Social protection responses to COVID-19 in Africa
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Most African countries implemented measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 during 2020, such as restrictions on business activity and travel, school closures and stay-at-home lockdowns for several months. These restrictive policies had adverse economic and social consequences that triggered a follow-up wave of expansionist public interventions intended to mitigate these effects. ‘Shock-responsive’ social protection measures included increased benefits to existing beneficiaries (vertical expansion) and registration of new beneficiaries on existing programmes (horizontal expansion). These approaches had the advantages of being quick and administratively simple, but the disadvantage of bypassing people who were made most vulnerable by COVID-19, notably retrenched and informal workers with no access to social insurance. On the other hand, setting up new humanitarian relief or temporary social assistance programmes was slow and susceptible to targeting errors and corruption. COVID-19 also prompted a reassessment of the social contract regarding social protection, with some governments recognising that they need to become better coordinated, more inclusive and rights-based.