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Effects of aid on social protection systems in sub-Saharan Africa

This project investigates the socioeconomic and political conditions underpinning the recent expansion of social protection systems in the Global South, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, and the role of international development assistance in that process.

Over the past two decades, social protection has become an integral part of anti-poverty policy strategies in the Global South. The pace by which social assistance programmes have expanded, as well as the type of programmes that have been adopted, vary substantially across countries and world regions. What explains this variation?

This project will offer new insights into the determinants of social protection expansion and assess how development assistance may have contributed to these dynamics. The project will also provide evidence on how development assistance can be more effective at supporting social protection systems in the Global South, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

The project adopts several methods including: (1) a systematic review of the literature on social protection adoption and expansion, giving special attention to the role of development assistance; (2) a comparative analysis of social protection expansion, based on advanced econometric methods; (3) a statistical analysis of aid policy priorities and strategies in the support of social protection systems, and (4) an in-depth analysis, taking Kenya as the case study.

The key outputs of the project will be a comprehensive report published by the Swedish Expert Group for Aid Studies (EBA), as well as three WIDER Working Papers building on the findings of the report.

Effects of aid on social protection in systems in sub-Saharan Africa is supported by the Swedish Expert Group for Aid Studies (EBA), and it continues UNU-WIDER’s long engagement with research on foreign aid and social protection.

Key questions
  • Which factors contribute to the building of nationally-owned social protection systems in the Global South, especially in sub-Saharan Africa? How do they underpin the typology of programmes and their level of institutionalization?
  • What are the key predictors of social protection adoption and expansion? What is the role of aid in that process? What are the likely channels underpinning these relationships?
  • What are the aid policy and financial instruments used by Sweden’s government agency for development cooperation (Sida) and other donors to support the adoption and expansion of social protection? Who are the main recipients of assistance? How has the social protection expansion evolved in the Global South vis-à-vis sub-Saharan countries? What kind of programmes and activities have been favoured?
  • What has been the role of donors, and Sida in particular, in the adoption and expansion of social protection programmes in Kenya? How relevant, co-ordinated and coherent have these efforts been? How does the Kenya experience speak to the theory and evidence from other countries in sub-Saharan Africa? What factors have facilitated or hindered a sustainable expansion of social protection in Kenya?
Watch this space

All papers, events, briefs, blog posts, and opportunities to engage relating to the project will be available on this webpage.

UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The research addresses SDG17: Partnerships for Goals, and in particular target 17.1, which focuses on enhancing international support for implementing effective and targeted capacity building in developing countries.


Main subject

Theme: 2019-23, Transforming states