The Africa Platform for Social Protection (APSP) was created in September 2008 as a network of organisations and individuals operating at sub-national, national and regional levels, with a commitment to promoting and strengthening the social contract between states and citizens. The Platform promotes active engagement of African civil society in the shaping of social protection policies, programmes, and practices in 25 countries in Africa.
The Platform engages in advocacy work at all governance levels to enhance the participation of CSOs in the formulation and implementation of social protection policies and programmes and to promote its vision of the way forward for social protection in Africa. This vision is fundamentally based on the principle of local ownership, with development partners supporting home-grown approaches and national policy priorities. For the APSP, programme design must build on existing structures, including traditional social protection systems. At the same time, the Platform highlights that this attention to national and local situations and perceptions has to go hand in hand with the development of regional and continental approaches at the level of Regional Economic Commissions (RECs) and the African Union to meet the challenges of regional integration and notably those associated with social rights’ portability.
Beyond advocacy, the APSP implements capacity building activities for its member organisations –forming to date, 15 national platforms- on social protection and policy engagement skills, evidence gathering, and documentation and dissemination. It also develops stock-taking tools such as an annual review of trends and status of social protection on the continent, and exchange programmes between platforms in different African regions to foster lessons learning and experience sharing. Activities for 2011 included Civil Society Consultative meetings on the World Bank Social Protection Strategy for Africa (2011-2020); reviewing the draft African Development Bank’s Social Protection Strategy; support visits to various national platforms; and a Child Participation and Non Discrimination Project. In addition social protection conferences gathering representatives from governments, international organisations and CSOs were convened in Central Africa (Cameroon, 12-13 July 2011), East Africa (Kenya 5-7 September 2011), Southern Africa (Zambia, 5-7 October 2011) and West Africa (Ghana, 17-19 October 2011).
Contextualising APSP: the case for social protection in Africa
Social protection issues have gained momentum in Africa in recent years as evidenced by the adoption of a series of political declarations and policy instruments, starting with the 2004 “Ouagadougou Declaration and Plan of Action” and the 2006 “Livingstone and Yaoundé Calls for Action”, and culminating in the adoption of the 2008 “African Union Social Policy Framework for Africa” (AU-SPF) and the 2010 “Social Ministers’ Khartoum Declaration on Social Policy Action Towards Social Inclusion”, which calls for “the acceleration of implementation of relevant social protection measures to directly benefit the wellbeing of the Family in Africa”. At global level, the adoption of the 2009 “UN Social Protection Floor Initiative” illustrated the increasing focus on social protection on the development agenda, while the 2010 G20 “Seoul Development Consensus” put emphasis on “social protection mechanisms that support resilient and inclusive growth”.
This growing awareness of the essential contribution of social protection to the MDGs is reflected in the Africa-EU MME Partnership, with the latest Action Plan (2011-2013) devoting increasing attention to these aspects. In parallel, the 2010 European Report on Development “Social Protection for Inclusive Development – A new perspective in EU Co-operation with Africa” presents “the case for social protection” in Sub-Saharan Africa. Based on a review of past experiences on the continent and elsewhere, the report contends that social protection is “possible and feasible” even in Sub-Saharan Africa’s low-income countries, as long as certain preconditions are in place. Among these preconditions is the existence of a broad-based social consensus, not least because affordability greatly depends on societies’ willingness to finance social protection policies. This is where civil society organisations (CSOs) come into play.