The East and Central Africa Social Security Association (ECASSA), which brings together social security schemes in the region this week convened a meeting to devise ways of improving social security coverage in the region.
The managing director of NSSF, Richard Byarugaba, who takes over the chairmanship of the regional body for the next one year, said that although strides have been made to improve social security landscape, the region is still faced with a myriad of challenges which require concerted effort from respective governments.
“Most of the member states have introduced some form of social protection or have social security as a strategic priority but low coverage remains a major challenge. This is exacerbated by the informal sector which forms a large segment of the labour force remain outside the reach of social security and is not covered by any other forms of social protection,” Byarugaba said.
Byarugaba added that the association will, going forward also work towards harmonising policies for the benefit of the entire region, for instance, the issue of benefits portability across national borders.
The conference is being held under the theme: “Transforming Social Security: From Theory to Practice” and has attracted participants from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Burundi, and South Sudan.
The minister in charge of General Duties, Mary Karoro Okurut, challenged the association to deliberate on issues that place the region’s population at the centre of social protection service delivery.
“In today’s world, the success of Social Security institutions is not measured only by the money it generates, the investments it undertakes or the employment it provides; rather it is also assessed by the efficiency and effectiveness with which it delivers services to its constituents,” she said.
She added that the Ugandan Government will provide all the necessary support to the body, and committed to take the lessons from the regional peers whose social security systems are at a more advanced stage.
“We are in the process of reforming the sector in Uganda through discussions with various actors. We are therefore keen to learn from the region so that we can make the correct reforms, but also avoid mistakes that have been made in the past,” she said.
As part of the development of social security in the region, ECASSA continuously organizes trainings to further equip members with best practices and also help them deliver on their mandates.
“We have set up an International Training Institute that will be officially launched next year in Arusha, Tanzania to equip members with necessary skills,” said Dr. Fredric Ntimarubusa, the ECASSA secretary general.
The ECASSA policy makers conference is held annually on a rotational basis in the region intended to provide a platform for its members and policy makers to address social security challenges and seek better ways to promote social security development.