Kenya eyes single registry to up social safety uptake


Elderly people enjoy a meal during the marking of International Day of Older Persons at Mweiga town in Nyeri county on October 1, 2022. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NMG

Kenya is inching closer to having an enhanced single registry to capture all deserving persons for social protection programmes that will include the informal and rural economy, which has been difficult to capture.

The country sees an enhanced single database as a means to reaching this large but often excluded group called the missing middle, whose details remain largely untapped.

The inclusion of the informal and rural economy will enable the effecting of a robust single registry, helping Kenya realise much better outcomes, according to Prof Emmanuel Remi Aiyede, a research lead at the Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR).

“Having a robust single register is of paramount importance since it will guarantee the efficiency to enable Kenya to target and plan properly. It will also facilitate in use of technology to address this issue,” said Prof Aiyede whose PASGR researches on governance and public policy.

“Developing that register and keeping it up to date is of importance to efficiency, effectiveness and application of technology.”

Prof Aiyede notes that Kenya’s informal sector is large and possesses challenges in terms of monitoring, budgeting and even keeping records.

The country will, therefore, rely on examples such as India and Brazil as it plans programmes such as reaching 7.5 million children.

Kenya’s 2010 Constitution provides citizens with the right to social protection and inclusion and charges the State with the responsibility of providing appropriate social security to all deserving persons.

Other policy frameworks such as the Kenya Vision 2030, Kenya National Social Protection Policy and other sector-specific legislations such as the National Social Security Fund Act and the Children Act of 2022 have supported the increase in investments in the social protection sector.

The investments, coming in forms such as cash transfer schemes, pension and retirement benefit schemes, and social health insurance schemes, have placed Kenya among the leading countries in Africa on the scale of social protection investments.

Kenya’s social protection approach has, however, had gaps, especially in ensuring effective coordination in targeting and including the often hard-to-reach populations such as the informal sector and those in the rural economy.

The economy is largely informal, accounting for 702,900 or 86.1 per cent of all new jobs created last year.

Kenya has benefited from entities such as the PASGR, which together with the Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa, has worked with the State Department for Social Protection and Senior Citizen Affairs in implementing various initiatives.

PASGR’s social protection initiatives have been carried out under the Utafiti Sera Social Protection House, which has led key initiatives such as facilitating conversations between State and non-state actors about the dynamics of designing and implementing just and inclusive social protection programmes.

Kenya’s process of developing a comprehensive national registry for better-targeted social protection started in 2020 with the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection in partnership with the Kenya School of Government to develop the Social and Child Protection Curriculum.

The country was among the first in Africa to embrace cash transfer as a means of intervening and entrenching social protection.

It then moved from piloting of the programme in 2004 to expanding it from 500 households to 250,000 households by 2022.

The transfers have expanded over time from just covering orphans and vulnerable children to new programmes to cover children's school meals and health insurance.

“We also notice that previously those intervention programmes were sponsored by donors but now you have the government investing its own money in cash transfer programmes and this speaks to the growing goodwill,” says Prof Aiyede.

The country wants to revise the Kenya National Social Protection Policy to adopt a life-cycle approach of vulnerabilities from children, youth, working class and senior citizens.

For instance, Universal Child Benefits and the expansion of social protection coverage to include the informal sector are in the piloting stages. Other initiatives include conclusively putting in place a legislative framework for social protection.

Kenya faces a challenge in increasing budgetary allocations to fund an expanded social protection package that is aligned with global, continental and national commitments to inclusive social protection.

The country still depends a great deal on the goodwill of donors to continue funding these programmes and the country will need to increase budgetary allocation to social protection if donors' funding drops.

Many of the donors have a competitive advantage in terms of familiarity with various ways of designing and integrating social protection programmes and they provided technical expertise on how to achieve more inclusion.

PASGR’s Utafiti Sera Social Protection House has, since its inception in 2015, helped several countries in Africa to research and review their social protection policies.

It has also hosted several meetings including the first-ever international conference on Social Protection in Africa in 2017.

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