The Development Pathways event “Leaving No One Behind in Access to Social Protection Payments” held on 20th February 2020 in Nairobi was opened by Madam Cecilia Mbaka (Head of the National Social Protection Secretariat) who noted that “investing in inclusive social protection system is of utmost importance for the sustainable development of our nations and the health of our market economies”, and that “Kenya prides itself in being one of the pioneers in the region in doing so”. Madam Cecilia’s opening address set the background for the presentations which were to follow.
There is strong evidence that an inclusive social protection system can have long-lasting impacts on well-being and economic growth. By offering all citizens the guarantee of income security, social protection effectively tackles poverty and inequality, enhances human capital, helps build a strong and productive workforce, encourages risk-taking and investment in businesses, protects against shocks and crises, and builds social cohesion which results in a peaceful society. The manner in which programmes and schemes are run and recipients are treated is however of utmost importance. The objective of the event was to highlight the growing recognition of the need to adopt a human-rights based approach across social protection policy, technology innovation, e-payment solutions and the regulation and oversight of Payment Service Providers (PSPs).
The choice of Kenya as the host country for the event was apt, as the country has made significant progress in building a nationally-owned inclusive social protection system, in particular through the expansion of regular and predictable social transfer schemes financed from general government revenues, including the Inua Jamii Senior Citizens’ scheme.
The event focused on how stakeholders can, and should, aim to ensure that social protection schemes and programmes are not only inclusive but delivered responsibly. Four experts, Dr Stephen Kidd, Dr Milkah Chebii, Richard Chirchir and Sarah Langhan delivered perspectives.
The first policy perspective, presented by Dr Stephen Kidd examined the rights-based approach to delivering social protection schemes. He looked at fundamental human rights, such as equality and non-discrimination and the dignity of individuals. He explored several challenges facing the sector and set out what needs to be done to improve schemes, for example, by to adapting communication strategies and mechanisms to meet the needs of those experiencing limitations in their capabilities.
Dr Milkah Chebii from Financial Sector Deepening Kenya (FSDK) delivered the second perspective focusing on the need for innovative customer-centric e-payment solutions to be adopted by social protection schemes. Milkah shared examples of innovative e-payment solutions that Payment Service Providers have developed to meet the specific needs of recipients of government-to-person payments and large social protection schemes. Milkah focused on the lessons learnt in Kenya by adopting the “choice model” for the Inua Jamii Senior Citizens scheme, universal pension coverage available for all citizens. The “choice model” was later rolled out to the Older Persons Cash Transfer, the Cash Transfer for Orphans and Vulnerable Children and the Persons With Severe Disability Cash Transfer.
Richard Chirchir presented the technology and system perspective. Exploring ideas such as why technology is important for the inclusive social protection agenda, and what types of technological solutions support inclusive social protection. Additionally, Richard’s talk brought to light the looming technology risks, such as complexity and cost, coordination and data politics and data privacy and security. Delegates were astounded when Richard was able to share the publically available details of thousands of recipients of targeted social protection programmes in Brazil and India and began to question the ethicacy of these unchallenged violations of human rights, particularly the right to privacy.
Sarah Langhan focused on the legal and regulatory perspective and examined the myriad ways in which “hard law” and even “soft law” principles set by International Standard-Setting Bodies are failing social protection programme recipients being paid by private sector actors such as commercial banks and mobile network operators.
Sarah explored what responsible financial inclusion means, emphasising that it is no longer acceptable to “bank the unbanked” to meet quantitative financial inclusion targets. Payment Services Providers (PSPs) need to be held to account for the way that recipients of social protection payments are treated the call for the introduction of minimum payment standards to be adopted globally, was made.
The event was attended by several thought leaders from the public, private and development partner spheres, which led to lively group discussions and the sharing of additional perspectives on what more needs to be done in Kenya to foster inclusive social protection and responsible financial inclusion.