Social security funds in the region are targeting early education to mobilise savings for retirement and expand pension coverage.
It is said that as high as 90 per cent of the African population especially women and children live in social insecurity because they lack schemes that facilitate them to save for retirement.
Yet social security bodies have powerful instruments to address these imbalances.
In the recently concluded East and Central Africa Social Security Association (ECASSA) meeting, participants shared experiences on how to expand coverage through private funds and designing unique products to informal sector.
Government has tabled a bill in the parliament which once approved will introduce private pensions as well as provident funds.
Through the proposed bill, government is optimistic that changes are meant to increase savings to finance development, boost the capacity of the pension schemes to ensure a decent life after retirement.
On the sidelines of the meeting, Rose Musonye Kwena from Kenya Retirement Benefits Authority said the biggest challenge for most African social security pensions is lack of a savings culture and mindset and how to develop products and meet their unique circumstances.
“We need to sensitise the public from an early stage of education to college, teach a child how to differentiate a need and a want,” she said.
She observed that Kenya is benchmarking its education curriculum to that of Japan to create awareness on the importance of saving.
“We know we are big spenders as Japanese have problems in spending; thus we hope to learn from them because saving has no economic boundaries,” she stressed.
International Labour Organisation believes that saving for retirement and social security to all is a social necessity.
In a bid to tap into informal sector, Kwena said Kenya had introduced a MBAO pension plan, a a voluntary retirement savings plan with a minimum daily contribution of Sh20 per day remitted via Safaricom's mobile transfer service M-Pesa or Airtel money service.
“These are small business holders, people who sell tomatoes on the roadside, saving for retirement has not been their priority but as we get to develop; we’ll all be urbanised,” she said.
“Some do not care because their parents own herds of cattle and chunks of land.”
In the six regional countries including five EAC member states and Zambia, it was noted that, pension bodies cover between 8-10 percent of the working population, mainly in the formal sector, excluding 40-60 percent in the informal sector.
According to statistics, national savings stand at 2.1 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product, while government needs to raise the savings level to 30 per cent per of the GDP.
In the first six months of 2012, Rwanda’s public pension revenues grew by 26 per cent driven by many new employers who registered companies as well as increased disbursement of employees’ contributions.
During the meeting, Rwanda was commended for health coverage which is more than 90 per cent of its population and adopted healthcare as a human right to be enjoyed by all.
Participants recommended that countries in the region ought to learn and adopt the Rwandan best practice on health care.