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November 2018

Leveling the playing field in Mozambique – Making growth benefit all

Javier E. Baez's picture

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.

How can African governments pay to expand their safety nets?

Lucilla Maria Bruni's picture

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.

But the cash transfer program was designed by experts, why doesn’t it work?

Sarah Coll-Black's picture

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.

Empirical evidence shows migrants in South Africa create jobs

Shoghik Hovhannisyan's picture
Photo: Steven doRemedios


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.

The politics of safety nets: Don’t shy away

Thomas Bossuroy's picture
If you have ever brought up politics in a technical meeting on safety nets, or on social policy in general, you might have observed one or all of the following reactions: sighs, eye rolls, forced laughs, desperate looks to the door. A few awkward minutes may ensue, filled with polished remarks only accessible to experts in double-entendre. Then you might have had follow-up backroom discussions in hushed tones. Then maybe heard a few loud rants on how politics will never change and the world would be better off if it was left to technical experts.

Safety nets boost consumption levels of the poorest across Africa

Colin Andrews's picture

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.