Over the last two decades, the concept of social protection has been widely applied to understand how poor societies reduce the multiple socio-economic risks faced by their members. Social protection is concerned with both social welfare or assistance and also social insurance that reduces risk for those most vulnerable to poverty and exploitation. It has been incorporated into a number of aid programmes in sub-Saharan Africa but the reach of formal social protection provided by the state remains extremely limited and informal social protection mechanisms often provide the majority of support that the population experiences. In Africa’s rapidly growing urban centres, the systems of social protection must be flexible in the face of the rapidly changing population, especially in areas where internal and international migration continues to contribute to their growth. In this seminar, I will look at how social protection has been conceptualised in research in African contexts and critically review the extent to which these different approaches can take into account the changing populations of urban spaces, especially those experiencing high levels of migration.