Kenya has been making significant progress towards achieving universal social protection for its citizens through the implementation of the Kenya Programme for Social Protection. The program has been supported by the joint SDG Fund, in partnership with the Kenyan government, the World Food Programme (WFP), UNICEF, the International Labour Organization (ILO), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) through the support of the joint SDG Fund.
The Kenya Programme for Social Protection built on the existing UN support to the Government of Kenya and focused on strengthening policy frameworks, delivery systems, and intersectoral linkages to achieve its goals.
According to the UN Resident Coordinator for Kenya, Dr. Stephen Jackson, social protection is crucial in promoting social justice, reducing poverty, and supporting economic growth. Despite Kenya's significant progress towards reducing poverty, the World Bank reports that the country still faces significant inequality and social exclusion. Vulnerable groups such as children, women, the elderly, and people living with disabilities are more likely to be living in poverty and facing social exclusion. Thus, social protection programs are essential in ensuring that these groups have access to basic needs such as healthcare, education, and housing.
Dr. Jackson further explained, "Through these immediate results, the partnership has demonstrated the potential benefits of investing in inclusive social protection. The program has achieved significant milestones, including the development of viable policy options for strengthening an inclusive social protection system and the feasibility study for the introduction of a maternity benefit."
The Joint SDG Fund, Kenya Programme for Social Protection, has not only achieved significant milestones in scaling up social protection coverage but also in enhancing gender-responsive integration and strengthening national capacities. The program has designed integrated models targeting key interest groups and adapted management information systems to facilitate linkages between universal social protection and socioeconomic-specific interventions.
"The joint program has demonstrated the potential benefits of investing in inclusive social protection. By enhancing gender-responsive integration between universal social protection and economic and social sector interventions, we are making progress towards leaving no one behind," says Dr. Stephen Jackson.
In addition, the program has strengthened national capacities towards fast delivery of the sustainable development goals. Government officers were trained on disability-inclusion in statistical data collection and analysis, which will be useful to a range of other government sectors that engage the services of the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.
Dr. Jackson adds, "Strengthening national capacities towards fast delivery of the sustainable development goals is critical in achieving universal social protection and promoting social justice, reducing poverty, and supporting economic growth."
In addition, Design options have been developed for a Universal Child Benefit, and dialogues on how to extend social protection to informal and rural economy workers have commenced. A midline impact survey for the universal senior citizen cash transfer showed that having the 70+ years cash transfer as a source of income allowed older persons, especially women, to be less dependent on others and more valued within their household and community.
The joint program has also initiated the development of cost-effective design options for the extension of social insurance to uncovered groups. Design options have been developed for the introduction of a maternity benefit and an unemployment insurance fund, the transition of the occupational injury and illness compensation scheme to a social insurance-based system governed through a tripartite mechanism, and a long-term universal child benefit.
The success of the joint program is attributed to the leadership provided by the government and its strong political will. The partnership has also helped to reduce duplication and increase efficiency by capitalizing on the unique experience and expertise of the different actors involved. Although the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down the project's implementation, it presented opportunities to further dialogue on social security benefits related to occupational injury and illness compensation mechanisms, unemployment benefits, and maternity benefits.
The joint program's success is a critical milestone in promoting social justice, reducing poverty, and supporting economic growth in Kenya. It has made significant strides towards ensuring that no one is left behind, particularly the vulnerable groups that lack access to basic necessities like healthcare, education, and housing. The social protection programs implemented have helped to stabilise households during difficult times, reducing the risk of impoverishment and increasing consumption levels. This success underscores the need to prioritise social protection and invest in citizens' well-being to sustain the gains made towards achieving universal social protection.
The Government of Kenya's strides towards achieving universal social protection are commendable, and the joint program has been successful in promoting social justice, reducing poverty, and supporting economic growth. However, to sustain the gains made and accelerate the achievement of universal social protection, it is crucial to prioritise social protection and invest in citizens' well-being.
As Dr. Jackson noted, "We need to keep the momentum going and ensure that everyone is included and that no one is left behind."