It is widely recognised that if countries wish to successfully address poverty, enhance human development, augment people’s capacity to engage in the labour market, enhance a national social contract conducive to greater social cohesion and generate sustainable economic growth, it is necessary to build inclusive national social protection systems as part of a broader package of investment in social services.
Social protection is also a human right and a key commitment within the Sustainable Development Goals. As global evidence has proven, the most effective national social protection systems are achieved through inclusive, lifecycle schemes such as child benefits, which if properly designed and implemented, provide a gateway for access to more inclusive social protection.
Angola’s social protection framework recognises the crucial role of social protection and the need for the Government to provide support to people experiencing vulnerabilities; to this end the Government has given high priority to social protection in its National Development Plan 2018-2022.
Within the framework of APROSOC , the Government of Angola, through the Ministry of Social Action, Family and the Promotion of Women (MASFAMU), is collaborating with UNICEF Angola to design and implement the country’s very first Social Transfer. The proposed universal child benefit programme — Valor Criança — is for children under five years of age. There are a growing number of child benefits throughout Africa, for instance in South Africa, Mauritius, Namibia and Lesotho, with increasing evidence of their positive impact on children and their families. By focusing on young children, the scheme will address key risks that can have irreversible impacts (in a country with 13 million children out of a total population of 24 million). It is intended that, by the end of the pilot project, the child benefit scheme will have reached around 20,000 children in the provinces of Bie, Uige and Moxico.
Development Pathways was charged with providing technical support with the design of this scheme, including the registration mechanism, enrolment and assessing payment modality options. During the entire process we have stressed the importance of social protection as a means of strengthening the national social contract, culminating with a high-level forum last year and the training of government officials on inclusive social protection.
Since the design stage, our Development Pathways team has been providing the Government and UNICEF technical support in the implementation phase of the child benefit programme. This week, our team is supporting the Government of Angola and UNICEF in the implementation of the very first payments process in the province of Bie. Why, from my point of view, is this such an important step?
The need for child benefits in addressing vulnerability and risks early on in the lifecycle
A lifecycle approach to social protection is crucial in addressing vulnerabilities experienced from childhood to old age and in resolving the inter-generational transmission of poverty. Inclusive social protection should be regarded as a key instrument for social and economic development in Angola, where vulnerability (as in other countries) is defined not by a single characteristic or indicator across the population, but rather by a multifaceted range of insecurities confronting individuals. Vulnerabilities can be linked to specific stages in people’s lives although many risks – such as malnutrition, disability and illness – cut across the lifecycle.
Among Angola’s young children, levels of stunting and malnutrition are high. Stunting – which is estimated to affect 37.6 per cent of children under five years in Angola (INE et al, 2016) – can impact on children’s cognitive development, setting them back for the rest of their lives, hindering their education and their earning ability as adults. Child benefits for the young provide them with a good start in life and constitute an investment in their future that will last throughout their lives. Child benefits are key building blocks for inclusive and lifecycle social protection systems.
In the case of the South Africa Child Support Grant, in addition to the positive effects on nutrition and stunting and the income support it provides, a recent study by Stefan Granlund and Tessa Hochfeld suggests that it has also had a significant impact on issues surrounding human dignity. The authors underscore the positive, transformative social/relational impacts on recipients of the Child Support Grant, benefits that go beyond the merely material. In terms of individual-level experiences, the Child Support Grant has had the effect of bestowing a sense of dignity (isidima in local language) and improving individuals’ status in the household. The enhanced financial security makes it possible to plan ahead, has reduced worry and stress and generated a sense of ‘independence’ and greater personal autonomy among primary caregivers.
Citizenship-based social protection system for Angola
A child benefit that shows positive results in terms of acquiring a sense of dignity and individual empowerment is aligned with the concept of a citizenship social protection system. The universal Child Benefit for under fives in Angola is an appropriate first step in building a broader citizenship-based social protection system: it is inclusive by nature and no child of eligible age will be left behind or excluded. Following piloting in the selected locations, the Government of Angola will invest in scaling-up the programme at the national level, potentially increasing both the age of eligibility and the value of the transfer. In this way it is expected that, over time, the child benefit scheme in Angola will generate a strong social contract.
An inclusive programme like MASFAMU’s child benefit also falls in line with the Government of Angola’s National Development Plan 2018-2022 and the path towards consolidating an inclusive social protection system. As the child benefit Valor Criança programme will be part of a larger social protection system, the Government of Angola is linking its implementation to other programmes, interventions and social services such as the Municipalisation of Social Services and the Local Development and Poverty Eradication Programme, among others.
Moving in the right direction: first payments
The first payment this week of an inclusive child benefit is a substantial step forward for social protection in Angola and is the result of extensive work by all those involved (in particular the Government of Angola, the UNICEF team and all Development Pathways’ team members who have been part of this project since the very beginning).
Crucially, the child benefit uses inclusive selection methods, thereby avoiding the mass exclusion of the poorest families that is the result of poverty-targeting. And, it uses processes that uphold and respect recipients’ dignity at every stage of its delivery, thereby constituting a decisive step towards building inclusive social protection in Angola. It will also serve as a beacon for all those undertaking work around the world to introduce child benefits — highlighted by UNICEF in Geneva this year as vital to giving all children the best start in life.
Alexandra Barrantes leads projects to build social protection systems in Angola, Mozambique and Malawi, has written on the need for a human rights-based approach to social protection and will lead our Pathways team in launching a new training course, Inclusive Social Protection: Making the Case, later this year. You can receive updates on our evidence and our projects by requesting to join our mailing list.
The figures in this blog were developed with PresentationGO.com templates.
 The Basic Social Protection Act (Lei de Bases da Protecção Social, Lei n. 07/2004).
 Plano Nacional de Desenvolvimento 2018-2022.
 The APROSOC (Apoio à Protecção Social) Programme is funded by the European Union.