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Are African Welfare States Different? Welfare State-Building in Africa in Comparative Perspective

Date: 29 Sep 2014

Should welfare focus on the poor rather than on workers in formal employment? Some countries in East and Southern Africa have welfare states which go against the grain of much standard welfare thinking.

Welfare regimes in Anglophone East and Southern Africa are distinctive because of their modest public expenditure on contributory social insurance compared to relatively high expenditure on non-contributory social assistance. In sum, they focus on the poor rather than on workers in formal employment.

In this presentation, Jeremy Seekings first examines how these welfare regimes differ to those in other parts of the global South, and then examines their historical origins and contemporary reforms. Colonial and post-colonial political elites made choices in part in response to the strengths of agrarian society, but in part also because of an essentially liberal conception of the state. Deagrarianization and electoral competition provided impetus for reform in the 2000s, but liberal ideas remain important among donors, African political elites and perhaps even African publics.

Speaker: Jeremy Seekings is Professor of Political Studies and Sociology and Director of the Centre for Social Science Research at the University of Cape Town (South Africa), and a Visiting Professor at Yale (USA).

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Photo by Bread for the World via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)