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Abstract

Social protection is one of the most recent, yet fastest growing social policy instruments in low and middle income countries to end poverty. At least 50 countries in Africa have non-contributory social protection programmes targeting poor and vulnerable households and individuals. Are these social policies an extension of residual social policies, or do they signal new directions in social policy in the Global South? This article reviews the theoretical approaches that inform social protection policies as well as their practical application in different African countries. The analysis suggest that there is a changing trend towards more expansive social investment-oriented poverty reduction policies, especially in middle-income countries, with more limited policies in low-income countries. Despite significant challenges, these developments have the potential to grow welfare institutions that are more appropriate, responsive to the needs of people, and that could further a developmentally-oriented and justice-based notion of social protection. There is much to learn from how African countries are tackling the social challenges of poverty and inequality and how these are shaping their welfare institutions and regimes.

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