blending the activities of people with opportunities and people fighting for survival, where fancy multi-story buildings are erected just miles away from massive slums. Although poverty is apparent, the lust for life, the vibrancy of local cultures, and the vivid manifestation of cultural expressions thrive among the Kinois.