The Expansion of Basic Social Protection in Low-income Countries: An analysis of foreign aid actors' role in the emergence of social transfers in sub-Saharan Africa

Cecile Cherrier, UNU-MERIT / School of Governance

Non-contributory social transfers present a great potential to help tackle poverty and inequality, and support inclusive socioeconomic development. Yet, they represent a long-term financial commitment, and in environments where they are most needed, national policy makers are often reluctant to introduce them. In reaction to this situation, foreign aid actors have been allocating resources to support the expansion of social transfers in low-income countries. This research investigates the extent to which, and the mechanisms through which, foreign aid actors have influenced the emergence of permanent, scaled-up and nationally owned social transfer schemes in sub-Saharan Africa. Empirical evidence drawn from a dozen case studies establishes foreign aid actors as important players, and shows that aid can have a catalytic effect on the mobilisation of domestic resources for social transfers. A people-centred analysis reveals original understandings into social transfer policy-making processes. In particular, it uncovers the importance of personal leadership and trust as critical, yet often underestimated, factors favourable to the uptake of social transfer policies. Findings further suggest that today, perhaps more than political will or even fiscal space, the lack of implementation (and absorption) capacity appears to be a major bottleneck in the expansion of social transfers in sub-Saharan Africa. Overall, fresh insights brought by this research invite to view the process of national policy making in a new way, and to revisit the role of foreign aid actors towards the expansion of social protection in low-income countries.

Venue: Aula, Minderbroedersberg 4-6, Maastricht

Date: 22 November 2016

Time: 14:00 - 15:30


UNU-MERIT