About Social Development

Our focus

The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) focuses on the central tenet of social development as key to accelerating the structural transformation of Africa. It undertakes research and analyses, provides technical assistance, strengthens national capacities and supports member States in the broad areas of employment creation, social protection, urbanization, international migration, fertility, mortality, women’s empowerment to reduce socio-economic and gender imbalances, in line with international and regional commitments. Thus, the ECA generates and promotes a robust body of analytical and policy-oriented research resulting in sound knowledge products on the key facets of Africa’s social development policy issues in the framework of the continent’s structural transformation agenda.

Within ECA, and working with member States, the Social Development Policy Division (SDPD) gives particular attention to: (a) measuring human exclusion and designing policies for inclusive development; (b) monitoring social investments; (c) designing of policy options to improve opportunities available for youth and reduce the intergenerational transmission of poverty and inequality;(d) development of suitable strategies to benefit from the demographic dividend;(e) supporting the designing of policies and strategies to harness urbanization for structural transformation and;(f) providing support to strengthen capacities for improved urban data and statistics. In addition, the Commission convenes a number of expert group meetings and policy dialogues for peer review and dissemination of its knowledge products to a wide spectrum of stakeholders including member States, UN agencies, non-state actors, the academia, and private sector, among others. 

The ECA through the SDPD monitors and evaluates global social policy frameworks and programmes of action such as the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Beijing +20, and the Habitat Agenda, among others.  At the regional level, ECA’s programmatic work is guided by, but not limited to, the African Union Agenda 2063 with a high premium on human, social and spatial development imperatives.   

The work of the Social Development Policy Division is undertaken through four interrelated units: Employment and Social Protection Section, Urbanization Section, and the Population and Youth Section, and the African Centre for Gender.

The Employment and Social Protection Section promotes inclusive and sustainable growth in Africa by supporting member States on issues relating to employment, human exclusion, nutrition security, poverty and inequality, and social protection. Working with member States, national and regional experts, think-tanks, and academic and research institutes, it provides technical and policy advice, and undertakes research and analysis of trends, development of monitoring tools, and preparation of knowledge products to strengthen national capacities for design and implementation of evidence-based policies to achieve the targets of the African Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Population and Youth Section focuses on issues related to youth development and population dynamics, strategically guided by regional and global commitments, including the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development; the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, 2002; and the World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond. Policy research, the documentation of best practices and knowledge-sharing are undertaken to support member States in designing, implementing and reviewing policies and strategies. The Section convenes and promotes meetings and events to accelerate the implementation of international and regional commitments relating to population, youth, migration and development and the social integration of vulnerable groups, are emphasized.

The Urbanization Section supports member States to harness the potential of urbanization for accelerated and inclusive growth and structural transformation by generating incisive policy knowledge and enhancing capacity for policy formulation, monitoring and implementation. To that end, it assists member States to integrate urbanization into national development planning, and sector policies, as a strategic and cross-cutting lever for growth and transformation, across the rural-urban continuum. It also develops policy tools and guidelines to analyze the role of sustainable urbanization in national and regional growth and transformation and ensure its accurate monitoring through robust data and statistics towards evidence based policy making. Importantly, the section supports member States in the implementation, follow up and review of Goal 11 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as the New Urban Agenda of the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat II) in 2016, including through regional partnerships.