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Supporting social protection in The Gambia

In order to provide leadership and coordination across the social protection sector, the government of The Gambia decided to set up a Social Protection Secretariat (SPS). We assisted in its implementation, with the objectives of:

  • defining the functions, roles, and organisational structure of the SPS;
  • mapping the business processes needed to carry out its roles and responsibilities;
  • identifying the staffing, systems and tools, and physical resources required; and
  • outlining the running costs and funding sources of the SPS.

The review was carried out by a small team of OPM staff and external consultants, supported by a firm of local consultants who had been separately contracted. The final report provided a complete blueprint for the setting up of the SPS, including process maps of the main business processes and draft job descriptions for key staff.

As follow-on work, we were further involved in supporting the process of setting up a social registry for The Gambia, including a strong focus on institutionalising the new system and ensuring adequate legal foundations (with regards to data security and privacy, for example).


The Gambia is the smallest country on the African mainland, and also one of Africa’s most densely populated and poorest nations. Income poverty and household food insecurity are widespread. At the same time, social protection is fragmented, uncoordinated, and unsystematic, with a large number of interventions led by different actors, some of which only reach a small number of beneficiaries.

The Gambia National Social Protection Policy (NSPP) sets out in detail the government's vision and commitment to developing an integrated and inclusive social protection system, and to broaden coverage for those in need of support, particularly the poor and the vulnerable. The Social Protection Implementation Plan is built on the strategic objectives of the NSPP and defines a set of activities to guide the implementation of the NSPP over a ten-year period. These include establishing and strengthening leadership and coordination mechanisms, in which the SPS is intended to play a central part. Although a National Social Protection Steering Committee was set up in 2012, it has met only on an ad hoc basis and has been hampered by lack of resources in the Department of Social Welfare to support it with an effective secretariat service.

The challenge of this assignment was to develop an effective and influential coordination mechanism, which would bring together all of the actors in the social protection sector, and help to ensure the successful delivery of the policy.

Our approach

As with similar work in the region, our solution was based on a careful assessment of the institutional environment in which the SPS would have to operate, leading to the conclusion that an essential first step would be to redesign and re-launch the Social Protection Steering Committee, through and on behalf of which the secretariat would then operate. It was important that the committee should be a truly inclusive body, embracing actors from central, regional and local government, NGOs, and the private sector, with a mandate both to monitor performance in service delivery and programme implementation and to develop proposals for policy change for the government’s consideration. It was also important that it should be hosted in a location within the machinery of government which maximised its authority and convening power.

Our approach emphasised two main elements. First, a process of dialogue which endeavoured to build consensus amongst senior government officials at national and regional level and the principal development partners. Second, detailed work to develop organisational structures, key business processes, job descriptions, and a sequenced implementation plan. The aim was to ensure that, once a decision to go ahead had been taken, local counterparts could proceed to establish the SPS as easily as possible.


A decision to locate the SPS in the Office of the Vice President, with the warm endorsement of our proposals by the then vice president and her permanent secretary, was secured before the end of the project. Despite a subsequent government reshuffle, the high-level support of both the incoming vice president and the Ministry of Finance has been retained. If the SPS is implemented as designed, we would expect that the improved coordination, planning, and accountability processes would have a positive impact, on the lives and welfare of beneficiaries and on Gambian society more generally, over the longer term.

Since the conclusion of our review the World Bank has continued to encourage the Government of The Gambia to set up the SPS as proposed, and has also been providing material support to the preparations for a social registry which will be managed from within the SPS. In this context, our Social Protection team has been providing technical support to the process, while the OPM team leader was invited to return to The Gambia in January 2019 to assist with developing the institutional arrangements for the social registry, and will continue to provide advice in this area.