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Keywords:

  • social welfare;
  • Africa;
  • politics of welfare

In this article, we explore the historical evolution of social welfare policy in sub-Saharan Africa focusing on the post-1900 period. We show that we have seen a very conflicted approach to social development. Social security was reluctantly and very slowly introduced during the colonial period, and the post-colonial state has likewise been cautious in its approach and has not been able to build a long-term social contract with society. Instead, it has relied on clientelism, cooption, coercion and patronage. Since the late 1990s we have seen the African state and political systems begin to mature with greater democratisation and the growth of formal welfare systems.