STREAM: Addressing Inequality: New Forms of Welfare, Social Protection and Citizenship in Africa

STREAM: Addressing Inequality: New Forms of Welfare, Social Protection and Citizenship in Africa

After three decades of structural adjustment and amid widening inequality and a growing recognition that poverty-alleviation programmes have largely failed, we are currently witnessing experiments with new forms of welfare and social protection on the African continent. Cash Transfer programmes, Basic Income Grants and Universal Health Coverage are three examples of experiments in welfare that are gaining currency in the Global South, including in Africa. These moves appear to be progressive as they draw on a language of solidarity, inclusion and equity and recognize the role and responsibility of the state towards its citizens, appearing to push against ‘the death of the social’ that is so often decried in neoliberalism. However, they could also be simply ‘sticking plaster’ solutions, which lack a vision of real social transformation. Current experiments in welfare are being employed within different political ideologies and may be watered down by various political and economic interests. Finally, while recent moves in poverty alleviation have been hailed as “a development revolution from the South”, in many cases, moves towards great social protection are being pushed entirely by powerful global players which, moreover, explicitly bypass state institutions. The tensions and paradoxes surrounding these schemes make experiments with new forms of poverty alleviation across the African continent an intriguing site for research.

This stream calls for panels that address poverty-alleviation policies and projects, past and present, in African countries. The topic is interdisciplinary; contributors could include anthropologist, historians, sociologists, political scientists, media studies, artists. Possible sub-themes could include:

  • Forms of governmentality and imaginations of citizenship in poverty alleviation and social protection in African countries, past and present.
  • The role of the state, NGOs, international institutions and global players in new forms of welfare and social protection
  • How forms of welfare and social protection interplay with class and inequality.
  • Concepts and practices of obligation, care, responsibility and solidarity; local understanding of poverty
  • The role of Africa-based social movements, citizen groups, protest and activism in addressing inequality.
  • African media coverage of progressive moves towards greater welfare protection; the role of social media.
  • How formal welfare/social protection intersect with informal forms of solidarity, for example, rotating credit societies, religious organizations, and ethnic, neighborhood or work-based welfare societies, both in the past and the present.
  • How welfare and social protection programmes play out on the ground; experiences and attitudes of recipients and of those involved in implementation; friction and tensions.

If you have any queries or suggestions please contact Ruth Prince ( For panel and paper submissions please follow the instructions on the website 

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