Search
Search type

School of Social Sciences

Helping African governments to support their poor

Policy thinkers deny the myth of incapable African states, revealing how sub-Saharan countries can provide a ‘social protection floor’ for their vulnerable citizens.

African man receiving injection
UNICEF revised its guidelines in 2007 to promote the role of the state in building social welfare capacity to support children and families affected by AIDS.

Examining the failings of social policy in sub-Saharan Africa, we worked with UNICEF and USAID/PEPFAR to shift policies towards stronger state social welfare systems.

Our recommendations are helping to boost state capacity for social protection within the African Union Social Policy Framework.

Our research has established a new agenda for social welfare in Africa. Prof Maia Green’s contribution to the Global Partners Forum (2006) led to a shift in policy thinking in sub-Saharan states that has opened the way for governments to develop social welfare policies and programmes.

Key influence:

  • UNICEF revised its guidelines in 2007 to promote the role of the state in building social welfare capacity to support children and families affected by AIDS;
  • Cash transfers have been proposed as a form of social support;
  • The UNICEF/IATT (Inter-Agency Task Team for children affected by HIV and AIDS) 2011 report prioritised the financing, equipping and capacity-building of social welfare systems;
  • Since 2012, IATT, World Vision and USAID have had a Working Group on Strengthening Child and Family Welfare Systems;
  • USAID/PEPFAR’s 2012 Guidance for Orphans and Vulnerable Children Programming now requires their programmes to support governments to “initiate, expand, or be innovative in their social protection initiatives”.
  • Prof Green’s ongoing work was presented to the Second Session of the African Union (AU) Conference of Ministers of Social Development in 2010. She highlighted the importance of building state capacity and creating the right economic environment for implementing the Social Policy Framework for Africa (2008).

Recommendations adopted by the AU:

  • ‘Minimum packages’ for children and pensioners;
  • Disability benefits;
  • Health welfare policies; and
  • Acceleration of the implementation of the Social Policy Framework for Africa.

Key quote

“Prof Green’s contribution led to a shift in policy thinking that has opened the way for governments to develop social welfare policies and programmes”.

Our research

Prof Green carried out a comparative analysis of social policy and social protection in Africa including extensive field research on issues of poverty and vulnerability in Tanzania. She also compared other countries in eastern, central and southern Africa, analysing the factors which contribute to poverty, social exclusion and the differences between poverty and destitution. This research was enhanced by Prof Green’s secondment to DFID (2004-05).

Key findings

  • The widespread incapacity to deliver social welfare is ‘designed into’ state systems.
  • Social institutions are vital in addressing poverty.
  • The state is a key distributor of welfare support; this role should be fully explored, with a move away from fragmented interventions.
  • The absence of social support through family or friends is a defining characteristic of destitution.
  • The vulnerability of African children is not an inevitable effect of the AIDS pandemic, but is accentuated by the absence of wider forms of social support.
  • The myth of ‘incapable’ states in Africa is perpetuated because donors tend to channel their aid through NGOs and local communities, rather than using funds to build state capacity for social welfare.

Key people