Reshaping social protection systems in West and Central Africa is a daunting task as these countries face major institutional and financial constraints. Social protection was usually only usually recognized as having a role in poverty reduction in as much as it allows vulnerable people to maintain or improve their living standards.

UNICEF national representative Dr. Anne Vincent and Minister of Health Pr Léonie Claudine Lougué/Sorgho launch the social protection course

Recently however, the issue of social protection has gained greater importance as it has been increasingly recognized as essential to poverty reduction, and given the prominence that it deserves as factor in economic growth or the development of the social sectors. Many countries in West and central Africa are now in the process of reviewing their social protection policies with the aim of making them more responsive to their evolving situations. SPRI Global was happy to support these efforts by providing capacity building training, giving development researchers, policy makers and practitioners in-depth knowledge of approaches to social protection and an understanding of challenges in designing, implementing and monitoring social protection systems.

SPRI Global Director Chris De Neubourg in discussion with Minister of Health Pr Léonie Claudine Lougué/Sorgho

Partnering with UNICEF West and Central Africa Regional Office (WCARO), a large delegation of our research team traveled to UNCEF’s national headquarters in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso where the course took place from the 17th to the 21st of June. Launched by UNICEF’s national representative Dr. Anne Vincent and Minister of Health Pr Léonie Claudine Lougué/Sorgho, it focused on the following themes:

•  Introduction to social protection

•  Social protection mapping by areas of risks faced by population

•  Universal health coverage

•  Financing social protection

•  Cash transfers, targeting or universal ?

•  Shock responsive social protection

•  Monitoring and evaluation

SPRI Global Researcher Aminata Bakouan Traore moderating the Q&A panel

Participants hailed from UNICEF offices of Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Mali, Sao Tome et Principe, Tchad, WCARO and Togo. UNICEF national offices were also accompanied by dignitaries from governments and other parastatal organizations.

SPRI Global Researcher Nesha Ramful fielding questions from course participants

In addition to covering theoretical aspects, we were also able to facilitate inter-country discussions and exchange of hands-on experiences through a triad of didactic teaching, practice opportunities and guided reflection. Face-to-face course interaction were followed by guided online research, giving participants the opportunity to gather the necessary material for group exercises and exchanges.

SPRI Global Researcher Anaïs Dangeot instructing participants in conducting their own online research

This is one of the first initiatives of this kind in French and serves a model for future engagements in the region, paving the way for many more successful initiatives, as we and our partners at UNICEF seek to include further countries and push the discourse on social protection towards a broader scale.