African States and Social Welfare in Africa

Submitting Institution

University of Manchester

Unit of Assessment

Anthropology and Development Studies

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration

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Summary of the impact

Research undertaken at the University of Manchester (UoM) confronts deficits in social policy in sub-Saharan Africa, emphasising the promotion of state capacities for the delivery of social welfare, The research has engaged with users (2003-present), and has contributed to demonstrable policy shifts towards strengthening social welfare systems. As a result, UNICEF, alongside donors such as USAID/ PEPFAR, are now placing an increased emphasis upon the importance of strengthening state social welfare systems, with less emphasis the on role of NGOs. The research also contributed to a renewed prioritisation on developing capacity for the implementation of social policy within the African Union Social Policy Framework (2008).

Underpinning research

The core research upon which this impact was based was carried out at UoM by Professor Maia Green (1994-date) between 2003 and 2009. It evolved from previous fieldwork undertaken in East Africa on local social organisation, gender and kinship, gaining a more pronounced policy orientation via a focus upon the issue of poverty and vulnerability in sub-Saharan Africa which developed from engagement in policy-oriented research clusters.

This later work was undertaken in conjunction with UoM colleagues, based at the School of Environment and Development (SED), working on poverty and development and in support of the analytical requirements of the `Reaching the Poorest Policy Team' at the Department for International Development (DFID) to which Green was seconded (2004-5) as a poverty adviser. Green's work on poverty and social policy explored the distinctive and wide-ranging factors that contribute to poverty in Africa, the impacts of social exclusion and the differences - and differential effects on individual citizens — between poverty and destitution in the region. It was based on field research in Tanzania, field visits to Kenya and Ethiopia and the comparative analysis of other countries in Eastern, Central and Southern Africa. Findings suggest that:

  • The widespread incapacity to deliver social welfare is not a consequence of weak states, as political science often claims, but is rather `designed into' state systems [A].
  • Social institutions continue to be vital in addressing poverty outcomes. More specifically, targeted interventions, directed at poverty and vulnerability, need to address the distributive role of the state. The focus must therefore be shifted away from fragmented interventions and ad hoc responses through non-state actors, which fail to adequately develop state capacity [D][E].
  • A defining characteristic of destitution is the absence of social support, through either social relations of kinship or proximity. Once again, the absence of state-based social support has a significant impact on poverty outcomes, in a manner not dissimilar to existing indigenous forms of social exclusion (e.g. the institutions of witchcraft) [B][C].

The initial research on poverty and social exclusion was financed through the DFID-funded `Chronic Poverty Research Centre' (CPRC) and the ESRC `Global Poverty Research Group' (GPRG). Green was an active member of both, producing a number of quality outputs. The 2009 external evaluators' report on GPRG stated: "In terms of high quality research publications, the output of the Group is excellent and far better than that achieved by any other development research programme of comparable size of which we are aware, ESRC or any other."

Social policy is underdeveloped in sub-Saharan Africa, with the focus on local communities and NGOs to provide support for the vulnerable. This detracts from the policy potential of social welfare interventions by the state. Based on Green's work within the `Reaching the Poorest Policy Team' — examining factors contributing to vulnerability and destitution, particularly as they affected children — UNICEF funded Green (in 2005) to conduct a study examining the specific issues of children (including orphans) affected by HIV and AIDS. This project foregrounded links between state failure in the delivery of welfare outcomes and wider issues around vulnerability. Green concluded that children's vulnerability was not an inevitable effect of the AIDS pandemic, but was accentuated by the absence of wider forms of social support. This absence — an ongoing consequence of the historical and political development of African states — was maintained by donor policies that ignored the state, instead prioritising NGOs and communities. The myth of `incapable states', alongside the inevitable reality of African poverty, was thereby perpetuated. These findings have also informed Green's work in 2010 for the African Union on social policy development, and more recently as part of a UoM DFID-funded research programme, on `Effective States and Inclusive Development' (ESID), which again highlights social citizenship in Africa in relation to both state architectures for social welfare, and the rights and entitlements of citizens [A].

References to the research

(all references available upon request - AUR)

[A] (2012) Green, M. "Co-Producing Ineffective States: Social Knowledge, Social Policy and Social Citizenship in Africa and in Development" (UoM: ESID Working Paper No 14) (AUR)


[B] (2011) Green, M. & Lawson, V. "Recentring Care: Interrogating the Commodification of Care" Social and Cultural Geography 12(6) 639-654 doi:10.1080/14649365.2011.601262


[C] (2009) Green, M. "The Social Distribution of Sanctioned Harm" in Hulme, D., Addison, T. & Kanbur, R. (eds.) Poverty Dynamics: Towards Interdisciplinary Approaches (Oxford: OUP) 309- 327 (REF 2014) doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199557547.003.0014


[D] (2006) Green, M. "Representing poverty and Attacking Representations: Perspectives on Poverty from Social Anthropology" Journal of Development Studies 42(7) 1108-1129 doi:10.1080/00220380600884068


[E] (2005) Green, M. & Hulme, D. "From Correlates and Characteristics to Causes: Thinking about Poverty from a Chronic Poverty Perspective" World Development 33(6) 867-879 (RAE 2008 - Hulme) doi:10.1016/j.worlddev.2004.09.013


Details of the impact

Pathways to Impact: These were designed to promote dialogue, and the translation of research findings for policymakers, including UNICEF and others [1]. In the period prior to 2008, this was achieved via:

  • Connections with user organisations. Green was invited to work for 14 months (2004-5) on secondment from Manchester within DFID's Policy Division. This positioning provided the basis from which her impact-oriented social policy work evolved.
  • The convening of a specially selected international policy audience at a two day Foreign and Commonwealth Office `Wilton Park' meeting (2005) `Strengthening National responses to Children Affected by HIV and AIDS...' Green was commissioned to provide a key background paper [1].
  • The presentation of findings to a biennial meeting of policy stakeholders from leading agencies around children and AIDS in the form of a background paper, written by Green, for the Global Partner's Forum (2006).
  • The development of a two DFID commissioned policy papers on the potential contribution of state social protection for children affected by HIV and AIDS (2007-8).

The translation of research findings via engagement with policy forums provides a bridge between the research and the later uptake of core recommendations by the African Union. This uptake was part of a longer term transition in programming around social policy and children, which occurred at the same time as social protection approaches were becoming mainstreamed in policy discourses. For example, UNICEF's 2004 guidance on supporting children affected by HIV and AIDS — `Framework for the Protection, Care And Support of Orphans And Vulnerable Children Living in a World with HIV and AIDS' — highlighted five zones of intervention, of which community and family structures were the most important [2]. Crucially, this framework failed to consider how children's vulnerability and poverty might be related to limited state action. Instead, the responsibility for supporting children affected by HIV/AIDS fell on families and communities, presented as `traditional' community safety nets. Green's research instead proposed that child vulnerability is not merely constituted by the presence of HIV and AIDS alone, but also through the absence of state systems for supporting children and their families. The research recommended that policy responses should promote the development of state capacities for the delivery of social welfare, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, and this must include sufficient budget allocations for its effective delivery.

Impact 1 - UNICEF: This impact was set in motion 2005-6, and has continued throughout the period 2008-13. In 2007, as a result of Green's contribution to the Global Partners Forum (2006) that built on the Wilton Park (2005) discussions, UNICEF revised their guidelines. As corroborated: "there was a substantial shift in the policy of UNICEF, and other international donors, from 2005- 2006 onwards, with much greater importance being given to the role of the state in building social welfare capacity to support children and families affected by AIDS" [9] The revised guidelines were set out in UNICEF's 2007 report `Enhanced Protection for Children Affected by AIDS...' [2]. Although support for families and communities continued to receive attention, this new document made the specific case for strengthening state systems and prioritising social welfare as part of national programmes, rather than leaving social welfare provision as the sole preserve of oftentimes piecemeal NGO interventions. Whilst Green's background work at these fora, alongside the recommendations taken forward, should rightly be considered the product of the participating group, the link between the position outlined by Green in the two papers, and the subsequent change of tack by UNICEF are evident. The former head of UNICEF's AIDS section suggests "The work of Professor Green and others contributed to a crucial shift in the strategies and policies of UNICEF, and other international donors... The Wilton Park conference — for which Professor Green wrote the background paper — was particularly important as the State's role in the creating social welfare capacity was re-emphasised..." [7]

This shift in UNICEF policy is part of an wider social policy transition, on-going in the period 2008- 13, where cash transfers have been proposed as a form of social support, and it is this wider framework within which Green's research has operated and to which it has contributed. These changes are particularly significant given UNICEF's role as the lead agency in setting the parameters of `good practice' around programming for the welfare of children. The change in this guidance is significant because it has opened a space for the reinsertion of the state into social policy programming, particularly in the African case where development agencies have tended to bypass the state and to channel resources through NGOs, claiming that state support is unnecessary because indigenous family and community networks already `accommodate' the vulnerable.

Significantly, this overall shift can be seen in recent documents, such as `Taking Evidence to Impact...' published by UNICEF/IATT (Inter-Agency Task Team for children affected by HIV and AIDS) in 2011, at the Global Partners Forum in New York [3]. This report took the 2004/2007 UNICEF framework as its starting point, but then used recent evidence to indicate that social welfare systems are a priority area. From 2012, IATT has had a Working Group on Strengthening Child and Family Welfare Systems, co-chaired by World Vision and USAID. Thus, as the former head of UNICEF's AID section notes: "Professor Green's contribution to a re-focussing on the role of the state has been significant, and can be seen still today" [7], and this is confirmed by the Senior Policy Adviser, Vulnerable Children and HIV & AIDS at World Vision International, who confirms that, subsequent to Green's work:

"UNICEF and other donors, particularly USAID/ PEPFAR, have given greater emphasis to the importance of strengthening state social welfare systems and less emphasis to the role of NGOs. This shift can be seen in UNICEF's 2011 policy document ... which prioritised social welfare systems strengthening `recognizing that the movement from pilots to sustainable programmes can only be achieved when the relevant government ministries are capacitated, equipped and financed to oversee service delivery and track impacts'. It can also be seen in USAID/PEPFAR's 2012 Guidance for Orphans and Vulnerable Children Programming which states that, in line with Green's work, `PEPFAR programs should prioritize within their country context ... Supporting host-country governments to initiate, expand, or be innovative in their social protection initiatives at both the policy and operational levels.'... Green's contribution to this policy shift through her research, publications and involvement in policy discussions were considerable and the long-term impact can be seen still today. The single most important impact of Green's work is the recognition of the need for governments in Africa, supported by the international community, to strengthen state social welfare systems." [4][9][10] (policy docs underlined)

Impact 2 - African Union: Green's ongoing work continues to make the case for considering how the design of states can limit capacities for addressing the social welfare needs of citizens. She was commissioned by DFID to produce an analytical paper as background to the Second Session of the African Union Conference of Ministers of Social Development in Khartoum (21-25 September 2010) [5]. The paper examined core constraints on the capacities of member states to implement the Social Policy Framework for Africa (2008). Green's recommendations reiterated priorities from previous research regarding the importance of state capacity and adequate fiscal space. They were adopted by member states, with the AU Executive Council endorsing, in particular, the recommendation that: "The implementation of the Social Policy Framework for Africa should be accelerated at national, regional and continental levels"; and requesting that the AU Commission: "Facilitate capacity building activities for social policy analysis in Member States and devise strategies for the successful implementation of the Social Policy Framework for Africa (SPF)" [6]. Once again, Green's work had proved important in setting out an agenda for considering the importance of state capacity in relation to ongoing welfare outcomes, particularly in Africa, and not only in relation to AIDS. As HelpAge International's Head of Strategic Alliances confirms:

"HelpAge and UNICEF have a MOU for joint work and policy influence — with much greater importance being given to the role of the state in building social welfare capacity to support families affected by AIDS. This also supported the uptake of core recommendations (for instance a `minimum package' of child and old age pensions, disability benefits and health inputs together with reinforcing the role of social institutions) by the African Union. This uptake was part of a longer term transition in programming and policy prioritisation running concurrently with growing international commitment to social protection packages including the concept to the `social protection floor'. Professor Green's ongoing work has continued to make the case for considering how the design of states can limit — or enhance — national capacities for the social welfare of citizens." [8].

Sources to corroborate the impact

(all claims referenced in the text)

[1] Background Papers: (2005) `Strengthening National responses to Children Affected by HIV and AIDS: What is the Role of the State and Social Welfare in Africa?' Wilton Park Background Paper /UNICEF (14th-16th November); 2006 `Improving Outcomes for Children Affected by HIV and AIDS: Recapacitating Social Policy and the State in Africa' Technical Consultation of the Global Partners Forum on Children Affected by HIV and AIDS: Universal Access to Prevention, Treatment and Care (7th-8th February); (2007-8) DFID `Social Cash Transfers and Children Affected by HIV and AIDS" & `How Social Transfers Can Benefit Children Affected by HIV and AIDS: Overview of Current Evidence' Internal Policy Papers

[2] (2004) UNICEF `The Framework for the Protection, Care And Support of Orphans And Vulnerable Children Living in a World with HIV and AIDS' (July)

[3] (2007) UNICEF `Enhanced Protection for Children Affected by AIDS: A companion paper to The Framework for the Protection, Care and Support of Orphans and Vulnerable Children Living in a World with HIV and AIDS' (March)

[4] (2011) UNICEF `Taking Evidence to Impact: Making a Difference for Vulnerable Children Living in a World with HIV and AIDS' (September) (p.55)

[5] (2010) Green, M. `Addressing Capacity Issues for the Social Policy Framework' (AU Background Paper)

[6] (2011) AU Executive Council `Eighteenth Ordinary Session EX.CL/Dec.600-643(XVIII)' (24th- 28th January, Addis Ababa (p.38)

[7] Testimonial from former head of AIDS section, UNICEF (16th May 2013)

[8] Testimonial from Head of Strategic Alliances, HelpAge International (10th June 2013)

[9] Testimonial from Senior Policy Adviser, Vulnerable Children and HIV & AIDS, World Vision International (16th May 2013)

[10] (2012) PEPFAR `Guidance for Orphans and Vulnerable Children...' (July) (pp. 7, 8)