Researching the politics of development



Investigating the political economy of social protection expansion in Africa: At the intersection of transnational ideas and domestic politics

Working paper 47

Download pdf

Tom Lavers and Sam Hickey
The growing literature on social protection in Africa has tended to focus on conceptual debates, policy design issues and impact evaluations. To date, there has been relatively little systematic analysis of the ways in which politics and political economy shape policy. This paper outlines a conceptual and methodological framework for investigating the politics of social protection, with a particular focus on explaining the variation in progress made by African countries in adopting and implementing social protection programmes. We propose that an adapted ‘political settlements’ framework that incorporates insights from the literatures on the politics of welfare state development and discursive institutionalism can help frame elite commitment to social protection as an outcome of the interaction of domestic political economy and transnational ideas. This approach has the advantage of situating social protection within a broader policy context, as well as highlighting the influence of underlying power relations in society. Finally, the paper suggests a research methodology that can be employed to operationalise this approach, with a particular focus on process tracing and comparative case study research.