Development Co-operation Directorate

Understanding the P20: A new approach to characterising and addressing poverty


By: Abdoulaye Bio Tchané, Senior Minister of Planning and Development, Benin

To read more about this topic, check out the
Development Co-operation Report 2018: Joining Forces to Leave No One Behind

As decision makers and policy makers in Africa, one question we are always struggling with is to clearly define and identify extreme poverty and those who are victims of it. Based on my experience as Benin’s former Minister of Finance and current Senior Minister of Planning and Development, our national budgets in Africa have always been essentially social. What does this mean? The pressure exerted on us by poverty, fragility and vulnerability confines us to the management of the urgent; and the urgent in Africa is about guaranteeing the daily survival of our fellow citizens.

However, despite heavy investments in social programmes, the frontiers of poverty are not receding as quickly as we might hope. Many possibilities explain this fact, but our focus is on finding ways to address the issue – and to do so in ways that reach those furthest behind first. It is to this end that the Government of Benin, in partnership with the Government of Switzerland and the NGO Development Initiatives, has applied the P20 approach to addressing poverty and vulnerability and to delivering on our commitment to leave no one behind.

The P20 approach focuses attention on the poorest 20% of people, who are often also the most vulnerable. This includes everyone currently in, or vulnerable to, absolute poverty, as well as those who by reasons of their identity (age, disability, belief, ethnicity, sexual orientation) are most vulnerable to poverty or exclusion. The P20 approach proposes that countries, donor agencies and civil society organisations choose a small number of bellwether indicators in line with their own priorities and monitor those regularly to show the public and politicians what progress is being made.

In Benin, major findings came out of applying the P20 approach. We learned that as of 2015, the poorest 20% of people in Benin were living on less than US 0.95 per person per day, which is less than half of the international poverty line. Among the national P20, 45% of children under five are stunted, compared to 30% for the rest of the population. Wasting, or low weight for height, is experienced by 4.6% of the P20 in Benin and 3.9% of the rest of the population under five. Data on the nutritional status of P20 can help focus efforts and attention on measurable progress through urgent investments to strengthen human capital, which are part of one of Benin’s major programmes.

The results of applying the P20 approach also informed Benin’s 2018 National Voluntary Review. This review focuses on reforms underway in the context of leaving no one behind. Benin has developed a holistic social protection policy that is intensifying measures for the most vulnerable groups. The specific priorities can be summarised as: (i) promoting social transfers; (ii) strengthening social action services; (iii) consolidating the legislative and regulatory framework for social protection in Benin; (iv) strengthening contributory schemes; and (v) extending social insurance.

With thanks to Switzerland and its government for joining us in this exercise, we appreciate Swiss recognition that real factors cause and perpetuate poverty and exclusion in every society.[1]Thus, I call on all countries to appropriate the P20 approach. And while some data challenges will need to be overcome for Benin to fully apply the P20 approach, I can promise that Benin will continue using the P20 approach as a benchmark to gauge and test all our public policies. The ultimate goal by 2030 is truly for no one to be left behind

[1] A summary of the findings can be read here in English and French.


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