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Social safety net spending remains too low

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Social safety nets are a key tool for improving food and nutrition security, eradicating poverty and building resilience among the most vulnerable. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, cash transfers and fee waivers for basic services have helped protect livelihoods, particularly in urban areas. Despite the strong investment case, current spending and coverage levels are inadequate to address the high poverty rates and vulnerability to shocks in the region. According to the World Bank, Sub-Saharan African countries spend an annual average of USD 16 per capita on safety net programmes, compared to USD 158 in Latin America and the Caribbean. On average, development partners finance 60% of social safety net spending, including start-up costs. There are significant gaps in coverage across the region. Senegal scaled up the number of beneficiaries in its national flagship cash transfer programme from 3% of the population in 2013 to 17% in 2016. Government leadership has helped mobilise substantial national resources ensuring the project’s sustainability over the long term. Data limitations around social safety net spending, coverage and targeting remains a key challenge. 

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