Social Protection Note
Introduction. Low income is a major cause of poor nutrition, poor health, low
educational attainment, gender inequality, and inadequate care for orphans and
vulnerable children. Ensuring that all citizens have a minimum level of income to
meet basic needs contributes to the achievement of MDG 1 (reduce poverty and
hunger) and to several other MDGs.
Social protection can be understood as a set of public actions—provided by the state,
civil society, or privately—that offer direct support to people to help them address risk,
vulnerability, exclusion and chronic poverty. Social protection can have three key
components: social insurance, social assistance, and setting and enforcing minimum
standards. Social transfers are a particular set of social protection instruments that fall
in the social assistance category. They aim to directly increase or protect the incomes
of those living in poverty or at risk of falling into poverty. Typical transfer
programmes include pensions, child benefits, disability benefits, employment
guarantee schemes and other forms of direct, regular and predictable forms of cash or,
in some cases, in-kind support to poor families to address income security.
There is growing interest in the potential impact of social protection on reducing
poverty and inequality, especially given the global economic downturn. Both the
government and development partners have increased the commitment to social
protection interventions. Such measures include cash transfer programs for orphans
and vulnerable children, elderly persons, the disabled, unemployed youth (Kazi kwa
Vijana), and the chronically food insecure in the arid lands (hunger safety net). In
addition, the government recently formed a task force to put in place a cash transfer
program for food-insecure urban households. The government and private sector
providers are developing low-cost health insurance. Labor market regulations are
mostly in place, though stronger enforcement is needed.
Recent positive developments
The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Development has drafted a
National Social Protection Policy that awaits presentation to cabinet.
The Ministry of Finance and development partners increased their budget
allocation to social protection this financial year: the government budget
allocated to the orphans and vulnerable children cash transfer program more
than tripled compared to last year’s allocation; Kshs 1billion was allocated to
the food subsidy program; allocations for a cash transfer for the elderly were
increased; and the Kazi Kwa Vijana targeting unemployed youth was
Cash transfer programs (orphans and vulnerable children, hunger safety nets)
show that it is possible to target the poorest households, even in the most
challenging environments (such as urban slums and arid lands) and provide
cost-effective regular payments in partnership with NGOs and the private
sector. These transfers are having a positive impact on household welfare as
well as generating local economic multiplier effects. Using private sector
service providers to make payments expands coverage of financial services
that benefits the wider community.
Key challenges to be addressed to make progress
A comprehensive vision on social protection in Kenya is needed. This vision
needs to be supported by strong leadership by a focal point within government and
effective institutional coordination underpinned by an effective social protection
Capacity to implement pilot and expand cash transfer programs is needed.
A unified beneficiary registry (management information system) for social
protection, that enables efficient and effective social protection programs to
expand coverage while minimizing fiduciary risk and providing robust evidence
on impact is required. The role of the government in delivering social protection
should be clarified relative to the private sector and NGOs.
Top three priorities for the coming year to address the challenges
The social protection policy is discussed by the cabinet.
Investment is made in the government’s institutional capacity, initially by
establishing the social protection secretariat, to lead a more comprehensive
national social protection system and to coordinate the different interventions,
recognizing the role of non-state actors, and particularly the private sector, in
efficient delivery of social assistance.
(a) A national social protection management information system is developed.
(b) A pilot is implemented and planned and ongoing cash transfer programs are
Indicators of success
Social protection policy approved by cabinet.
Functional social protection secretariat effectively coordinating social protection
interventions, underpinned by effective management information systems and
producing influential communications products.
A comprehensive national management information system for social protection is
Coverage of effective social protection (number of households receiving cash
transfers, increased coverage of health insurance) rises.
There is increasing interest in social protection in Kenya by key decision makers who
recognize that social protection can assist people out of chronic poverty and also help
those people negatively affected by the global economic downturn. We welcome the
increasing investment in social protection interventions by the government and
development partners. This must be matched by an increase in capacity and
commitment for stronger leadership and coordination, based on a shared vision.