The first Virtual Social Security Forum for Africa, was held from 5 to 7 October 2021. With over 500 participants from across the continent joining on the innovative online platform, the event became a rich experience of peer-to-peer sharing, learning and networking.
While the International Social Security Association (ISSA) traditionally organizes the Regional Social Security Forum on a triennial basis, the event was moved online as the first ever Virtual Social Security Forum due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through six plenary and 16 parallel sessions, participants were offered an engaging programme catering the various interests and needs of social security institutions across Africa. In addition, the virtual platform offered the opportunity of online networking and discussions.
The first day of the Virtual Social Security Forum for Africa focused on progress, challenges and solutions for social security, building on the new ISSA report Priorities for social security – Africa 2021: Trends, challenges and solutions. The issue of maintaining and extending social security coverage is a central one in the region, not least in light of the additional challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. The various parallel sessions of that first day demonstrated how social security institutions are showing both leadership and innovation in strengthening social security, which contributes to inclusive growth and social cohesion.
Spotlight on good practices
Central in social security institutions’ strategies to deliver excellence is the digitalization of services. This was not only reflected in the presentations and discussions, but also in the announcement of the winner of the ISSA Good Practice Award for Africa 2020. The Social Insurance Institute – National Social Insurance Fund (IPS–CNPS) of Côte d’Ivoire won the prestigious award for its app e-Cotisations (e‑contributions), automating employers’ social security contribution declarations. Today, it is estimated that 90 per cent of employers submit their declarations online.
After rounding off day one with this announcement, the second day gave the opportunity to dive deeper into good practices from ISSA member institutions across Africa. Digital transformation, also in light of the COVID-19 pandemic stood out again as a central theme in various discussions, such as on improving service quality and client satisfaction, improving social security administration and combating error, evasion and fraud. However, the sessions also gave room to other important discussions, such as on developing a culture of social security through education and communication, investing in people and tools, enhancing the effectiveness of voluntary insurance, and investment of social security funds.
Looking forward: High-level discussions
On the closing day of the Virtual Social Security Forum for Africa, high-level speakers were invited to share their thoughts on the strategies and approaches to meet the social security needs of the African population. With representatives from the International Labour Organization, The World Bank, the African Union and the African Development Bank contributing, both the international and regional perspectives were well covered. In addition, a ministerial session including ministers from Algeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Mauritius and South Africa, highlighted the political commitment to strengthening social security across the continent.
The successful experience of the Virtual Social Security Forum for Africa bodes well for upcoming international ISSA events in a virtual format. For more information, all the presentations, documents and video recordings are made available for ISSA members on the event web page.