Africa is broadening its social safety net

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The Covid-19 pandemic and its economic consequences risk driving 40 million Africans into extreme poverty, according to the World Bank. From the beginning of the pandemic, governments implemented social protection measures under the leadership of the IMF and the World Bank.

It was almost a global reflex. When the Covid-19 pandemic circulated across the planet earlier this year, countries adopted social protection measures to mitigate the economic effects of containment devices. 125 countries around the world have thus increased the size of their social safety nets, according to the World Bank. Africa was not left out with sometimes spectacular announcements. In South Africa, the country most affected by the pandemic on the continent, the government announced in April a general increase in social contributions for the poorest for a period of six months. To this end, it has set aside an envelope of Rs 50 billion, or about EUR 2.6 billion. However, the measure quickly proved inadequate in view of the social catastrophe caused by the containment which caused the loss of two million jobs for the economy and caused great tensions.

In Senegal, the government launched a rice distribution program to anticipate possible malnutrition problems. One hundred thousand tons for one million households. The implementation of this unit was not without difficulties, which led the Minister responsible for societal development – Mansour Faye – in a controversy on alleged embezzlement.

When the state pays the bills

In several countries, the state has chosen to pay the bills to free households. So was the fall in Ivory Coast. One million households have thus saved two months’ water and electricity bills between April and May. In Burkina Faso, the government has allocated six billion CFA francs to pay the poorest water bills. Some countries have preferred the technology known as “helicopter money”, the state distributes cash without regard to certain sections of the population. In Togo, the Novissi program makes it possible to pay 10 500 CFA francs for a man and 12 250 for a woman every month. To date, according to official records, 580,000 people have benefited from this heavenly man. In Guinea, a total of 150,000 households have started receiving the Guinean franc, equivalent to $ 25 a month.

States often combine social measures and plans to support the economy, and formulate the answer both to the protection of jobs and to the preservation of purchasing power. Thus, Senegal has set up an outstanding “economic and social resilience program” to support businesses, households and the health sector with FRF 1 trillion or EUR 1.5 billion. In South Africa, an amount of 500 billion rand, or 24.6 billion euros, will water the economy. Côte d’Ivoire, which has stepped up support measures for private and public companies, has taken into account the need to help its many small and medium-sized enterprises with a fund of 100 billion CFA, but also the informal sector equipped with an envelope of the same amount. All international financial institutions such as the World Bank also insist on the need to help the informal sector. Because eight out of ten employees in Africa work informally, and these workers are usually largely forgotten by social protection.

Africa can do better

These networks are still still too small. For example, the NGO Oxfam points the finger at Kenya, which has reduced taxes for the richest and largest companies but does not help the poor enough even if unemployment soars. Nigeria is also poorly ranked by Oxfam. Although President Buhari set up the first social security system in the country’s history in 2017, the authorities did not use enough money this year to help the poor. As a result, malnutrition and extreme poverty have exploded in the most populous African countries. Whether it is in megacities like Lagos or in the countryside.

In general, the Covid-19 pandemic and its social consequences have dramatically increased inequality, Oxfam alert which emphasizes in a report published in early October “That no country on earth has done enough to reduce inequality.”

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