Informality and social protection in African countries: a forward-looking assessment of contributory schemes

In recent years, African governments have made significant efforts to develop a range of contributory social protection schemes that cover workers in the informal economy. This report aims to provide an overview of these extension practices in the region through seven country case studies selected to illustrate the range of emergent design practices. They include the extension of legal and effective coverage; improvements in the quality of benefits and the services provided, alongside the introduction of new schemes; efforts to make informal workers’ contributions more sustainable while remaining affordable and flexible; and leveraging digitalization to simplify administrative procedures. The report draws attention to the major challenges that lie ahead. There is a strong need for innovative approaches that can quickly be designed and scaled up to expand coverage. More importantly, emerging schemes need greater financial sustainability, which can be achieved through a mix of contributions from employers and businesses along the supply chain, workers and public finance. Formulation process of strategies to cover informal economy workers must include all stakeholders and be coordinated across sectors and ministries. Social protection approach to informality should entail measures that can result in greater and more secure incomes and job quality via business support, low-interest credit and loans and preferential access to markets.