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In the current legislative framework, no explicit provisions exist for Social Protection. The Constitution as the supreme law of the land does not recognize economic, social and cultural rights in a way to make them justiciable. Provisions for social protection are reflected very narrowly to provide for these rights. This does not guarantee the provision of social protection for life contingencies in its entirety, to explicitly include social assistance, social security, social health insurance, livelihoods and empowerment and protection. This leaves out the majority poor who are unable to support themselves and are entitled to government protection.













Musonda Kabinga

Acting Country Director

P.O Box 51407


Cell: 0977289757




1.1 AAZ vision of social protection. 3

2.0 Introduction to social cash transfer (sct) programme. 3

5.0 The adequacy of the policy and legal framework governing the social cash transfer programme  5

6.0 The sustainability and financing mechanisms of the social cash transfer programme. 6

7.0 The role of non-state actors in complementing government’s efforts in the implementation of the social cash transfer programme. 7

8.0 The challenges faced in the implementation of the social cash transfer programme. 8

9.0 Recommendations on the way forword in the implementation of the social cash transfer programme  10

10.0 Conclusion. 10

10.1 Why does ActionAid reject targeted schemes?. 11

10.2 What kinds of cash transfers does ActionAid support?. 12

10.3 Costs associated with no social protection. 13

10.4 Barriers to providing effective social protection. 14

10.5 Taking action to integrate social protection into national policy, planning and Funding  15





1.1 AAZ vision of social protection

ActionAid Zambia advocates for Universal Gender-Responsive Social Protection (UGRSP). As an organisation we call for nationally defined social protection systems that deliver universal social protection, rooted in rights-based approaches. Alongside feminist networks and allies, we also call for social protection to be gender-responsive, recognising the different roles that women play (paid and unpaid), especially disproportionate unpaid care and domestic work and taking account of women’s rights and specific needs, and further intersecting discriminations. Furthermore, we call for protection systems to be designed and monitored with inputs from the poorest and most marginalised, especially women, youth, and those who face multiple discriminations and  call for social protection systems that help build resilience, deliver rights and redistributive power and resources within society.  It is for the above that ActionAid Zambia requests the government of the republic of Zambia to mobilise maximum resources, through progressive financing and economic redistribution, for expansive financing of social services, including Universal Gender-Responsive Social Protection.


ActionAid Zambia notes that Cash transfer (CT) programmes are defined as social protection instruments that provide vulnerable families with regular cash payments with the aim of alleviating poverty. These programmes are applied in almost all developed, developing and emerging countries around the world.


ActionAid Zambia understands that the Social Cash Transfers were introduced to Zambia between 2003 and 2010. It comprised five pilots with limited connections among them. The design followed the ultra-poor approach, also known as the 10 percent inclusive model, aimed at reaching the poorest 10% of the population of the districts served. Additionally between 2010 and 2014, the programme had two different streams which were the Child Grant (CG), designed to benefit households with children and the Multiple Category Transfer Grant (MCTG), which targeted other forms of vulnerability.

Consequently the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services (MCDSS) took  the decision to rollout in 2009 a national social cash transfer scheme (SCTS) to cover the whole country by 2012.


According to Arruda and Dubois (2018) the first five pilots covered a total of 7,337 households and other 4,580 individuals just before the programme started its second phase. The selection process occurred through volunteers and social workers in the community, and the Community Welfare Assistance Committee (CWAC).


ActionAid Zambia is aware that the adoption of pilot SCTS in Zambia followed the growing acceptance of social cash transfers as a means for assisting extremely poor households.  It must be indicated that SCTs has had a lot of achievements with respect to impact on the beneficiaries which includes a rise in self-esteem and confidence among beneficiaries, reduced incidence of begging, increased food consumption, increased asset ownership and positive impacts for the local economy.


ActionAid Zambia appreciates the  Zambian Government for its  commitment in  reducing poverty and vulnerability among its population in general and for the poor and vulnerable segments of society in particular. Recognizing that vulnerability and the lack of resilience result from, cause and reinforce poverty, it is for this reason that Government's poverty reduction efforts cannot side-line Social Protection.

ActionAid Zambia notes that the  downside of the programme has always been the  implementation side which has continued to be fragmented, uncoordinated, poorly resourced and ineffectively evaluated. Even though this  negative part of it was resolved by the formulation of National Social Protection Policy which was one of Government's dedicated efforts to ensure that the role of social protection in pro-poor growth remained central and increased in systemic efficiency.

It is in this policy that we find social protection be defined as policies and practices that protect and promote the livelihoods and welfare of people suffering from critical levels of poverty and deprivation and/or are vulnerable to risks and shocks. It must be mentioned that the  Social Protection support development through building human capital, breaking the intergenerational transmission of poverty and reduction of both social and economic inequalities.


ActionAid Zambia also understands that the Government considers Social Protection as a key strategy to support inclusive economic growth, to achieve poverty and vulnerability reduction, and promote equity and fulfilment of human rights.


In the current legislative framework, no explicit provisions exist for Social Protection. The Constitution as the supreme law of the land does not recognize economic, social and cultural rights in a way to make them justiciable. Provisions for social protection are reflected very narrowly to provide for these rights. This does not guarantee the provision of social protection for life contingencies in its entirety, to explicitly include social assistance, social security, social health insurance, livelihoods and empowerment and protection. This leaves out the majority poor who are unable to support themselves and are entitled to government protection.

The foundation of the current Zambian SP sector was laid during the development of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) of 2002 which focussed on poverty reduction based upon economic development.[1] However, programmes aimed at addressing poverty and vulnerability were - at that point - poorly coordinated, with uneven and limited coverage. Consequently, a draft Social Protection Strategy (SPS) was formulated in 2005, with the aim of guiding and coordinating SP in Zambia. The SPS was developed by the SP Sector Advisory Group (SAG), chaired by the then Ministry of Community Development and Social Services (MCDSS); and was based upon Zambia’s Fifth National Development

The SPS was a positive step in terms of its provision of a common framework for SP programmes as well as the expansion, coordination, monitoring, reporting and financing thereof and reports suggest that considerable progress is being made in the Zambian SP sector, particularly in the provision of basic protection services such as food and health care.[2]




Government funding of social protection in the past has been low and erratic. Between 1994 and 2006, it was less than 1 per cent of the government  total expenditure in most years.  There has been notable increase in funding towards the social cash transfer over the years.  In 2021, government allocated K2.3billion representing about 1.9% of the 2021 budget. In 2022, K3.1 billion was allocated towards Social Cash Transfer representing budget allocation of K3.1 billion was made representing about 1.7% of the budget. In 2023, government plans to allocate about K3.7billion representing about 2.2% of the budget.

The sustainability of cash transfers is  dependent on the commitment and ability of government or NGOs to continue to deliver the program for as long as it may be required-perhaps permanently. This refers to a number of different dimensions. On one level, sustainability requires that the government have access to and in fact mobilizes the level of resources required to finance the program. At a deeper level, sustainability requires that political commitment be sustained so that policy makers assign the priority required to maintain the program.  With the expected vulnerability arising from austerity measures government has committed to increasing financing towards social protection to protect the most vulnerable. This is commendable and demonstrates commitment to sustain the social protection programmes among them the Social Cash Transfer Programme.

Government can also consider subsidizing cash transfers with other programmes like cash for work or food for work or voucher systems and educational and health subsidies to assist in meeting the needs of the vulnerable poor. A preferred approach is to target broad poverty reductions rather than highly targeted schemes like those tailored for specific targets such as elderly, disabled or orphaned and vulnerable children. Another commitment by government should be to work on social protection policies for long-term application because lack of proper outlined policies has caused some programmes to end abruptly due to lack of finances thus leaving the poor rural women poorer.


By and large the SCT programme is sustainable given the commitment and support from government and other stakeholders and investment in human capital which has potential to yield positive returns. For instance, the impact evaluation of the SCT programme in 2014 established that there has been increase in maize production and rice production by 8% and 4% respectively among beneficiaries of the programme.  



ActionAid Zambia notes that Social protection is a major intervention area for non-state actors (NGOs and Community- Based Organisations) especially in empowering and meeting the needs of marginalized people.

ActionAid Zambia is aware that civil society have been involved in supporting the poor focusing on building local skills and knowledge, economic empowerment, promotion of human rights to deal with social exclusion; establishing minority group-specific social services, relief and humanitarian service, Adult literacy education, education support; confidence building and peace building to reduce conflicts with neighboring communities among others.

The involvement of non-state actors in complementing governments efforts in implementing SCT cannot overemphasized. First, they can increase people’s participation and ownership of the programme, thereby increasing transparency and accountability in the system. Non-state actors act as a link between the government and the people, they generate awareness by disseminating information from the government to the public, and also communicating the response of the public back to the government, allowing them to understand the successes and shortcomings of the policy or initiative in question, and thus provide relevant feedback for review. Second, non-state actors can review policy planning and implementation by directly engaging at different stages of the policy cycle. With their capacities and knowledge in policy planning as well as implementation, they can support the process and thus provide opportunity for mutual review themselves in formulating and implementing development agenda.

Non-state actors, with their diverse sets of knowledge along with their capacities to conduct intensive research and planning, can support governments in their development processes. The participation of non-state actors in policy formulation not only makes the process more inclusive, but also raises issues and concerns of various stakeholders at the preliminary stage of policy making itself. Further, civil society organizations can embed a scientific and logical rationale within a policy plan, and thus strengthen the planning. Involvement of non-state actors at the policy formulation stage results in collaborative planning and review of plans or programme, thereby increasing transparency. Transparent planning processes, along with mutual review of state and non-state actors, increases accountability within the system. By incorporating greater transparency and accountability in inclusive planning processes.

Non-state actors, through different tools such as campaigns, dialogues or workshops, can raise public awareness about government priorities, policies and programmes.



A number of immediate observations have been made on the effectiveness of the current overall package of social protection programmes to make a significant impact on poverty, vulnerability and risk. In the first place, programmes that explicitly cover the poor are very small-scale their total coverage amounts to about less than 10 percent of the poor.


This stands in contrast to other programmes such as the FISP which have more substantial coverage and have been better resourced, but do not adequately reach extreme poor households. It has also been observed that most programmes suffer from stop-and-start disruptions, because of the unpredictability of funding and in the absence of continuous and predictable transfers there is likely little impact on the poverty status of recipients.


There is also almost no rigorous evidence on what impact existing programmes are having on the consumption and poverty status of those they are intended to benefit, making it very difficult for policymakers to determine which represent cost-effective options for scaling up. In addition, there is a lack of programmes explicitly targeted to the urban poor; while urban poverty is less pronounced than in rural areas, nonetheless tailored interventions are probably needed.


Further, there is no Single Registry for the identification of poor and vulnerable households. Management Information Systems are not harmonized and therefore contribute to programme fragmentation and the difficulty to avoid duplication and create complementarities. This is aggravated by the observation that the various programmes are poorly coordinated at all levels.


Apart from coordination between social assistance programmes, this also relates to coordination with other social protection interventions, such as livelihood and empowerment programmes, and with basic social services in health, nutrition, and education. In the field of nutrition and food security for instance, it is highly critical to link social cash transfers with the promotion of appropriate feeding and care practices, provision of micro-nutrients, water and sanitation, and the diagnosis and management of diseases.


This requires establishing coordinated multi-sectoral responses towards social protection programming. The recent realignment of the primary health care services with social protection presents an important opportunity for enhanced coordination, in particular at district level and below.

In view of the above issues mentioned, social protection interventions have not been interlinked, and have provided only a patchwork of service provision. A review of social protection interventions has provided a number of lessons that have shown that Social protection is not easy to plan or implement. Programmes that are spread too thinly or have irregular funding have a poor impact. Hasty or ill-thought-out programmes may simply waste money and channel resources in an ineffective manner, or to the wrong people. Timely interventions in targeted situations may help prevent the occurrence of deeper vulnerability and deprivation.


In general, social protection programmes that involve active community participation tend to have more sustainable impacts. It has been observed that awareness about entitlements and eligibility criteria for participation in social protection programmes is low and that grievance mechanisms are not in place or not operational. For community participation to be effective, realistic capacity assessment, communication, and appropriate capacity building measures are required.

However, key challenges remain which impact negatively upon the ‘graduation’ of incapacitated and low-capacity households to levels of income security and self-sustainability

These challenges include limited capacity and funding for programme implementation, poor coverage of SP mechanisms, insufficient monitoring and evaluation (M&E) to determine the impact of GRZ programmes on poverty reduction, insufficient levels of awareness and understanding of SP amongst key stakeholders and increasing levels of poverty. empowerment fund has been characterized by lack of a decentralized system of implementation. In addition, because of the fragmented nature of implementing empowerment programmes, this has resulted in poor targeting of beneficiaries due to the low participation of stakeholders during programme design.


  • ActionAid Zambia Recommends that the government establish an annual automatic review of transfer levels: Transfer level should be based on a clear and consistent formula
  • ActionAid recommends that the government develop a strategy on increased Government financial commitment to the SCT
  • ActionAid Zambia recommends that the Committee should ensuring that all financing and funding of Social Protection helps to deliver economic justice, through progressive measures, which includes ambitious and progressive tax reform policies, pro-poor and inequality-reducing macroeconomic interventions and progressive investments also in gender responsive public services.
  • ActionAid Zambia recommends that  social protection spending should not be restricted or cut on the pretext of austerity measures, including loan conditionalities and coercive policy advice issued by the IMF, World Bank and other IFIs. Such advice and conditions should be squarely resisted and rejected. Social protection should reflect a broader agenda to uplift the lives of the people especially the vulnerable.



ActionAid Zambia understands that the current SCT selection criterion can be seen as an easier way to conduct a version of the MCTG, which, rather than listing the eligible families, uses a broader dependency ratio classification model that is likely to reach out to more vulnerable families.

10.1 Why does ActionAid reject targeted schemes?

The term “safety nets”, refers to temporary measures to catch those made vulnerable, and were first put in place during the 1980’s as in the process of structural adjustment programmes and austerity measures social security systems were dismantled. They usually aim to reach only the very poorest or classify eligibility through means-testing. By their nature, safety nets are often temporary.


However, such approaches have come under considerable criticism. There is now a large body of research showing that targeting is rife with exclusion errors, meaning many people who are entitled to receive benefits miss out. It is often arbitrary, with eligibility requirements that have both stigmatising effects for potential recipients of support and higher administrative costs. Despite best efforts, in most contexts, evidence shows serious concerns around targeting accuracy, with the poorest and most marginalised systematically excluded (i.e. through lack of documentation or ineffective data gathering).


As one summary of country evidence notes “The research conclusively demonstrated that the most effective targeting mechanism is universal selection.” It goes on to note that many well-meaning practitioners of SP, while intuitively using “targeting the poorest”, in fact, exclude them: “‘targeting the poor’ is a means to an end but one that will not achieve the objective of ‘reaching the poor’” it concludes. Even in some of the largest targeted cash schemes in the world, large exclusion errors have been shown, i.e. in Bolsa Familia in Brazil even though this has been shown to have an impact on poverty and inequality, exclusion errors were estimated to be about 50%.

More broadly, an approach which focuses on short term safety nets, highly targeted to the poor, which works outside of government frameworks - as is the case with many donors agency, IFI and NGO schemes’ - and are based on delivering short term charity-based “relief”, over building-up long-term entitlements, has been criticised for being antithetical to the human rights approach. These are two different visions of what social protection is for/does:



Safety Nets

Universal right-based approach

Overall Objective

Poverty reduction

Right to Social Security/social protection

Type of interventions

Targeted set of non-contributory transfers

Universal entitlement to protection through a defined basic package

Benefit levels

Minimum consistent with adequacy, defined as “meaningful benefits”

National poverty lines


SNs as transitory response measures/short term (crisis, reforms)

Rights-based, systemic “insurance” against poverty for all residents


10.2 What kinds of cash transfers does ActionAid support?

ActionAid supports universal social protection schemes which include large scale universal cash transfers – sometimes better described as “social transfers”, as they put money into the hands of the poorest through redistributive measures (i.e. progressive taxation, or contributions from the wealthier sections of society into social security schemes). These universal categorical transfers tend to aim at specific groups over a “lifecycle approach”, i.e. child benefit, disability pensions, social pensions etc. For ActionAid this is the cornerstone of social assistance and is a fundamental part of any redistributive state-led universal social protection systems. This vision goes significantly beyond a view of social protection which overly focuses on cash transfers as “safety nets” to protect those in extreme poverty, or in times of crisis.  Moreover, such an approach can have a powerful reach; for instance, universal child benefits could reach two thirds of households; and social pensions one-fifth. These schemes have been shown to have a fiscally redistributive role and to reduce poverty. They can also empower women.


This also moves past conditional based cash transfers - which is especially important through a gender responsive lens. Increasingly, progressive policy makers are moving away from “punitive” conditional cash transfers (CCTs) to more gender empowering Universal Cash Transfers (UCTs), which, when given to women, can strengthen their decision-making capacities around household spending and saving.”[i] Soft conditionalities are an interim measure (i.e. where women’s compliance with conditions is not closely monitored) when combined with sound public messaging on service use. But, ultimately, unconditional universal cash transfers are the way to go.


In the short term, ActionAid also supports informal cash transfers by donors or NGOs, to meet the humanitarian imperative (including in our own work) but this is not a long-term goal of social protection

10.3 Costs associated with no social protection

 If a country, community or society decides not to undertake social protection activities then it will be doing itself a great dis-service because the costs associated with such an action are huge. This will lead to loss of potential for individual development through the creation of chronically socially excluded individuals or households who cannot contribute positively to overall development in the social, political and cultural fields of the country,  a lack of investment in public benefits and services means a decrease in life expectancy, health, education and skills and a lack of investment in the younger generation. This will lead to a reduced pool of human capital. Withdrawal of social protection activities by the state leads to family disintegration and reduced cohesion among families.

It also reduces the legitimacy of the state and therefore endangers the functioning of democracy. It often leads to political unrests and the proliferation of extremist groups. Therefore, effective access to social protection should not be treated as a luxury but should be perceived as an investment in people, social justice and social cohesion, with a high rate of return, not only in economic terms but also in social and environmental terms, and as constituting an indispensable and solid foundation for sustainable and peaceful development for all.

The idea that social protection is a sign of a government’s commitment to the poor, the wellbeing and the rights of all citizens must be held alongside the notion that social protection is also a mechanism for national investment. Social protection should be viewed as government expenditure which has the potential to make a contribution towards growth.

Social protection is also a human rights issue for the most disadvantaged to have access to the basic necessities of life and an income to enhance their livelihood.’


10.4 Barriers to providing effective social protection

Social protection has not been mainstreamed into national development strategies and this is the key barrier to effective implementation of social protection measures. Without a mainstreaming approach, social protection has not been automatically integrated into poverty reduction, food security, development plans or the furthering of human rights in most African countries.


Barrier one: negative perceptions of social protection interventions and cash


ActionAid Zambia recognizes that most development schemes do not focus their support on the poorest. This is partly because of negative perceptions about directing social protection interventions and particularly cash transfers towards vulnerable groups, which are not seen as having economical potential. Most development initiatives therefore are biased towards the ‘productive’ sections of the population.

As national programmes of social protection and cash transfers are not currently widespread, the available information comes from standalone programmes which are often financed in response to external shocks, such as floods or drought, or heightened vulnerability associated with HIV/AIDS.


Barrier two: competing demands for national investment

ActionAid Zambia recognizes that competing demands on national budgets and financial constraints have prevented and the main concern, this affects making long-term financial commitments to social protection programmes. Social protection interventions are affordable with a mix of national revenue and external assistance


Barrier three: the lack of national disaggregated data on poverty and vulnerability

The other challenge is that of not having and understanding of both the need for and the challenges involved in gathering national data on poverty.  There is a challenge of needing disaggregated poverty and vulnerability data in order to develop targeted social protection interventions. Aggregated statistics need to be broken down into categories of age, disability, ethnicity, and also with reference to household structure and household poverty.



Barrier four: lack of institutional capacity

ActionAid Note that there is lack administrative capacity and that this presents a key barrier to implementing countrywide social protection schemes and national cash transfer systems. Those ministries most closely involved with planning and delivering social protection schemes, such as ministries of finance and social welfare, would face the most pressure.


10.5 Taking action to integrate social protection into national policy, planning and Funding

Generating political will at the national and international level is necessary to support the delivery of national social protection programmes, which require long-term investment.  Where legislation is robust enough it can support efforts to translate words into a nationally led strategic approach. National ‘ownership’ generally leads to the development of policy frameworks, budget processes and precise agreements and plans that coordinate functions such as the letting of contracts or approval of programmes by government. Central ownership can also facilitate the establishment of guidelines for implementing agencies. Political endorsement helps secure wide acceptance of the importance of social protection among stakeholders and the need to participate in a coordinated plan of action as cooperating partners.


Inclusion in national planning and strategic policy frameworks is essential. At a macro-planning level poverty reduction strategy papers (PRSPs) or similar plans can be used to put social protection into a development context and ensure funding. Examples of inclusion of social protection in national poverty planning include National Development Plan (NDP). It is important to set up Sector Advisory Groups for Social Protection (SAGSPs) which involve stakeholders from national to local level. Action must be taken to ensure budgets are directly allocated to social protection interventions










[1] Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 22.

[1] See Articles 22 and 25 paras 1 and 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 and Article 9 of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights 1966

[1] See, for instance, thew following evidence in this statement by AWID and FEMNET for CSW63 2020 The following background Paper for the 2019 CSW on gender and Social Protection (and other forms of public investment) Chopra, D. 2019 (forthcoming). Initiating women’s empowerment, achieving gender equality: interlinkages amongst social protection, infrastructure and public services.. UN Women also have a strong body of reaerch in thgis area (the following brfief summarizes this: WIEGO also does excellent work on SP and informal sector and has long defined their work in terms of a feminist framework to understand social protection and informal women workers has helped to frame AAI’s position. See: the WIEGO Lund and Srinivas framework, here:… 

[1] Razavi, S. 2011. Engendering social security and protection: challenges for making social security and protection gender equitable. Bonn: Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.

[1] Cookson for UN Women (2019) Family-oriented cash transfers from a gender perspective: Are conditionalities justified? (based on expert paper prepared for CSW63.

[1] Molyneux, M. 2006. “Mothers at the Service of the New Poverty Agenda: Progresa/ Oportunidades, Mexico’s Conditional Transfer Programme.”.

[1] UN Women. 2015b. ‘Protecting women’s income security in old age’, policy brief no. 3.…

[1] This is reflected in the fact that about 65% of those above retirement age without a regular pension are women, mainly because they have not paid into the overwhelmingly contributory models ITUC Policy Brief: Gender Gaps in Social Protection.






[1] its impact on inequality is 20 times less than that of Brazil’s inclusive pension system


[1] i.e. in Brazil, the nearly universal old age pension system has reduced inequality by 12%. In Namibia, universal benefits (i.e. old age and disability benefits) have reduced the national poverty rate by 33% and the poverty gap by 87%. World Bank, Does Fiscal Policy Benefit the Poor and Reduce Inequality in Namibia? In Georgia cash transfers have reduced the national poverty rate by 39%. S. Kidd and B. Gelders, Child wellbeing and social security in Georgia.

[1] Carter, B., Roelen, K., Enfield S. and Avis, W. (2019). Social Protection Topic Guide. Revised Edition. K4D Emerging Issues Report.

[1] In 2016 there was 130 low- and middle-income countries that have at least one non-contributory unconditional cash transfer (UCT) programme (including old-age social pensions)





[1] Mboozie, B. (Senior Social Welfare Officer of the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services). Presentation on

Zambia Social Protection Case Study (no date indicated).

[2] African Economic Outlook (2012); Technical Brief for the Lunch Meeting with key Permanent Secretaries (30 April 2012): Ministry

of Community Development, Mother and Child Health (MCDMCH)