New moral economies of care and welfare in Africa. A return to the universal?

New moral economies of care and welfare in Africa. A return to the universal?

 
Although Africa has never had anything that could be termed a welfare state, the role of the state and its responsibility for welfare and public health in Africa was heavily undermined by structural adjustment programmes in the 1980s and 90s. Since the 2000s, however, we have witnessed a significant change in the ways welfare and healthcare are being addressed. Poverty alleviation, social development and social protection projects – ranging from the introduction of free primary education, cash transfer schemes, basic income grants and recently Universal Health Coverage, coupled with digital technologies – appear to suggest a return to the universal aspirations of an earlier era. These attempts at extending coverage, care and protection are happening amidst the shrinking of development aid, the privatization of public goods, increased corruption and widening inequalities, and at a time when other parts of the world, such as Europe, are experiencing serious cuts in welfare financing and retrenchment of state services. In this context, political commitments by African states to experiment with projects that embrace the language of social justice, solidarity, inclusion and equality open up questions about how poverty alleviation, responsibility for (poor) citizens, healthcare and welfare are conceived, engaged and enacted on the continent, and how these moves relate to earlier aspirations for universal rights and reformulations of citizenship. To approach these questions, we propose rethinking the concept of moral economy. A term that has recently enjoyed a revival in history and anthropology, moral economy connotes attitudes, beliefs and practices concerning what is right and wrong, just and unjust, fair and less fair, within which political decisions and resource distributions take place.
 
Organisers: Victoria Jacinta Muinde (j.v.s.muinde@medisin.uio.no); David Bannister (david.bannister@medisin.uio.no) and Ruth Prince (r.j.prince@medisin.uio.no)