Kenya’s Pursuit of a Unified Social Registry for Inclusive Social Protection

Kenya is making significant strides towards the establishment of an enhanced single registry, aimed at encompassing all eligible individuals for social protection programs, with a particular focus on including those in the informal and rural sectors, a traditionally challenging group to cover comprehensively.

The development of this unified database holds the key to addressing the concerns of the “missing middle,” a group whose information has largely remained elusive. Inclusion of the informal and rural economy within this registry promises to yield substantial benefits for Kenya’s social protection efforts, as noted by Prof Emmanuel Remi Aiyede, a research lead at the Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR).

Prof Aiyede emphasized the significance of a robust single registry, highlighting its potential to enhance targeting accuracy and planning efficiency. Additionally, it opens avenues for the utilization of technology to tackle these complex issues efficiently. Given the considerable size of Kenya’s informal sector, characterized by challenges related to monitoring, budgeting, and record-keeping, such a unified registry is essential for effective social protection.

To achieve this goal, Kenya is looking to models employed by countries like India and Brazil, where similar databases have proven successful in improving the reach and impact of social protection programs.

Kenya’s Constitution, enacted in 2010, grants citizens the right to social protection and mandates the State to provide appropriate social security to all deserving individuals. This constitutional commitment is reinforced by policies such as Kenya Vision 2030, the Kenya National Social Protection Policy, and sector-specific legislations like the National Social Security Fund Act and the Children Act of 2022, all of which support increased investments in the social protection sector.

While Kenya has made strides in social protection investments, challenges remain, especially in coordinating efforts to target and include hard-to-reach populations like those in the informal sector and rural areas. The informal economy plays a significant role, accounting for the majority of new jobs created in recent years.

Entities like PASGR and the Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa have collaborated with the State Department for Social Protection and Senior Citizen Affairs to address these issues. PASGR’s social protection initiatives, under the Utafiti Sera Social Protection House, have facilitated crucial conversations between governmental and non-governmental actors to design and implement just and inclusive social protection programs.

Kenya initiated the process of creating a comprehensive national registry for more precise social protection targeting in 2020. This effort has been reinforced by partnerships with institutions like the Kenya School of Government and the adoption of cash transfers as a means of bolstering social protection. From a modest beginning in 2004, these transfers have expanded to cover a significant number of households, encompassing various programs such as children’s school meals and health insurance.

Kenya is actively revising its National Social Protection Policy to adopt a life-cycle approach, extending protection from children to youth, working-class individuals, and senior citizens. Initiatives like Universal Child Benefits and expanding social protection to the informal sector are in the pilot stages. The country is also working on establishing a legislative framework for social protection.

While Kenya has demonstrated growing commitment to funding social protection programs, there is a challenge in increasing budgetary allocations to align with global, continental, and national commitments to inclusive social protection. The country remains reliant on donor funding to a significant extent, necessitating a potential increase in domestic budgetary allocations should donor support decrease.


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