Sep 14: South Africa: Merits and demerits of digital welfare emerge in COVID-19 grants

South African public agencies are increasingly adopting digital technologies for the processing and disbursement of COVID-19 relief grants, following various lockdown measures by the government. For example, the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) gave recipients of a COVID-19 grant the option of receiving cash transfers through mobile phones instead of the post office. SASSA also launched an online grant application portal in September. Similarly, the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) has an online system for application of temporary employee relief benefits, under a government grant to cushion the unemployed. However, both systems have faced challenges such as beneficiaries being unable to receive benefits due to efficiency challenges with the post office, as well as lax controls on the UIF system, raising audit queries on whether the grant was being accessed by deserving recipients. 


South Africa’s social welfare system is one of the most advanced in the continent. However, SASSA has also faced challenges such as fraud and misuse of grant recipient data.