The affordability of social protection has been the subject of intense interest in the development policy discourse.
This paper explores the affordability of social protection and other development sectors by comparing target levels in international agreements to actual government expenditure in five African countries. Most targets are not met and on average only seven per cent of social protection target expenditure is reached. While sectoral targets may be individually ‘affordable’, the targets are not jointly affordable. Meeting any of the targets would require sectoral trade-offs, or major increases in donor and government expenditure, suggesting that affordability is ultimately a question of political preference.