Despite some success stories and champion countries, sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the world’s lowest social protection coverage.1 The challenges include a lack of technical skills and awareness among African civil servants at all levels with regard to the importance and successful pathways towards universal social protection coverage. Capacity is particularly lacking in the operational and administrative processes for successful governance and implementation of social protection policies and programmes in Africa. This is also manifested by the discrepancy between the rights-based aspirations often articulated in national legislation, development plans or social protection strategies and the weak performance of social protection systems and schemes in practice. While a wealth of experience exists in Africa, these experiences are not harvested systematically and no African curricula or learning opportunities are available to acquire the technical, practical skills relevant to the African context. Yet social protection is paramount in terms of achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular for its potential to deliver on the promise to leave no one behind.
Towards a Solution
The prime objective of TRANSFORM is to build critical thinking and capacities of policymakers and practitioners at national and decentralized levels to improve the design, effectiveness and efficiency of social protection systems. TRANSFORM aims both to impart state-of-the- art knowledge that is appropriate to the challenges faced by countries in the region and to encourage learners to take leadership on the change and transformation of nationally defined social protection systems.
Given the importance of social protection in the 2030 agenda for sustainable development, in particular goal one on extending poverty (target 1.3 of the results framework), the ability of social protection to facilitate structural transformation of the economy, and the slow transition towards nation-wide state-administered social assistance systems in many African countries, the capacity of African governments to improve their social protection systems must be strengthened. This is achieved through South-South cooperation and peer learning among experts.
The TRANSFORM learning package is available to social protection practitioners at the national and subnational levels and includes a full set of modular materials for trainers and learners to deliver a range of customizable learning events (trainings), face-to-face or online.
The TRANSFORM methodology is unique and innovative in that it recognizes the importance of practice. TRANSFORM encourages learners to learn from each other and to assume leadership to change and transform nationally defined social protection systems. The learning package focuses on the participants’ concrete environment. It is not limited to describing what works, but grapples with the complexities of how and why things work. In this regard, it stimulates South-South cooperation and peer learning. The methodology places an emphasis on promoting change. To the extent possible, the training sessions should lead to the development of personal commitments or action plans for taking leadership in transformation.
Most importantly, TRANSFORM is developed by and delivered through African experts and practitioners, empowering the experts to become trainers and continue learning from each other, thereby generating a South-South network of trainers and experts. The package is designed in a format that allows national trainers to replicate it easily. The initiative is structured to facilitate and institutionalize ongoing joint development and updating of the materials.
The first TRANSFORM Training of Trainers was conducted in October 2017 in Zambia. The 23 trainers represented government, academia, the private sector and the UN system from Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, South Africa, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Participants were selected through a call for applications distributed through TRANSFORM regional partners’ networks. To obtain certification, trainers first participated in the training. In the second step, they provided a training themselves, with the support of the head trainers. This will enable the creation of a pool of trainers across Africa. A community of regional TRANSFORM trainers will facilitate interactions among Southern countries.
The project also forges partnerships with local academic institutions and capacity-building initiatives at national and regional levels to ensure sustainability and impact. It also seeks to institutionalize a real community of practice that will assume leadership to transform social protection systems in Africa. Efforts are also underway to adapt and tailor the content of the curriculum to other regions in West and Northern Africa and Asia. Plans are underway to tailor the TRANSFORM package to the needs of specific national-level trainings in Kenya, Malawi, and South Africa, and to translate the materials into Portuguese and French.
Approximately 250 practitioners from five countries in Southern and Eastern Africa participated in face-to- face TRANSFORM training workshops between 2017 and 2018. Offering online versions of the course helps to achieve maximum outreach; participants from 19 countries across the world are following the first online version of the course.
Strengthening social protection systems involves building institutions, which is a longer-term process. It is too early to assess TRANSFORM’s contribution to building better performing social protection systems in Africa. However, TRANSFORM is certainly the correct first step on this journey. Trainings that present ready-made solutions in the form of good practices run the risk of recommending predetermined approaches that are not suited to local circumstances.
The TRANSFORM initiative has also been instrumental internationally in improving coordination and consistency in social protection approaches across UN agencies, as the package is being integrated with ILO, UNICEF, UNDP, IPC-IG, Irish Aid and EU-SPS capacity development programmes. Establishing institutional partnerships and aligning the learning package with existing social protection capacity development initiatives in the region is critical to ensure sustainability and impact. Institutionalization and delivery strategies take a three-pronged approach, involving the national, regional and global levels.
TRANSFORM’s structure and methodologies could be replicated in any region and for any of the issues included in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The content regarding leadership and transformation can be easily transferred, while substantive content would need to be developed on a case-by-case basis, respecting the principles of:
- Building on local and practical knowledge;
- Minimizing the ‘lecture’ approach that transmits pre-fabricated knowledge and, rather, maximizing experiential learning through demonstration, practical exercises, problem-solving approaches and discussion;
- Institutionalizing knowledge-sharing and developing/ updating materials;
Sustainable Development Goal target(s): 1.3, 3.8, 5.4, 8.5, 10.4
Countries/: Africa territories involved: Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia
Supported by: African Union, UNICEF, UNDP, ILO, IPC-IG, EU-SPS, Irish Aid, Southern Africa Social Protection Experts Network-SASPEN
Implementing entities: ILO, UNICEF, IPC-IG, UNDP
Project status: Ongoing
Project period: 2015-2020
URL of the practice: http://socialprotection.org/institutions/transform
Name: Dr. Luca Pellerano, Technical Advisor on Social Security for Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia, ILO