Testing old theories in new surroundings: The timing of first social security laws in Africa


  • The author thanks Jimi Adésínà, Tommy Ferrarini, Ian Gough, Robert Hagfors, Walter Korpi, Thandika Mkandawire, Kenneth Nelson, Niels Ploug and two anonymous referees for their valuable comments.

Olli E. Kangas, Professor, Head of the Research Department, Social Insurance Institution (KELA), PO Box 450, 00101 Helsinki, Finland; Email: olli.kangas@kela.fi.


This article examines the timing of the introduction of four major social security programmes — work accident insurance, sickness benefits, pensions, and family allowances — in 43 African countries. Further, it explores whether legislative structure, dominant religion or the colonial past of the country is of importance when we control for year of independence, prosperity, degree of democracy, government stability, industrialization and the size and ethnic homogeneity of the population. On the basis of Cox hazard rate modelling it is concluded that industrialized, homogeneous and rather populous countries that were under French rule tend to be pioneers in African social security legislation.