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How African governments can grow their pension sectors

NSSF’s Byarugaba takes over chairmanship of the ECASSA from Valentine Bagorikunda of Burundi on Nov. 22 at Serena Hotel. INDPENDENT.J.BUSINGE

Social security funds to tackle key areas in education, IT to accelerate pension growth

Kampala, Uganda | JULIUS BUSINGE | How can African governments ensure that the working population has some sort of social security at old age? That was the main issue discussed during the two-day East and Central Africa Social Security Association (ECASSA) conference held at the Kampala Serena Hotel on Nov. 23-24.

Richard Byarugaba, the new chairman of ECASSA and managing director at National Social Security Fund, Uganda, said there is a growing concern that there are only two million people out of the 15 million working population in the country who have social security coverage under either pension scheme of the government or under the NSSF.

“The rest – 13 million Ugandans are not covered largely because they work under the informal sector,” he said.

He said the government needs to come up with schemes to cover key areas like health through the introduction of the national health insurance to be at par with the rest of the countries in the region.

This, he said, will ensure that retirees need to have opportunities to utilise part of their pension towards their health.

“It is imperative that government looks at that side. I should say that the law that is going to create the national health insurance scheme needs to be implemented for that side of social protection to benefit pensioners,” he said.

He said there is also need for the pension industry to leverage on technology such as mobile phones to bring onboard individuals in the informal sector to the social protection bracket.

On his part, ECASSA’s Secretary General, Fredric Ntimarubusa said benchmarking best practices by members of ECASSA will also accelerate social security growth given that 80% of the population in the region is not covered.

He said the association plans to carryout industry trainings to be spearheaded by the management of an International Training Institute set to be officially launched in 2018 in Arusha, Tanzania.

Meanwhile, the conference also came up with five key recommendations to stir growth of the pension industry in the coming years. They include; building and entrenching the culture of social protection through education in all member states from primary up to university education and throughout adulthood, extending social protection coverage to the entire population and widening the scope of the benefits to include health in all member states through legislation and policies and developing policies that guarantee a social protection floor for all citizens by each member state.

Other recommendations includes strengthening regional cooperation through peer reviews and benchmarking for purposes of sharing best practices and leveraging on technology to ensure cost efficient and effective delivery of social protection services in particular to the informal sector.

Industry experts say actual implementation of these areas would deal with current challenges in the region especially in regards to huge informal sector, high cost of running pension funds or schemes, limited knowledge about the benefits of savings and general opportunities that come with social protection and the inadequate laws and policies to cover the industry’s key areas.

Speaking as the Chief Guest, the Minister in charge of General Duties in the Office of the Prime Minister, Mary Karooro Okurut, welcomed the five resolutions for ECASSA.

“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, adding that the Ugandan government will provide all the necessary support to ECASSA to implement its plans.

She said that government is in the process of reforming the sector in Uganda through discussions with various actors and thus, are keen to learn from the region.

The conference now in its 10th year was held under the theme “Transforming Social Security: From Theory to Practice” attracting more than 100 participants from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Burundi, South Sudan and Zimbabwe.


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