OTUWA to deploy new advocacy strategies to deepen social protection coverage in W/Africa


*demands social protection coverage for at least 40% of West Africa’s population

By Michael Oche

The Oraganisation of Trade Unions of West Africa (OTUWA) has said that only 13 percent of the 480 million persons in the West Africa subregion has social protection coverage.

The workers’ body said the percentage of coverage is poor and has therefore resolved to develop new advocacy strategies to ensure leaders in the subregion increase it to at least 40 percent.

With skyrocketing inflation, rising unemployment exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, OTUWA has been championing more persons to be covered by social protection in the subregion.

Speaking to journalists at the side of a workshop in Abuja, the General Secretary of OTUWA, Comrade John Oda, said the essence of the workshop was to brainstorm on how to engage government and employers to expand social protection coverage

Giving insight to Africas case regarding social protection provision, he said; “In terms of coverage, Africa is at 17% coverage of social protection which is the least the entire world. And when you come to the various sub regions, West Africa is lagging behind with around 13%.

“At the last meeting of the African region directorate of the International Labor Organization, African governments, social partners; that is workers and employers did agreed that we needed to work together to be able to push social protection coverage to a minimum of 40% between 2025 and 2030 to be able to show anything meaningful about the UN SDG. So, that is what we are hoping that we will be able to work with social partners and government to push up the funding on social protection from a miserable 1.2% of GDP to a minimum of 10%.

“There are nine branches of social protection: the old age pension, maternity protection, unemployment benefits and others. We have a young population in Nigeria and Africa at large and one of the negative characteristics is that we’re not providing jobs for them. Why Europe is relatively steady, why the developed countries are relatively stable is because they provide unemployment benefits.

“In Nigeria and other countries in the West Africa, we ought to be thinking about providing unemployment benefits, so that individuals even if they are not immediately engaged, can have a means of livelihoods to sustain them. This is what this whole thing about social protection is trying to achieve.

“Therefore the call is for governments to ensure that of the 450 million people in the West African subregion, at least 40% of this population should have social protection of type or the other.”

Earlier in his keynote remarks, President of OTUWA, Comrade Mademba Sock, said; “Our subregion lag behind other regions in the continent and the rest of the world in Social Security and Social Protection coverage for its people.”

He went on to say; “This workshop is therefore framed to address how as trade unions in our respective countries, we can join the advocacy for increased funding of Social Protection at our various national levels. Other aims of the workshop include the following: To interrogate perspectives for funding extended Social Protection to the citizens of West Africa. To campaign for raising public funding and expenditure on Social Protection to 10% of national GDP in each country of ECOWAS. To Develop Advocacy and Campaign Strategy for extending aggregated Social Protection coverage to at least 40% of the population of West Africa by 2030. To develop perspectives for the Trade Union Campaign for Universal Social Protection in West Africa.”

In her remarks, Danish Trade Union Development Agency (DTDA), International Adviser and Head of SRO-West Africa, Mrs Liliane Napoe, said ;”To move forward towards better and universal social protection for informal and rural workers and their families, facilitating International cooperation and resources mobilization, including South-South cooperation, as included in the informal Economy Improvement Programme and the Social Protection for Informal and Rural Workers (SPIREWORK) adopted at the AU Assumably of Head of State and Government in 2012 and reiterated in the Quagadougou Declaration, is very much what we want, what we are working for and are ready to work for more.

“DTDA has made social dialogue and social protection one of its priorities and has been working for years with various partners at the national, sub-regional and regional levels. We hope that our commitment at your side will continue and hopefully contribute to the expansion of social protection in line with the Africa we want in 2063 agenda.

“We at DTDA, together with our various partners, have understood that the extension of social protection also requires the formalisation of the informal economy in accordance with ILO recommendation 204. In line with this oriented conviction, DTDA has been committed for years to fund and work with its partners to work for the formalisation of the informal economy in different countries both on the African continent through its sub-regional offices and in West Africa through the Lomé office. A recent study has been funded and carried out in Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Benin on social protection and this clearly shows our commitment to the issue.”

In her remarks, ILO Abuja office Director, Ms Vanessa Phala said Social Protection has grown from not just a social policy but also a vital economic tool used to eradicate poverty and social exciusion.

The Director who was represented by Inviolata Chinyangarara, Senior Worker Specialist at ILO office, Abuja said we all must act fast to cose this huge coverage gap.

She said, “Although social protection has grown to take & prominent role in various national and state-level policy documents, development plans, and budgetary allocations. Coverage remains low.

“Only 17.6 percent of legal residents are covered, leaving more than 80 percent without any form of social protection. Despite the low coverage there existed regional inequalities. with significant variation between Northern Africa (33.8 percent) and sub-Saharan Africa (13.7 percent). While statutory social insurance schemes exist in all countries, their coverage remains limited: only 13.4 percent of Africa’s labour force was affiliated to a contributory scheme in 2020. Despite the considerable efforts and progress that have been made in extending social assistance benefits, only 9.3 percent of vulnerable populations in Africa receive them.

“Social protection coverage gaps in Africa are associated with significant underinvestment in social protection. African countries spend on average less than 4 percent of their GDP on social protection (exctuding health) and 2 percent on public health expenditure (compared to the global average of 12.9 and 5.8 percent, respectively). While countries in Northern Africa spend on average 7.7 percent of thelr GDP on social protection and 2.4 percent.