African Social Security Administration

Publication Date01 Jun 1973
AuthorVictor Gerdes
African Social Security
UDC 351.84 : 368.4 (6)
Victor GERDES,
Professor, Hailé Selassié I University,
Addis Ababa
The early enactment of non-autochthonous
perience, observation, fellowships, and over-
drafted laws by newly independent African
seas visits (2).
nations has led to the creation and expansion
of social security schemes designed
to enhance
security continues to grow in many
human welfare throughout the tropical sub-
areas of the sub-region in advance of an
continent. But the transmission to tradition-
expansion of requisite administrative capabi-
oriented African societies of administrative
lities ; new risks are being added and more
ef~ciencies claimed by more advanced nations
persons are being brought into the programs.
is much
This is
more difficult than sending legal
being accompanied by the introduction
ideas from
one continent to another.
costly equipment, frequently advanced and
sophisticated, the construction of larger officers
The resulting social security institutions
and more housing for the administrative staff,
which have
and the
come into being have at times
hiring of additional personnel, which
conflicted with instead of acted
is not
as a supplement
always necessary (3). Occasionally,
to the pre-existing social arrangements
inputs of human resources result
which the people have long relied, bringing
from the assignment of university graduates
into question the wisdom of introducing social
to governmental or semi-governmental depart-
changes which do not consider the values
ments, whether actually needed or not, because
of preservation of long accepted and beneficial
developing countries cannot long tolerate an
traditional customs and usages (1).
expanding elite group of educated persons
unable to find employment.
The contrast between modern social security
Administrative expenditures keep rising while
and ancient tribal social customs, although
anticipated and desired efficiencies remain
great, is no more than that between the admin-
elusive. There are many reasons for this
istrative skills and procedures required to
support present institutions and those used
in the old. African nations have long poss-
(2) " ... it is important to give consideration to the
essed at least a tiny nucleus of modern social
administrative heritage of the African countries.
security in the form of an institutional heritage
Governmental officials and employees have been
from former colonial powers. In addition
exposed through training and experience during and
there exists in the sub-region
since the colonial period and through observation
a sort of derived
during visits and fellowships, to personnel management
administrative heritage through training, ex-
practices that form part of a larger pattern of admin-
istrative practices peculiar to each colonial power... ".
Report on the Seminar on Urgent Administrative Pro-
blems of African Governments, Economic Commission
(1) " One of the most important policy questions
for Africa, 5th Session, Leopoldville, February-March,
in the introduction of social change and development
1963, p. 15.
at the local level is the problem of how traditional
(3) An increase in administrative expenses has been
values and institutions can be harnessed to the purpose
due to the " development of the Funds, which has
of development. The problem is to identify more
necessitated more spacious offices, better working
precisely those practices, values and institutions that
equipment and larger staffs, but also to the rise in
can be used for constructive social change, together
wages over the years, and to appointments or recruit-
with the strategies appropriate to different kinds of
ment at standards which have often escaped the control
situations, and to incorporate this knowledge in
of the administrators. Administration has thus fallen
specific programmes of development. Popular parti-
into a state of disequilibrium, with swollen staffs and
cipation in development is facilitated where there is
lacking real efficiency ". Oyoumi, Sylvestre, " The
a strong tradition of local organization ". 1965 Report
Financial Equilibrium of African Social Security
on World Social Situation, United Nations, New York,
Funds ", African Social Security Series, No. 7, 1970,
1966, p. VIII.
p. 61.

situation and some are explored in this paper,
sonnel are overburdened with demands from
the purpose of which is to examine in some
persons suffering from diseases which are
detail the factors which affect the administra-
almost entirely preventable.
tion of social security in sub-Saharan Africa
and limit its effectiveness. Following a brief
Three fundamental branches of social secu-
inquiry into the background of African social
rity - work injury, family allowances, and
security systems, ten general factors affecting
superannuation -
are represented in African
the nature of the administrative challenge
countries. Of the three, work injury laws
will be considered. This is followed by an
are the most widespread. They go back
examination of ten special problem areas
more than forty years and take three distinctive
which have emerged as the nations of the sub-
region go about the business of administering
First, they can be made obligatory
new special security institutions which
the employer who is required to provide
have been largely imported from abroad.
medical care and treatment in accordance
Legislation, originally drafted for another
with predetermined minimum standards. It
society in another land, has become part of
is sometimes alleged that under this procedure
the law of the land of every new nation of
the worker receives less than adequate care (5).
tropical Africa. Problems are now being
Employers are sometimes accused of
faced &dquo; which could
not have been fully
poorly qualified medical personnel which
appreciated without experience &dquo; (4).
leads to insufficient treatment of injured
and ill workers. Moreover, the injured worker
may be induced to return to work before
recovery out of fear of dismissal should he
The foundation of a successful social
remain away from work until his injuries
security program is the system of medical
have healed and his health has been restored.
care of that nation.
There is a close relation-
ship between the availability and quality of
Second, in recognition of the shortcomings
a nation’s medical care, on the one hand,
arising out of schemes guaranteed by manage-
and the physical well-being of the people
ment, the employer may be required to transfer
and the economic health of the nation, on
his assumption of the risk of providing treat-
the other. A healthy and strong labor force
ment and compensation for employment injury
can produce more efficiently than a sick and
occupational disease to a private insurance
weak working sector, thereby further streng-
Sometimes it is argued that the
insurer has
any labor-related social security pro-
a vested interest in keeping actual
payments low, partly because a rise
in claims payments would bring about an
Many Africans enjoy neither good health
increase in premiums. The employer might
nor good medical services. Debilitating, ende-
either be (a) unable to pay higher premiums,
mic, and infectious diseases are general. Many
or (b) encouraged to transfer his insurance
persons are afiiicted with malaria, bilharzia,
to another carrier, one which promises lower
kala-azar, conjunctivitis, onchocerciasis (blind-
rates, thereby further tending to keep benefits
ness), tuberculosis, leprosy, cholera, yellow
to workers at a minimum. In addition, the
fever, and venereal disease. In addition,
worker may have little or no protection against
inadequate diets cause subnutrition and mal-
the risk of inability or unwillingness of carriers
nutrition and also lead to deficiencies in
to pay at all.
proteins which then lessen resistance to various
diseases, especially leprosy and tuberculosis.
Third, another version requires establishment
of a national or public organization which
Africans suffer more from illness, disease,
guarantees payment to the entitled and injured
and poverty than most other people in the
worker and also assures compliance by the
world. Meager and insufficient resources pre-
employer with the provisions of the law.
vent the taking of steps
Should the
necessary to combat
company become insolvent, the
and eliminate the major causes of disease,
even when they are easy to recognize. As a
result, available medical resources and per-
(5) " Experience has shown that this method of
granting benefits in kind has grave consequences for
the worker as regards both organisation and quality
of treatment ". International Social Security Associa-
(4) Republic of Kenya, Report of the National Social
tion, Conclusions, Recommendations and Resolutions
Security Fund and accounts for the period ended 31 De-
Adopted by the XVth General Assembly, Geneva,
cember 1968, Nairobi, 1969, p. 1.
1965, p. 30.

worker would not lose his benefit because
Limited pension schemes which cover public
payment is assured by virtue of the guarantee
employees only are found in many of the
of the national fund. It is also easier to
countries of the subcontinent. Other African
include in a national scheme necessary protec-
nations have more general plans, including
tion against a wide range of occupational
the six provident...

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