Public works and social protection in sub-Saharan Africa: Do public works work for the poor?


Anna McCord
University of Cape Town


Widely implemented throughout Asia, Latin America and Africa, often with funding from major international donor agencies, Public Works Programmes are perceived to present a ‘win-win’ policy option. They respond to growing challenges of long-term under- and unemployment, providing jobs for the chronically poor while also creating assets for the state. As such, PWPs offer a welfare transfer which is also a tangible economic investment, promoting livelihoods and stimulating growth. But are they effective instruments for providing social protections and responding to unemployment? McCord explores these critical questions, drawing on research into more than 200 PWPs across Africa, using extensive field analysis, survey work, and interviews with PWP workers themselves, as well as public works experience from Asia, the USA and Latin America.

Examining the potential and limitations of PWPs in providing social protection, McCord outlines major programme choice and design issues, exploring the assumptions underlying current policy preferences. While celebrating the performance of some programmes, the book makes a case for reconsidering the function of PWPs as a means of social protection. It argues that as currently designed, many programmes in the region may not offer significant social protection benefits for the working-age poor.


  • Public works and social protection in sub-Saharan Africa
    Do public works work for the poor?


Download data is not yet available.
Cover image showing construction tools on background of broken stone


6 April 2022


Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Details about this monograph