Journal Article


Social Protection in Africa: Evidence, Politics and Rights

Published on 1 January 2010

Social protection initiatives in Africa increasingly aim to institutionalize systems that guarantee assistance for the very poor and protect the vulnerable against livelihood risks. Much of the impetus has come from international development actors, with some notable exceptions.

Three overlapping agendas are shaping these developments: a technocratic concern with evidence of effects and cost‐effectiveness; a political preoccupation with constituencies, interest groups, and institutions; and a rights‐based concern with universal principles and standards. The articulation between these agendas and the different actors promoting them determines which specific social protection instruments are adopted, how they are designed and implemented, and their outcomes.

“Success” is defined here not in terms of immediate benefits for target groups, but of progress towards social protection systems that have nationwide coverage, are sustainable in the long term, have broad political support, and can significantly reduce deprivation and vulnerability. Based on a selective review of social transfer programs and policy processes in several African countries, we argue that initiatives that emerge out of domestic political agendas and respond to local conceptualizations and prioritizations of need are more likely to succeed than those based on imported “projectized” models, but that success depends on a convergence of all three agendas.


Image of Stephen Devereux

Stephen Devereux

Research Fellow

Publication details

published by
Devereux, S. and White, P.
Poverty & Public Policy, volume 2, issue 3


About this publication

Programmes and centres
Centre for Social Protection

Related content