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date: 06 August 2020

Welfare Politics in Africa 

The Oxford Encyclopedia of African Politics
Jeremy SeekingsJeremy Seekings

Since the 1990s there has been a dramatic proliferation of social protection programs across much of Africa. “Social protection” is defined in a variety of ways but is generally understood as encompassing the various programs that, through redistributive transfers of cash or in kind, mitigate poverty or income insecurity. Social protection thus encompasses both social insurance (i.e., state-run programs that insure working people against specific risks, usually funded through contributions paid by employers and employees) and “non-contributory” or social assistance programs (funded out of general taxation or from foreign aid). Social insurance programs have limited coverage across most of Africa and have very little effect on poverty because they are generally tied to formal employment. Social assistance, in contrast, covers the poor, because the programs either are universal (i.e., without conditions or a means test, e.g., social pensions for the elderly in Botswana) or are targeted to the poor, through either means tests (e.g., South Africa’s Child Support Grant for low-income families) or the low value of benefits relative to obligations (typical of workfare programs). It has been these social assistance programs that have proliferated, first across Southern Africa, then East Africa, and most recently parts of West Africa. Countries in Africa are distinctive (in comparison with countries in other regions across the Global South and Global North) in spending more on social assistance than on social insurance (... ...

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