Visionary leadership and the digital transformation of social security in Africa


Visionary leadership and the digital transformation of social security in Africa

Improved service quality is a key priority for social security organizations in Africa. To this end, strategic management and the digital transformation of social security organizations facilitates enhanced customer services and the greater efficiency of internal processes.

In Africa, as elsewhere, there are increasing expectations for improved social security services, including their transparency and good governance. This important insight forms part of the findings of a new study, Evolving management practices – Africa, released  by the International Social Security Association (ISSA). To meet these expectations, social security organization are investing more in improving governance practices and digitalization, as well as staff development, innovative practices, research, process re-engineering, and partnerships.

As the ISSA underlines, the current positive transformation of the management of social security institutions in Africa supports the fundamental mission objectives to deliver and extend social security coverage, to address economic insecurity, mitigate social, health and labour market risks and alleviate poverty. These are themes developed further by the ISSA in a forthcoming report, Priorities for social security – Africa 2021: Trends, challenges and solutions, to be launched at the Virtual Social Security Forum for Africa, to be held virtually, 5–7 October 2021.

As an immutable aim of public service, excellence in service delivery should be an institutional goal that drives the actions of every social security administrator. It projects a public image of a well-governed institution worthy of public trust. From highly specialized committees at board level to skilled and competent front-line staff, these are all necessary ingredients that help underscore an institution’s good governance.

Generally, social security institutions in Africa are strengthening governance by upgrading staff skills and competencies, implementing anti-fraud and anti-corruption measures, enhancing transparency, reinforcing control, while consolidation professionalism and adherence to codes of conduct.

Of course, excellence in service delivery is also a matter of customer satisfaction that reinforces public trust in social security.

To this end, one-stop service centres, to deliver user-centred public services, are gaining ground in Africa.

The shift to electronic, mobile and online services continues, transforming client interfaces. Also, public-public and public-private partnerships are helping to remove bottlenecks in the payment of benefits. For rural populations in particular, where physical access to services may be difficult, social security institutions are taking mobile services to remote areas.

ICT’s strategic role in managing social security

To respond to the challenges, African social security organization have made significant efforts to professionalize and strengthen their performance and are increasingly using information and communication technology (ICT) tools.

In Africa, the main areas of technological innovation are biometrics, mobile technologies, data-driven decision support systems, emerging inter-organizational coordination, analytics and big data, and emerging artificial intelligence.

Not to be downplayed, the intensive use of ICT poses challenges at various levels.

On the one hand, there is a need to close the digital divide. On the other hand, new risk areas include cybersecurity and access control, customer identification, protecting the personal data of contributors and beneficiaries, and ensuring business continuity.

Looking forward, visionary leadership and advanced information systems, analytics and artificial intelligence are helping to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of decision-making processes. With sights set strategically on the improved management and healthy development of social security systems in Africa, these observations present a welcome and inspiring message.