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  • Adem Aman

Social Protection Policies in Africa: Case of Ethiopia

Güncelleme tarihi: 12 Ara 2023

Social policy is a common phenomenon both in developed and developing economic states worldwide. The term social policy is mainly associated with the reflection of the welfare regime aspect. In contemporary situations and considering the issue of globalization, there being no one-size-fits-all policy does not exist globally, “Neither market-based, nor states, nor communities alone can provide an adequate framework for meeting human needs.”

The purpose of social policy in the welfare state as a means of main focus and aim is interlinked to enhance the provision of productive project funding as well as poverty alleviation as the ultimate goal. In this context, the practical experience in the African continent associated with social policy is extremely very poor in all aspects, especially in terms of good governance, lack of improvement on social welfare that is participating in government, and poor promoting towards development, growth, and creating economic well-being and prosperous in societies. Albeit social protection policy is not significantly viable in the implementation and practical experience in Africa. But in a theoretical framework, it is associated with a democratically governed regime the political economy relies on three principles that can be a secure, sustainable, and flexible conceptual framework for increasing human well-being.

Relying on the aforementioned notions this article is organized to find out an overview of the social policy protection system related to poverty alleviation, social security, economic development as well as security and instability in light of contemporary aspects of Africa the case of Ethiopia's experience in particular.

Overview and Definition of Social Protection

Social protection is a global event, mainly in economically emerging states. It is a means of social assistance practice in numerous methods. Based on this viewpoint, its definition varies from country to country or place to place depending on professional interest. Accordingly, organizations like the International Labor Organization (ILO) and Africa Union (AU) foster robust policies and encourage social policy programs for their member countries to improve sustainable economy and development policy framework by exclusive terms as well. Conversely, ILO defines social protection policies as “…assistance to achieve and maintain the human right to social protection by promoting policies and assisted countries to supply adequate levels of social protection to all members states society…”. On the other side, AU does not favor single definitions for social protection, albeit it prefers to employ in its Social Policy Framework (SPF) to define social protection as “…responses by the state and society to protect citizens from risks, vulnerabilities, and deprivations…”. Similarly, Ethiopia's National Social Protection Policy (NSPP) defines social protection broadly as a “social policy framework that focuses on reducing poverty, the social and economic risk of citizens, vulnerability, and exclusion by taking measures through formal and informal mechanisms to ascertain accessible and equitable growth to all...” To sum up, the overall concept of social protection is in line with a set of policies and programs designed to alleviate poverty and prevent risk and vulnerability during life-at-risk aspects.

Broadly, in Ethiopia NSPP realizes adequate social protection toward four systems such as the “protective, preventive, promotive, and transformative systems” has been underlined sound policy to improve such arena in 2016. No doubt, sometimes there may be an overlap between these four social protection systems as well. Besides, the social protective policy is interlinked with protecting the destitute people from both economic and social deprivation like hunger, and similar issues requiring immediate actions, solutions, and so on. While social prevention aligns with resorting households from harmful or risky situations like impediment of food access, low income, basic health and education services like withdrawing students from school, hindrance of investment in human capital, and so on; on the other hand, social promotes referred to as enhancing poor people asset and skills; and also social transformative associated with the economic empowerment for human capital in particular for financial pain people, vulnerable, as well as highly exploited social groups of people.

Broadly, the social protection themes always are considered emergency cases and these create shortcomings and also make it difficult to prioritize one of the social protection policies over others, however, can be applied through social policy framework guidelines indicators at the operational level in a sound robust plan and procedural process. With due respect, in this paper, we focused on the six main target areas aiming to enhance four sections of social protection related to protection, prevention, promotion, and transformation of people's life well-being, and economic empowerment. Therefore, these targeted areas are also mentioned as follows: improving safety net programs, enhancing robust employment in line with people's livelihoods, improving social insurance, improving basic social services, improving social violence, exploitation, abuse, and negligence, and enhancing legal support and protection are a few of the major target areas in Ethiopia NSPP.

The Ethiopian regime also signed different agreement documents that are ratified by the UN and AU in order to build sound development policy, strategies, and programs on social protection to promote the rights of citizens which have been discussed in Ethiopia laws under articles 41 & 90 as well.

Development and Policy Issues

Ethiopia's economy has rapidly grown for the past decades in double digits according to numerous dataset sources figures out. The Ethiopia Census Statistical Agency (CSA) also revealed that human development indicators such as mortality rate decline, primary school growth, major poverty alleviation rates enhanced, and the unemployment rate decreased gradually somehow in the past. However, currently, the dramatic increase in the population has also influenced such change in insignificant on the other side. But, even though the Ethiopian regime has accelerated a plan and strategy to employ and ascertain sustainable development to decrease poverty between 2005 to 2009, it cannot exceed the expected objective. The reason for failure may vary and it may be aligned with poor implementation, lack of the right policy program practices in the right ways to alleviate poverty towards paramount strategies to catch up with the demand for economic development, lack of evaluation and proper control over a period through planning to the implementation stage. On the other hand, the social protection policy focuses primarily on sectors including the agricultural leading industry strategic policy between 2002 to 2004, the first growth and transformational (GTP-I) between 2010 to 2015, and the GTP-II between 2016 to 2020, aim to scale up Ethiopia as one of the becoming middle-income countries in 2025 by enhancing deprived and those in risk of deprivation (vulnerable) life and yet there is no significant change in poverty alleviation. Thus, broadly, it requires various stakeholders' cooperation like policymakers, federal regime public services provision offices such as the National Planning and Commission, and various related ministries, among others to revise their plan and implementation strategy from the top to bottom promptly. So far it needs reforms and proper measurement to implement sound development policy both in the agriculture sector and industry-leading in order to fight poverty through productive safety net programs (PSNP) in particular for financial pain households and the entire society to look forward to building a middle-income country as well.

The major policies and strategies developed towards social protection in Ethiopia seem traditional and fail many times without significant outcomes. For instance, the community-based approaches of social support methods such as Iddirs, Ikub, Mahbers, Dabo/jiga, Hirpa, and Dabare, among others in local terms), which has a long history is good to commence but failed again to scale up and also put into place for community care coalitions for social protection tools by integrating with modern economic and financial concepts. Obviously, not only in social protection sectors but also in other sectors there is a lack of genuine assessment, feedback review and check and balance as well as weak control mechanisms. The social protection method required some technical facilities and a value-add-based methodological approach to improve access to and use financial services for the destitute society in order to scale up them to survive and then be self-sufficient gradually by supporting them. Therefore, in this contemporary period, thinking outside of the box and focusing on the big picture towards society's economic well-being through new programs, policies, and strategies, among others by using the technology revolution era regards rural and urban-based productive safety net programs (PSNP) for social protection and other interventions programs paramount. Conversely, the issue of employment and labor rights is also taken into consideration to enhance the livelihood opportunities for the destitute society and vulnerable or during risk condition of deprivation people relies on their household capacities and basic economic policy lieu to receive suitable support promptly.

Accordingly, it should focus on the expansion of contribution policy towards social security, adequate access to basic health, education, sanitation, and nutrition, and increasing inclusive financial development in line with productive projects funding that encourages poor people by training them to become self-sufficient at the end of the day and they are to acquire necessary skill and experience that help them through a lifetime, among other services like proper planned-based, and the ways to prevent the risk related to it align with risk management. By taking everything into account access to justice plays a pivotal role in paramount in legal reforms, which is to protect and ensure the food security and other basic facilities of poor people as a whole.

Social Protection Policy: Challenges and Prospects

There are various causes for change, challenges, and prospects in the future in line with the social policy mentioned related to social security protection and its failure to support and assist destitute and vulnerable people. Furthermore, some of the main factors that cause challenges to influence social assistance in Ethiopia might be categorized as follows:

Internal displacement and conflict: There are a lot of factors that may be mentioned here due to the internal displacement and conflict in Ethiopia. However, some of the causes for internal displacement and reasons for conflict are connected with natural disasters some else (i.e., drought) and man-made problems in the majority (i.e., political instability for the decades). The lack of regular seasonal rainfall is a natural cause, which is causing a large number of people hungry and threats to food insecurity for a long time in the East, Southeast, and South regions of the country. Internal displacement in Ethiopia is also common in major parts of the country. For instance, in 2016 in the Oromia regional state and Somali region, due to the irruptive conflict between the two regions, and internal displacement in the Oromia regional state and Amara region which is going on, as well as internal and abroad displacement in the Northern party of the country in Tigray region, are a few of them. Due to political tension and instability causes, hundreds of thousands even millions of households or families get into high risk and danger as well as they leave their homes behind to migrate.

Unbalanced migration between rural to urban: Urbanization is also another reason for unbalanced migration between rural and urban, which highly influences the Productive Safety Net Programme's (PSNP) failure to meet the dire humanitarian issues in urban including unemployment and lack of proper job opportunities creation, poor urbanization, and threats of owning housing or renting issue in particular. This is not only about social inequality but also it is in line with social division in societies.

Political instability and insecurity: In Ethiopia, the instability and insecurity of the political arena have a long history still nowadays within different scopes and dimensions. There might be a lot of reasons for political instability and insecurity including socio-economic-political purposes. On the other hand, political instability and insecurity are in line with genuine political representation and economic power as well as the transfer of cultural value and heritage as well. In this context, in the African continent including Ethiopia, such dire social policy is not employed and managed with professionalism and it is not free from misuse, exploitation, and abuse of political and economic power, which is cause also a major failure in social protection policy at end of the day and there is not inclusive significant change at all. To improve social protection status by channeling the genius political situation in the entire aspect towards democratizing the voting system free and fair electoral process put in place, genuine political representation, justice, and equality align with social values and norms.

Corruption and Lack of Good Governance: The cause of corruption is a lack of proper control mechanisms, unethical, opportunity driven-behavior, lack of good governance, and political tension and chaos, among others, is revealed in various studies mainly in emerging countries where such problems are very high in emerging countries, that rely on widespread due to the purpose of fulfilling self-interest over societies for their economic empower-driven force at large.

The Opportunity and Pathways ahead: Ethiopia can leverage the potential of the technology revolution and the rapidly growing financial ecosystems, such as the banking sector, insurance, microfinance, and digital financing, to promote dynamic methods and integrated policies and reforms that enhance humanitarian needs, social protection, sustainable economic growth, financial well-being, and prosperity. To strengthen social protection policy, Ethiopia needs to revise and reform its homegrown economic policy strategy for 2020-2030. It should also support green legacy activities, improve tourism services, attract investors, expand inclusive fintech services, and explore crowdfunding finance and other channels to mobilize and distribute resources for social protection.


Developing and implementing a flawless policy on paper is not enough; Ethiopia needs a genuine transformation of its socio-economic-political landscape and sound administration to achieve sustainable social protection. The lack of ethics, professionalism, and good governance are among the main obstacles to effective social protection. Therefore, a new institutional-based, well-designed, well-organized, and dynamic framework that enhances coordination, capacity, and national registries is needed. Improving the social protection system requires political reform, stakeholder coordination, and partnerships with diverse actors, such as the UN, PSNP programs, NGOs, CBOs, and businesses. By integrating sound developmental policies and strategies, Ethiopia can advance its social protection ecosystem toward a middle-income society.


The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Ministry of Labor And Social Affairs, Addis Ababa, January 2016.

Patricia Kennett, 2004, A Handbook of Comparative Social Policy, Edward Elgar Publishing Limited.

Note: This is produced by the Training and Education Centers of Africa (Adem A. Shibu, AKEM Researcher ) and published on their website ( too.

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