Opening Remarks by UNDP Country Director at the Social Protection Design Workshop held at Birchwood Hotel on the 13th November 2017

Nov 14, 2017

On behalf of both UNDP and DPME, I wish to extend a special welcome to those who have travelled far from other provinces, representatives of labour, government, civil society, UN and other international organisations and academia.  

Programme Director may I ask for you indulgence to briefly give a background about the initiative between the United Nations Development Programme and the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation.

In 2015, the United Nations Development Programme ( UNDP) and the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) designed a project entitled “Support to the Implementation of the National Development Plan ( NDP)”  the purpose of which is to engage a cross section of South Africans and institutions through a public debate platform called the O.R. Tambo Debate Series on a forward looking discussion on the implementation of the NDP and suggest solutions to the government with regard to effective implementation of its priority programme. The O.R. Tambo Debate Series is a collaboration among DPME, UNDP, Wits School of Governance and Oliver and Adelaide Tambo Foundation.  In order to ensure that the debate platform does not become another talk shop, it is followed up by roundtables to analyse in depth issues raised at the various debates. The roundtable can be followed up by deep-dives, which is a platform for further research and analysis with the purpose of generating innovative solutions, ideas and provide tangible and actionable guidance to the government and its partners on implementing the NDP. Social protection was one of the debate topics which was followed up by two roundtables as well as a deep dive on social protection for informal workers. Today’s event aims to further deepen our knowledge on this crucial issue.

The UNDP support for this project stems from the UNDP County Programme Document that among other priorities identified poverty as a challenge that needs to be addressed during this programming period. Using international experiences from similar countries endowed with natural resources like Brazil, UNDP shared these experiences with South Africa to illustrate how Brazil tackled poverty and hunger using social protection. However, UNDP does not only rely on its own international expertise and experience, it brings with it the knowledge and experience of the wider UN System. In this area of social protection, we have been in touch with agencies like the International Labour Organization, Unicef and others to bring their vast capacities to bear. We look forward to working more closely with them in the days ahead.


Please allow me to share some thoughts on the importance of social protection and its relevance to achieve inclusive growth. Social protection contributes to the achievement of inclusive growth by guaranteeing access to income security, services, and opportunities to individuals with limited asset capabilities. Social protection is not only about protecting those in poverty it also serves as a mechanism to protect living standards not only of the poor but of those who remain vulnerable to the impact of economic, social and natural or environmental shocks.

On August 2017, Statistics South Africa released poverty statistics which showed that poverty levels in South Africa have increased since 2011. This after a recorded decline between 2006-2011.  The report indicated that more than half of the South Africa are living in poverty.  

The Rhodes University Institute of Social and Economic Research reported that about 36% of the total workforce live in a household that cannot afford R1 400 of goods and food per month.  With about 16 million people employed as reported in the third quarter of 2017 Labour Force Survey, almost 4.5 million of the total workforce are living in households which are unable to meet basic minimum food and non-food requirements.  This problem is compounded by a high unemployment rate which is at its highest point in the last 14 years standing at 27.7% ( narrow definition) including discouraged work seekers is estimated at 36.8% with women bearing the brunt of both poverty and unemployment.


The Constitution of South Africa section 27 recognised social security as a basic right and the NDP has identified social protection as an intervention or programme that will be able to address poverty. The importance and the success of the social grant system in South Africa and its contribution to addressing poverty and hunger is well documented. However, the NDP indicated a gap in the social protection programme of South Africa as it does not cover those who are unemployed ( and willing to work)  and those in the informal sector. Today’s discussion will help to fill some of our knowledge gaps that can pave the way for policy makers in the relevant Departments, DSD, DOL etc. to build on this work.


As we celebrate the Legacy of O.R.Tambo we should draw from his teachings on justice and fairness and draw from his vision of a free South Africa in which black and white shall live and work together as equals in conditions of peace and prosperity.  The NDP seeks to move the country in the direction articulated by O.R.Tambo and this event and this project seek to contribute towards the attainment of this vision.

However, the reality is that the South African economy is not growing fast enough to ensure that the country will achieve the goals of the NDP by 2030. Several targets on poverty, unemployment and economic growth are lagging far behind. Therefore, it is necessary that as we design interventions that will enable us to achieve both the goals of the Sustainable Development Goals and the NDP goals, we must carefully identify strategic interventions that can have a positive impact on multiple goals.  Extending or expanding social protection to informal workers is indeed one such intervention that can have an impact on multiple Sustainable Development Goals. For example the implementation of a comprehensive social protection system will enable South Africa to address poverty and inequality; but most importantly it will also contribute to the following SDGs:

Goal 1: No Poverty,

 Goal 2: Zero Hunger,

Goal 5: Gender Equality:

Goal 8:  Decent Work and Economic Growth,

Goal 10: Reduce Inequality.

In closing, I thank our key resource persons Mr. Stephen Devereaux, Institue of Development Studies and the Center for Social Protection and Ms. Ina Conradie, UWC and the Institute for Social Development, who have substantively contributed to this evolving work since inception.

I wish you very successful deliberations and hope that today’s discussions will provide sufficient input to design a possible pilot project to be considered and that can inform further policy development in this still relatively under supported space.

Thank you,




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